The anime blogosphere is dying. Well, perhaps dying is too alarmist a word, but there are certainly signs the anime blogosphere is regressing. There have been many theories tossed out for why this may be the case. Blogging in general is losing its relevance, equally so in the anime world. Perhaps the 2006-8 period of growth was unusual, given a sprout of extremely popular anime, speedsubbing and people like Danny Choo popularising anime blogging. Another theory is that social netoworking sites like Twitter give anime fans a personal outlet to express their opinions on anime without the need to set up a blog. I’m a pretty active twitter user, managing OVER 9000 tweets in about 16 months (actually the number is 8,694 tweets at time of writing, but give me this one time to abuse an internet meme). So I decided to run a little experiment. By not using twitter for a month, what effect would it have on blogging and my interaction with the anime blogging community?
First, the self-imposed rules
- I cannot write anything on twitter for a month from the 23rd February to 23rd March
- Anything I would have written on twitter I must instead write inside this blog post
- I can still visit twitter. However I obviously can’t @-reply anyone and I can’t either write these @-replies in this post nor do anything else do somehow reply to what they’re saying on twitter (except in emergencies)
Below this spoiler is the list of tweets I would have written over the course of the month. Fair warning: there’s a rather lot of them.
Judging by the amount of tweets I wrote in this post, my urge to use twitter didn’t diminish in any way. Any days where twitter activity either dropped or rose were merely to do whether I had anything to tweet about, not to do with my inactivity. My twitter etiquette dropped pretty quickly though, such as the use of hashtags or keeping to the 140 character limit.
What did change drastically over the course of this experiment was reading other peoples tweets. When I first left twitter, my urge to visit the site dropped instantly. I would go on perhaps once a day to check if I had any @-replies then not bother to read any older tweets. But by around 2/3rds of the way through the experiment, I started visiting twitter a lot more. The urge to @-reply people on twitter obviously increased massively and I found myself counting down the days which I could go back on the site.
My interaction with other anime blogs changed slightly too. Again, there was no obvious change in the first few weeks on the experiment, but come the 2/3rd way mark, I started to visit and comment on blogs I had never done so before, such as Metanorn and Sekijitsu. I also subscribed to a load of new anime blogs too. I guess the reasoning you could draw from here is that, with such little opportunities to interact with other anime folk on the internet, I started to search for more people to talk to.
Beyond subscribing to more anime blogs though, I didn’t necessarily do anything else to interact with more anime fans. I still don’t bother with IRC groups, nor did I start posting on any anime forums. A bunch of folk on twitter set up group anime viewings sessions over Skype back over Christmas, which I was technically one of the founders of, so I still interacted with some of the people on twitter over those Skype sessions. However I only go on once a week for shipping wars and Terribad anime (Karaoke sessions can go fuck a goat) and my involvement with the Skype sessions didn’t increase nor decrease over the course of the experiment.
For my own anime blog, it’s difficult to tell whether going on twitter changed how I approached blogging. I wasn’t any more nor less inclined to reply to all my commenters. Nor did twitter folk come flocking to the blog comment section when their saviour no longer graced them with his presence on twitter. The comments section remains a place mainly for those who don’t follow me on twitter at all. This does bring up the question of whether people who follow someone on twitter are therefore less likely to comment on an anime blog, but that comes with the mistaken assumption that those who follow you on twitter necessarily care about what you write on your blog.
There was a suggestion from a commenter that leaving twitter was like removing training weights, resulting in a massive improvement in my posts. Now I’m perfectly happy with the idea that my already glorious posts have somehow improved beyond their current standing, but I think it’s a mistake to suggest that this could be because I left twitter. One of the reasons for any apparent improvement is partly down to asking people on twitter who didn’t read my blog why they didn’t like it, which was hugely insightful and useful for helping me improve the quality of my posts (the advice was mainly to tone back on the rage and cynicism and do more tongue in cheek). Obviously though, if my post quality experiences a dip in the next few weeks, then perhaps we might be onto something here.
Ultimately the experiment is rather inconclusive. It would need a larger sample of people taking part for perhaps a greater amount of time to produce any theories with more weight to them. However I kinda hope people don’t do that, because I’d hate for as soon as I go back to twitter for everyone else to suddenly leave. What findings I’ve got suggest that a lack of interaction with a smaller group of people on twitter creates an insular atmosphere where I’m less likely to read more anime blogs. Despite following OVER 9000 people on twitter (actual number is 159), the number of people I @-reply with any regularity is closer to 25. There is also more inconclusive evidence that suggests that post quality possibly increases with the less time I spend on twitter.
In short, twitter creates an insular group of anime fans who become more interested in their small sphere than interacting or creating anything for a wider audience. Basically, the exact same thing stuff like IRC channels or closed forums have achieved in the past. Swings and roundabouts. History repeating itself.