I think there is a “voice” of the internet that is largely spun out by blogs and social media. I’m thinking of Gawker, The Awl, Today in Tabs, The Toast, etc., and on the more writerly side of things, authors like Tao Lin and Marie Calloway. The common denominators here are a self-referentiality, a slangy, quick-witted style of writing, and an attention to a broader conversation. I do follow some sites and authors that deploy this “voice,” and I definitely think they’re valuable in terms of advancing an internet vernacular that can integrate the conventions of social media (hashtag, character limits and so on) without sacrificing meaning or intelligence.
Definitely. Writing for the internet is weirdly schizophrenic — anything you do could be totally ignored, go viral, or land somewhere in Google purgatory and only show up when potential employers or romantic partners want to look you up. In any case, things follow you around, and there’s no accounting for what can happen when the wrong (or right) person finds them. Strange that a platform that seems to invite irrelevance by enabling endless production also has an unlimited memory.
I do pay as much attention to what I read online as in print. Over the years I’ve found that it’s become easier and easier to pay attention to what I read online, particularly with the assistance of apps like Reability and Instapaper, and even white noise generators.
The internet definitely acquaints writers with their audience in an immediate and sometimes not helpful way — obviously, thanks to Twitter and social media it’s possible to see instantly who’s read your piece, what they think about it, and how you fit into a broader conversation — but it’s a very imperfect mirror, one that doesn’t always account for how a piece can reveal its significance over time. I think the internet allows for a better sense of the public — but it also makes it very difficult to perceive scale, and sometimes does a poor job of helping writers find their best readers.
Publishing online doesn’t change how I approach an assignment, but where I publish online does. There’s a big difference between writing for an online magazine and a blog. I’ll follow the writerly conventions of a newspaper or magazine whether it’s online or not, and I’ll let myself go a little more if I’m writing for a blog or an email questionnaire like this. I tend to pay more attention to the formal/ideological conventions of a publication than how they choose to present what they do.
When I write online I tend to be looser, more conversational, less liable to self-edit. I find that I’m able to write without obsessing too much about the ultimate form that the writing is going to take.