January 31, 2017

The Internet Sucks Now.

I more or less abandoned this blog as it seemed like blogs were a dying format, replaced by less interesting social media like Twitter, Tumblr etc. I do enjoy Twitter as a place where I can expel whatever trivial thoughts are currently in my head, and these sites are useful for promotion, but me and my girlfriend were talking at lunch today about how much we missed the more personal, substantial internet that seems to have died, or at least withered significantly. The personal homepages, forums and independent information sites have been supplanted unsatisfactorily by a handful of bland behemoths like Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc along with all the news sites. If much else still exists, I'm not aware of it. I appreciate that the internet is now easier to use for the average person, but I was having a great time with it growing up in the late 90s-early 2000s, and the fun seems to have largely disappeared. The 'newsfeed' format discourages significant discussion or dwelling on any given topic, and I find it annoying how quickly things are forgotten or missed. It's also much harder to search for old content on these social media sites.

A confession: I used to frequent many forums and message boards devoted to animation in general, specific cartoons, independent game creation, model railways and a few other topics. I enjoyed the in-jokes, kinship and history that developed in these communities, and the format was ideal for archiving past discussions, which could always be re-ignited. At least for me personally, it felt like a valuable use of time as opposed to the new social media which are often rightfully criticized as addictive but empty wastes of time.

Maybe nothing has changed except me-- the main reason I don't visit forums anymore is that as an adult I don't have the time (same reason I wasn't maintaining this blog). Another key factor is that I used to visit forums and write a blog because nobody in my real life shared my weird interests. Since I entered the animation industry, that was no longer an issue as I was surrounded by like-minded people. There's a couple of forums I still check in on every once in a while, because to this day I don't know anyone in real life who geeks out over British narrow gauge model trains and Lupin III like I do. But I just lurk these days.

I've started posting my cartoons on Newgrounds. I appreciate Newgrounds more now, probably because it did start during that internet golden age and fights to hold onto what made it special. Newgrounds has barely changed, and I love it for that much more than I did in its heyday. I also love Red Letter Media and their website. I hate the newsfeed format, and prefer to be able to seek out a site's entire contents at my own leisure rather than just scrolling endlessly in reverse chronological order.

Blogs occupy a middle ground between the classic 'table of contents' websites and the modern newsfeed era. The best-designed blogs offer both the standard reverse-chronological feed, and menus so you can find specific content in a more direct way. My favorite animation blogs are Anipages, The Ghibli Blog and Cartoon Research. All three have that well-organized hybrid format. It's also probably not a coincidence that they're all written by non-animators who view the medium in a different way, offering a refreshing outsider perspective.

3 comments:

Chris Webb said...

Glad you wrote this! I also miss reading blogs. Tweets are pretty shallow... and Facebook's formatting doesn't seem to work for longer essays or movie reviews or opinion pieces. If I were an artist, I'd maintain a blog, because a blog post really gives a sense of who the author is.

Tweets - fine for wisecracks.
Facebook - good for promotion, but not real communication.
Blogs are where the self expression really is.

Love your cartoons! You're the best!

Aaron Long said...

Thanks for the encouragement Chris! I agree that Twitter does have a use for short form communication ie jokes. Tumblr is basically just a poorly-designed blog feed. Not many people are reading anymore (can't blame them since I haven't updated in forever) but I'll continue posting when I can remember to.

Chris Webb said...

As far as being an animator and promoting yourself goes, I think blogs are very useful. Because if an animator is writing longer pieces, as I wrote before, it gives the reader a sense of who the animator is as a person. And that's the best kind of promotion. Certainly no one could go to John K's site and not get an impression of who he is. So while tweeting "Watch my cartoon!" may be enough promotion for some artists, I think providing more thoughtful posts creates a relationship with the reader, and can help an animator in the long run.

In other words, after you see a good cartoon, you want to know more about the person who made it. I read Bill Plympton's blog, and he often has not much to say. But after reading them, I feel closer to Bill. And that bond we're creating will keep me buying his DVDs and being interested in what he's doing next. So it almost doesn't matter what he posts - I read him for the chance to peer into his mind a little.