How to feel at home on the Internet
Or why you should have a blog or website, and get a domain name.
A friend recently told me, “(Her) Blog feels like home.”
I couldn’t agree more.
That led me to think of analogies for social platforms and websites in terms of how much power and freedom they actually give you over your content. If we think of what you put out on the internet in terms of physical places, this is what they are like.
Social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube → Hotel rooms
Free Blog or Website → Rented house
Website/Blog + Domain → Home
If you’re serious about what you write, create, or put out on the Internet, start a blog and get a domain name.
Most people creating things—be it writing, visual storytelling, podcasting, or making videos—choose to use platforms such as YouTube or Instagram as the sole place for their posts. They think having a website or blog along with a domain is unnecessary, complicated, and a waste of money. If that is true, so is having your physical home unnecessary, complicated, and a waste of money.
Internet hotel rooms
Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube provide you with links that read like “
instagram.com/yourusername/yourpost”. The fact that the link starts with their website domain means what you post benefits them to rank higher in web search results, not your own page or profile. You do the work, they reap the rewards.
Further, if and when the platform goes away, so will your content. All the posts you linked anywhere on the Internet, and sites and places where people linked to your posts, will be gone forever.
Social media accounts are like hotel rooms. They give you convenience, good service, and an audience while you’re there. But you can’t change a thing about its layout, and it can never be yours to own.
Rented web spaces
Free blogging platforms solve one of those two problems. When you create a free blog on WordPress, Substack or Medium, you get a subdomain that looks like “
yourblogname.wordpress.com”. It thus partially feels like your own space, and your content is rightly credited to you even if the platform benefits as well. When people visit your site and posts from web search or other traffic sources, your website search ranking will keep benefiting from that too.
The only issue with such free blogs and sites is that your creations are still tied to the platform, as evident by their name in the URL. However, unlike social media platforms, blogs are realistically portable. If your blogging platform was to shut down tomorrow, you can not only export your posts but also import them to another platform that actually understands what to do with it. This isn’t the case with your Twitter and Instagram posts because of their closed nature. Any existing importers for these closed platforms are reverse engineered hacks that don’t work well or can’t be relied upon by definition.
Moving from one blog to another isn’t ideal, and some fixes are always needed such as taking care of a few broken links here and there. But at least your posts still exist on the internet, and in the way you intended them to be.
A free blog or website is like a rented house. It’s yours for the time you use it, and you can change certain things about it. When you leave, you take what is yours with you. So really, just start a free blog or website, even if you post and share casual things, and you’d be halfway to owning your internet presence.
The digital home
Next, get a domain name that your website or blog can point to. With that in place, even if your platform shuts down or you have to leave it for any reason, you can simply export/import your posts into another service so everything continues to work. The links that you shared across the Internet, and your links that people shared, likely won’t break because the browser URL never changed. A domain is your permanent identity on the internet that stays even as you move platforms.
I have completed three blog transitions in my writing career so far, which most of my readers didn’t even notice thanks to the permanence of links afforded by having a domain. Even if a link does break, say “
yourdomain.com/blah” is now “
yourdomain.com/10/07/blah” on the new platform, a visitor will still land on an active website as opposed to a completely dead one if you didn’t get a domain.
Furthermore, a blog is the only way to truly own the connection to your audience. If—nay—when Twitter and Instagram shut down or become irrelevant, you won’t be able to export and import your followers to your new chirp-site. The ethical socials of Mastodon and Micro.blog—specifically its social component—are rare exceptions to this rule though their processes to retain your followers aren’t easily discoverable. On the other hand, a blog lets you have a direct relationship with your readers based on open technologies that allow portability: Email and RSS. If and when you move a blog, you can port not just your content but also export your email subscribers and redirect your RSS feeds in a couple of clicks.
A domain also has brand value. jatan.space looks so much better and cleaner than uncertainquark.medium.com or twitter.com/uncertainquark. Domain names are shorter and thus easier to remember or pass on during conversations, at conferences, or in the form of business cards.
“But I’m not a content creator..”
Even if you don’t create any content on the Internet, and use something like LinkedIn or Twitter for purely professional needs, a website can still benefit you.
Lay out a brief bio, work experience, and links to your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles in a simple, attractive website that you can customize, and link to it everywhere. You’ll then likely come across as more professional to interviewers and potential business partners, which will keep benefiting you in the long run. Some of my friends got their jobs because they put their website/blog in their CV as a differentiating factor. Mentioning your LinkedIn profile in your CV won’t get you that.
I have seen people complain they don’t want to “waste money” every year on a domain and a website/blog. Well, the whole thing costs less than a Netflix subscription. One will benefit you in the long run regardless of your profession, and the other will drain your money and brain in the name of instant gratification and entertainment. Choose wisely.
Owning a digital home is so much more cheaper than a physical home, and yet so rewarding that it’s crazy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional writer, an aspiring artist, or if you have a corporate job, or that you blog simply for the love of it. Having a blog and a domain is like owning a digital home, just get to it.