It seems like just a few moons ago that I was celebrating a decade online. But in a blink, that was ten years ago. Today, February 7th, 2021, is the twentieth anniversary of my having registered the domain name tracemeek.com, set up hosting, and started this website. Break out the sparklers and confetti!
This website has been through several different iterations over the years, from erstwhile freelance design business, to fine art portfolio, to its current state as a good old-fashioned blog with an emphasis on photography, art, and short filmmaking.
Much has changed in twenty years. Back then there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no LinkedIn, and no Instagram. The iPhone hadn’t even been invented yet (and wouldn’t be, for another six years). Blogs were the medium of the moment. It was an honor to be a part of that early wave of publishing pioneers.
But then came a shift. Social media platforms emerged, making it easy for almost anyone to establish an online presence, connect with others, and begin uploading reams of unedited thoughts, photos, and videos (and in many cases, snarky overreactions). Most of these social media platforms charged nothing to use, other than your attention to a relentless stream of ads. The publishing tools they offered required little technical or grammatical skill. The barriers to entry into the world of online self-expression had been lowered. Publishing had been further democratized. And democracy is a good thing. Right?
Why, then, would anyone keep a personal website in 2021? Websites cost money to maintain. You have to design them yourself, or pay someone else to. Or you can buy and install a prefab template, and call it a day. Browsing around the web these days, it would appear that many website owners opt for the latter approach. (Which is fine, as long as the template you choose isn’t rife with user-hostile anti-patterns.)
I experience far less engagement here on my “little website with argyle socks” than on, say, my Instagram feed. Sometimes I feel like I’m just writing this blog for myself. It’s an echo chamber of one. (I’m totally OK with this, by the way.) After I die and stop paying my bills, this website will eventually go away, unlike my social media posts, which will live on in perpetuity. (I’m not sure which will be better, not that I will care.)
On the other hand, I have complete sovereignty here. I designed and built this website. I can write as much or as little as I want, in the typefaces of my choosing. Here, I create an environment without ads, intrusive pop-up windows, pointless icons, or commercial motives. It’s art for art’s sake. I can make links to other webpages. I can use bold and italics to emphasize phrases. I can be a grammar nerd to my heart’s content, using proper punctuation—like em dashes, “curly quotes,” and apostrophes. It is not unusual for me to spend a couple of days ruminating on each essay before I publish it.
Here, I aspire to create a unique ambiance, optimized for reading and for quiet reflection. Here, I practice the art and craft of communication. Here, I pair lovingly edited photos and videos with carefully measured words. Here, I strive for shared understanding and—hopefully—a sort of kinship with you, Dear Reader.
This is my book.