Zoie at TouchstoneZ blogged about me (or rather, about my blog) the other day. I was, as always, tickled. She always delights me with her eloquent optimism about online connections and about blogging in particular.
A core point of her post:
But your words don’t go into a vacuum. And it’s not the “if a post falls in the forest and no one is there to read it, does it make a sound?” issue. Every single one of us tiny bloggers matter. Your voice is unique.
Blogging embodies what we each hold within ourselves at every moment: we are both a miracle and mundane. We are a speck of nothing in the universe, but without our speck something that never was before and never will be again would never exist.
We matter. Both for our nothingness and for our immense importance.
At the risk of always being Eeyore to her Tigger (it’s possible she’s more Kanga and I’m more Owl, but that doesn’t work with the comparison I’m trying to make), I’m not sure about the idea of each of us having our own unique voice. I suppose from a voice-printing standpoint this is technically true, but that’s physiology. But how unique are the things I say, really? And even if my voice is unique, does that make it worthy of putting in print for a potentially world-wide audience? Does that make it worth reading?
And of course, there’s the doubt that sends me to my stats page. Because stats and comments are the only way I can tell if what I’m saying is connecting. I’ve been journaling for years. I still journal. I don’t blog the same things I journal, but there’s certainly overlap there. I journal quotes that I find particularly insightful from the books I read. I journal funny things my kids say during the day. I journal my half-formed thoughts, circling and circling what I hope is a center of meaning and clarity. I journal my thoughts and feelings about making both large and small decisions. And I journal about the things I tell no one but my husband.
I journal as a way of thinking on paper. I blog as a way of sharing my thoughts and, perhaps, connecting with others. It’s so rare that I get to have the kinds of deep conversations I crave in real life, either because I haven’t developed the intimacy necessary to go that route with the people I know or because I almost always interact with other adults when my children are around and, lovely as children are, their presence is rarely conducive to deep conversation. I guess blogging is my way of doing this.
But it’s a fairly flawed way of connecting. I have a sense that some of the people who comment (on my blog and on others) are doing it only as a) a way to drive traffic to their own blog, or b) as part of a personal challenge to comment on everything because it’s the nice thing to do. Replying to these types of comments can feel like the equivalent of someone saying, “How are you?” and me saying, “Oh, I’m so glad you asked, because I’ve been wanting to talk to someone and bounce ideas back and forth about…” only to realize halfway through that they just said, “How are you?” as a greeting and didn’t want an actual response. It’s like in On the Shores of Silver Lake when the Ingalls move into town and Laura says something about how before, isolated by weather and geography, she was alone and happy, but in town she’s lonely because she’s surrounded by people she doesn’t know.
Even with the small amount of discussion that takes place among the comments under each of my posts (well, some of my posts), blogging remains mostly one-sided, my ego expressing itself on-screen. It’s possible that’s the main reason I blog anyway. And a secondary reason I journal. It’s my way of asserting myself, one tiny speck in an infinite universe, one dependent arising of a billion billion dependent arisings. It’s my way of saying, “I exist! I am I! My individual self as I perceive it exists inherently, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary!” It’s my way of fighting that 3am, sitting upright in bed, heart-pounding realization that “I” will one day cease to exist.
I think that’s why “low” page views hit me so hard. I’m blogging to declare my existence. If no one reads, do I even exist?
And yes, that’s melodramatic, but so’s basing my self-worth on stats at all.
Maybe eventually I will learn accept reality and to act as part of the collective whole of all existence rather than as a whole and separate ego.
But can one do that and still blog?
13 Replies to “The Existential Importance of Blog Stats: A Response to a Response”
Oh, and we’ll never have a conversation here b/c I have time to click the emails for the follow-up. I want to b/c I enjoy reading what you have to say, but, it would be easier to talk to you in person (or on the phone) 😉
I think the thing I most admire about all bloggers, including you, is this: While many of us may think many of the things you do, none of us has the patience and dedication to bother spending time every single day writing it down. Let alone writing it down for the whole world to see! Because let’s face it, if you blurt it out, there’s no physical record, just recollection by the parties involved. But a blog, well, that lasts forever!
Charity, “Uniqueness of voice” is not an automatic. You can’t say that every blogger has a “unique voice” even if they have unique minds. I think the individuality is a combination of the innate uniqueness of character, combined with the ability to articulate that in writing.
You have articulation in spades, so I believe you have “a unique voice.” There, that’s settled!
As for the ego driven pursuit; yeah, it’s that, and yeah, many of us blog as a way of preserving our “selves” beyond this mortal shell. What’s wrong with that. The fact that we occasionally connect with another human being who wouldn’t have otherwise “known” us, is a huge, not-to-be-under-stated benefit of baring our souls.
Furthermore, even for an extrovert like me, it is hard sometimes to write so vulnerably. Those old high school insecurities and fear of judgement rear up and I feel my pulse quicken as I hit “Publish.” Facing those emotions and besting them, not just once, but almost daily is, in an of itself, a noteworthy personal accomplishment, and probably very therapeutic.
So keep on publishing. Imagine that the comments you get represent <10% of the people who were touched by what you write. I'm pretty sure it's as hard for non-bloggers to comment as it is for us to hit publish.
Tucker, I think I might print this comment out and post it on the wall above my desk. You’ve echoed many of the thoughts that have been swimming around in my head since I posted this last night (uniqueness of voice vs uniqueness of thought, what’s wrong with posting from ego (as I wrote in another comment reply, where else are we supposed to speak from?), etc), and you’ve stated them quite succinctly. And it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be as hard for some to comment as it is for others to post (even though I think commenting, for me, is more nerve-wracking than posting, for some reason). At any rate, thank you for this.
