Is “following” and “liking” fundamentally different than “reading”?

Remember blogrolls? These were lists of links to other blogs that a blogger would often post on their site. In the days before we surrendered everything to corporately sponsored algorithms, online writers and readers built networks by recommending fellow authors to one another.

I’m curious: who do you read today? Who are the writers producing work online that you read directly? If the answer is, “Oh, I follow so-and-so on Twitter,” or, “I like so-and-so’s Facebook page,” then I wonder if we’ve traded “reading” for the push-button convenience of “following” and “liking” one another?

Does “following” and “liking” one another equate to “reading” one another? “Reading,” in the nostalgic parlance of yesteryear, seemed to imply a personal commitment to tracking along with another person’s thinking over time. “Following,” in terms of today’s proprietary social network jargon, doesn’t seem to carry the same weight of personal investment.

The interesting twist in the story is how enthusiastically so many of us bloggers and online writers jumped at the chance to build our “networks” on social media–only to one day discover that a following on another company’s platform does not necessarily translate into thoughtful, engaged readers. Whatever it means to be a “liker” and a “follower” today, it doesn’t necessarily seem synonymous with a “reader” — at least in the sense of someone who’d list you on their blogroll.

Let’s specify the question to get the rub of the issue: whose online writing do you read or subscribe to directly without relying on social media platforms for updates on their work?

It’s an honest question: who are the people whose ideas and words have so much value for you that you access their writing directly (blogs, newsletters, etc), without depending on your social media channels as your primary conduit to their work?

I guess another way to put it: if you were going to rebuild a blogroll today, who would it include?

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