Having a blog is instant validation. You write something and 10 minutes later, you have an email telling you what a wonderful piece you wrote, what a wonderful person you are, that your reader can relate to your story, and how your style is fabulous, darling. You receive five hundred likes. And you feel pretty damn good about yourself.
I love looking at my stats – mostly seeing how readers reached my blog, but also seeing an increasing readership from a wide range of locations. I seem to attract a lot of people interested in Callan Mulvey, short shorts, disability sex workers and Icthyosis. And those personal Googles – at first it was freaky knowing that people were entering my name into the internet. But then I became comfortable with it (I’m on someone’s mind!), though still find it strange when I see a Google search like “Carly Findlay Depression” (as was searched for on Sunday 24 March) – and I wonder what made them think that I have depression, and subsequently search the internet to see whether I do. (I don’t, FYI.)
High readership and social media followers can buoy bloggers (and bloggers buy page views and Twitter followers – who does that??!). As readership increases, confidence can increase too. The more friends you have, the more popular you are, right? And popularity seems to equal happiness and success. At least on screen..
But then when the popularity and validation reduces, it can leave bloggers feeling like they’ve got no friends. And drama can ensue – who’s unfollowed who, whether disagreement is trolling or just disagreement, and passive-aggressive tweets and blog posts. Bloggers get caught up in the tangle of worrying about lack of validation, and perhaps the writing comes second. And I think this is dangerous, particularly when a blogger may already be lonely or isolated in the offline world. While contentious, I’m going to call it: I think there’s a danger of validation social media heightening insecurity and worry. I’ve seen many examples of it.
While blogging can be great therapy, sometimes it becomes too introspective, and hanging out too much online can fuel a cycle of sadness. The instant contact and validation can make you feel very wanted and loved, and lack of it can make you feel low. I have been there – when I first started using the internet and had more friends on ICQ than in real life, and also when I felt addicted to words in online relationships.
I think constant commenting on a reduction in validation by blog comments, social media fans and page views indicates insecurity. I see conversations about losing Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Bloggers pretend they’re not worried about their statistics (especially a reduction in visitors or subscribers), but harp on about them anyway. This seems tedious to me. And a little narcissistic. So much is invested in a follower count.
When blogging stops being fun, stop, at least for a little while! I think when you feel a little excluded because your page views are lower than they were last week, or you lost a couple of followers, switch off your screen. Disconnect from social media for a while – spend time with your family and friends in person. Enjoy your own company. And remember, your blog and its statistics do not define you. It’s ok to take a little break – the world will continue without your online presence.
The resurgence of the ‘slow blogging movement‘ encourages bloggers to let go of the immediacy of blogging – the immediacy of posting and the immediacy of receiving validation and blog when inspiration strikes. I really like the idea to reject page ranking:
“Slow Blogging is a response to and a rejection of Pagerank. Pagerank, the ugly-beautiful monster that sits behind the many folded curtains of Google, deciding the question of authority and relevance to your searches. Blog early, blog often, and Google will reward you. Condition your creative self to the secret frequency, and find yourself adored by Google; you will appear where everybody looks – in the first few pages of results. Follow your own pace and find your works never found; refuse Pagerank its favours and your work is pulled as if by riptide into the deep waters of undifferentiated results. Its twisted idea of the common good has made Pagerank a terrifying enemy of the commons, setting a pace that forbids the reflection that is necessary to move past the day to day and into legacy.”
(From the Slow Blog Manifesto)
I asked my friends on Twitter what switching off from the Internet means for them.
Amelia_Draws says “sanity… talking less crap… not getting mired in shite that doesnt count. Living gives you stuff to blog about.”
Adam Samuel says “disconnect and recharge. Fresh air and find new ideas. Then when you come back your readers will be there waiting :).”
Billy Greene says “perspective. That, and balance. Living a life gives experiences and fresh material.”
Kelsey Cooke says “the big one for me is having more time to live out the things I’ll later write about.”
I Am Evil Cupcake says “Stepping away from any drama. Helps to refocus.”
And Mrs CeeCee says “It’s always good to have a ‘holiday’ from anything that takes a lot of your energy.”
When you do return to your blog or your social media platforms, have a think about your initial motivators to blog. Was it for the instant validation you’d receive by statistics, or your desire to write?
“…I have to remember my priorities. Although I love seeing a new “like” on the screen or a new person following my work, I have to remember that blogging is about giving my thoughts the chance to expand, and extending that process into my personal relationships. That is where the heart of the growth lies. I am forever indebted to readers with whom my words resonate, because they emphasize that this process of growth and learning is a valid one, and one that deserves further investment.
I would chance a guess that this process motivates the writing of many other bloggers. Blogging is a chance to expand upon one’s thoughts in order to develop further as a person. It gives the writer an opportunity to reflect on one’s self and perhaps carry those insights into other, more personal relationships. For this reason I have a new appreciation and, dare I say, love for blogging.”
Looking back on my thesis, I thought about what motivated me to start writing this blog:
Nardi et al (2004, p. 9) raise the idea of the “blog as a muse: thinking by writing”, and discuss bloggers who have been “forced to keep writing” because of their blogs, and who believe “material in their blogs might have another life in future magazine articles, scholarly research or other forms of publication”. This idea of the blog as a muse certainly applies to my experience.
(Nardi, B, Schiano, D, Gumbrecht, M and Swartz, L (2004), ‘I’m Blogging This: A closer look at why people blog’, Submitted to Communications of the ACM.)
A brand new blogger, Melissa Savage, has been blogging since late January 2013. We met last year, after working at the same organisation for a year or so, and I’ve encouraged her to start blogging because she’s a great writer, active on social media and she also enjoys reading blogs.
But the pride she has in her writing means just as much. “Then I wrote a series of posts that connected, and I suddenly got comments and messages from everywhere and it was amazing. I am still trying to recapture than magic and build an audience that is bigger than just my family and friends on social media.”
“Most of I all enjoy making the blog better, working on my writing, engaging with people and learning about linking it all up and using my networks to get people to read my work. And as long as I keep putting my heart into it, my readership will keep growing”, Melissa told me. I love her attitude!
Sometimes people will visit your blog, sometimes they won’t. People are entitled to unfollow you on Twitter or Facebook. People are busy, with online and offline lives. Sometimes current topical issues will win you readers, sometimes personal stories will resonate, and sometimes being shared in a wider network will too. Other times, none of these things will work. I haven’t yet found a formula for writing a post that’s successful – other than writing from the heart.
It you’ve got any questions about blogging, do send them my way.
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