I think what I appreciate most about your and Zoie’s blogs, and about my own blogging experience in general, is in the community of these common experiences, these common feelings, we are similar (even though we are each at our own keyboards, distracted from deeper personal conversations because of life with our kids).
I feel incredibly validated by writing, but often more so by reading others; the strength they write about getting through the same type of problem I have, inspires my perspective for the day, gets me to think differently about a person or experience, and I carry that new insight with me. I guess it does feed some part of our egos, and perhaps a narcissistic part, (especially when you think it is an especially insightful blog post and you get very few readers), but I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll never fully know your outreach…the silent readers, the random visitors…they may carry part of that post with them, quietly, and gratefully. I don’t know if that means there isn’t a connection…maybe just a quiet one? Perhaps even the groundings of a spiritual one? I guess it’s the proverbial question “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, does it make a sound?” I believe so…
“you’ll never fully know your outreach…the silent readers, the random visitors…they may carry part of that post with them, quietly, and gratefully.”
I’d forgotten about this aspect. I hear from friends frequently that they’ve been thinking about my posts, even though they haven’t commented and I didn’t know before that they read the blog. Who knows who else is reading and pondering but just hasn’t said so? And I’ve definitely experienced this in real life (making a positive impact on someone without even realizing I had, or experiencing a positive impact from someone else for something they don’t even remember doing).
Thanks for sharing your perspective. And really, how else are we supposed to interact but through our egos, right? They’re the vehicles that carry us through this world.
(OK had to check to make sure that I indeed did NOT respond to every post….nope, I’m safe ;))
Your blog will never be as lame as mine… you always have that comfort. I feel like I am still trying to “find” myself in the blog world, even though I’ve been doing various blogs for 7 years. A couple of them have been really popular, but it felt really fake for me, so I dropped it. I try to think about it this way: the people who DO read my blog matter (in the blog sense). No one else, because, well, they don’t read it! If you have to change your blog in order to get more people to read it, your ego would not be happy because it isn’t YOU being portrayed on that blog. In that sense, if you were blogging to say that you existed in some way, even if you were getting tons of hits, it wouldn’t be you who exists but some creation of yours.
I’m actually quite impressed with the number of facebook likes you have and the traffic you get on your blog. From going to writing conferences, etc, pretty much everyone is told they have to have a blog and so everyone does. And most people, even many that are published, get maybe 10 hits a day (unless you are a really big name) on average (some days get WAY more, some days might get none). There are so many blogs out there, it is all hit or miss, it’s so easy to get lost in the noise. And of course, none of these people is or wants to be a professional blogger, so they haven’t taken advantage of all the publicity or advertising stuff that they might have if they could take the time to do so (of course, if they sign with a huge publisher, they might have to make their blog more popular). I know that “guest blogging” on other people’s blogs raises hits a lot, so many people try to do that as often as possible.
“From going to writing conferences, etc, pretty much everyone is told they have to have a blog and so everyone does.”
So we’re all trying to be unique and express our own voices, but like in real life, only a few get heard above the din? I suppose my own angst about traffic is more a worry that perhaps I don’t measure up. But then, there are few wildly popular blogs that I actually like, so why let that bother me?
As far as FB likes go, that’s kind of inflated because when I migrated my personal profile over to my Page, I brought my 150 friends with me, not all of whom “liked” my Page before that. I actually have no idea if my grandma reads my blog or not, but she “likes” my Page because she was a FB friend before I defected. So if you want more likes, you could always do that. 😉
And I like that you comment so much. I don’t get the sense that you’re doing it to be polite; you argue too much for that to be the case. 😉 No, you further the conversation, and that’s what I really like.
I Love how you put many of my thoughts into words even though we are very different in so many ways!
You’re voice is unique because it’s so eloquent especially when I am not!
Well, thank you, Heidi! I suppose uniqueness of expression is something I can get behind. If you can’t get your ideas across, you can’t connect at all (at least not via the internet).
Here’s my two cents worth. Not sure how you’ll take my comment after your rant above this, but here goes.
I blog because I want to get to know more of the writing community. I don’t come from a “writing” family, or group of friends. My blog, my Twitter account, the Facebook authors and writing pages I “like” are my way of connecting. And as a writer, the world feels a little more lonely than when I started dedicating hours to stacking up my words together. But I comment on other people’s blogs, like yours, to show that I’ve read what they want to say, that they deserve to know I liked it and so that they will hopefully come over to my blog. And not in a contrived way either. As I said above, I want to help others and create friendships with people who have the same interests as me. The more writer friends I have, the better.
Sorry. That was more like $100 worth.
The connection you describe is how I think it ought to work and why I blog, too, rather than journal (or in addition to journaling). And while it sounded like I don’t like people commenting, I actually love it, I just wish it yielded a more fruitful interaction more often than it does. I tend to feel excited at making a connection when I first get a comment, then let down when that conversation just stops.
What I was trying to express was more of a dissatisfaction with the realization that blogging and commenting are essentially ego-driven activities. In the end, I’m alone at my keyboard, but even that’s an illusion because the Ego only exists in relation to other consciousnesses and as a result of the particular firings in my brain (which are subject to effects from my body). The alone-ness only exists because I think it does. But, I wondered, if I gave up on the illusion of aloneness, would I still blog? Would my Ego still assert itself out of the oneness when it finally realized it didn’t exist on its own?
Which clearly didn’t come through as the meaning of my post (which I didn’t experience as a rant at all while writing it, incidentally). I told my husband I wasn’t sure if it was ready to post. The danger, I suppose, of asking the opinion of someone who’s already been privy to conversations around these musings.