Social Bookmarking and Sharing Buttons – When Will the Madness End?

I was recently visiting a blog I found a link to through a friend on Facebook. The blog’s page had the usual side bars with links to various other things on the blog as well as some sponsors and so forth. The “content” itself, however, consisted of a title in large font, a “by So-and-So” section with the date of the post, and then almost a full page of social bookmarking links.

No kidding. Nearly a third of my notebook’s screen was filled with social bookmarking links before I’ve even begun to read their blog content.

All the usual suspects were there, plus some that most have never even heard of: Facebook Share, Facebook Like, Twitter, Google +, a Recommend button (more Facebook), Pin Me, Digg, Reddit, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Yahoo!, Delicious, Orkut, Arto, Bebo, Blogger, WordPress, Google Reader, FriendFeed, Slashdot, Squidoo, Yigg, Virb..

The list was huge. All with little icons tempting me to start clicking away and sharing this so far unseen blog post with the world.

I chose to scroll down and try to find the blog content instead. I did, encapsulated in several ads and embedded with “links” to pop up more “information” (meaning advertisements). It was horrible.

Then I realized something. This is not all that uncommon, really. A lot of the blogs I visit are looking like this. The content is nearly unreadable for all the social sharing and other garbage strewn around the text. I also realized that most of these bloggers probably have no idea how ugly their site is and how hard it is to read it because they probably never really open their own blog from its front end.

I mean, if you’re using WordPress, how often do you actually look at “yoursite.com” instead of “yoursite.com/wp-admin”? I’ll admit that until recently, I didn’t do it often. Sometimes I wonder if bloggers get so intent on creating content and keeping it “fresh” and SEO friendly that they forget that people actually have to be able to read it. We’re so caught up in “sharing” and “monetization” and whatever else that we forget the primary purpose of a blog: to share information with the world. Information that the world will, hopefully, come read. Then maybe share.

We don’t (or shouldn’t be) focusing on producing content that search engines will love and that will draw more “clicks” and more “shares” so we can get more “popular.” If nobody can read our content, what’s the point of being popular? If you can get popular without having good content, that is – my experience says you can’t, at least not for long.

This blogger’s site was so full of ways to leave it, with four or five hundred pixels of social bookmarking and sharing links hogging up the precious little 1200 pixels or so available on a MacBook Air, that I doubt anyone really reads his content.

Have we gotten to the point where our main goal in life is to be shared as far and wide as possible and to that end, we will cow-tow to every social network and sharing platform available, throwing out even the most obscure names in the business? I mean, if you’re blogging in American English, how many readers can you possibly have that use Hyves? Really? How about Folkd? Ever even heard of that one?

When will this end? Personally, I think a blog can get away with a little row of four or five, maybe six of these icons and that’s all. Hit the big boys like Facebook (once, please), Twitter,  G+, Digg, etc. and leave the rest be. If those networks have users, they’ll undoubtedly have the browser bar installed anyway.

Lets clean up our acts, people, and open up the Web to information again instead of filling it with ways to share stuff that we can’t even locate, let alone read, on the page we’re sharing from.