03 April 2013

Blogging tip: Are you driven by statistics or the desire to write?

Blogging can make you feel great. Your writing develops to a point where you beam with pride. Your words on a screen look so shiny! They're quality. You make new friends. Oh my god, so many friends! It’s perfectly acceptable and sociable to spend a Saturday night at home, talking to your friends you made in Blog Land, while drinking a bottle of cabsav, LOLing in your loungeroom over hashtags while your family and cat look at you like you’re a little bit weird.

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 really like what Undead Dad has written:

"...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.

She enjoys the validation, writing about how quickly came to love blogging here. “At first I kept the blog private and didn't want to show it to anyone, and then one day I accidentally linked it to my Facebook and Twitter, and then people read it, and then I got addicted to seeing how many people read it, and getting their feedback”, Melissa says.

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.

Previous blogging tips:

Write like someone's watching

Invest in those who invest in you

Being a responsible employee and social media user

Taking your blog to the speaking circuit (guest post on Styling You)

What I know about writing (Tale Teller podcast)


  1. I must admit other than checking to see where my readers are coming from I dont tend to look at how many because Im not sure what I could do to get more readers? I just do what I do and if people come then fab...having said that whenever I interview people I notice a lot more shares and likes. I think people like reading about others? x

    1. Hey Sarah
      I love that you just blog because you enjoy writing and sharing stories for others to read. Thanks for the comment x

  2. Thanks Carly! So much of what you have written rings true for me. Great post :)

  3. I really enjoyed this post, Carly. Like your friend Melissa, I am a brand new blogger (two weeks today!). My background is in communications and I really enjoyed writing when I was growing up. It's now becoming a hobby, and I enjoy finding ideas for posts and researching them. It's giving my brain something else to do besides my work (which I do love). I do look to see my page views, and like Sarah who posted before (great name by the way ;)) I like seeing where my readers have come from. Sarah - Style Unearthed

  4. Some excellent points made here Carly. I must admit it took a lot for me to put myself out there in a blogging sense and I initially got frustrated at lack of feedback, but the truth is, I'd write whether people ever read it or not so in the end it really doesn't matter. I write because I want to and I need to. It's nice if others connect with what I have to say and good for my fragile ego...but it's not why I write. I do enjoy seeing where my readers are from though - it's a very strange feeling to think people on the other side of the world are reading my words!

  5. This is so true Carly. At times I can get caught up in the numbers but then I try to remember that I am blogging for me and because I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the unsuspecting masses!

  6. I'm a slow blogger and didn't even realise it. Classic!

  7. Yes. YES. I think we all look too closely sometimes at stats... have to admit my life is so hectic I am not allowed to really indulge myself, and have had many new bloggers ask me how to get comments. I addressed it (to a degree) at link below, but always note that the crux of it all is how much YOU are into your own blog. Do it for you, the rest is cream.

  8. I really don't understand the numbers... maybe a good thing.I do know my stats jumped something crazy like 5,000% this week (not kidding) but because I don't understand the numbers, it's a strange pleasure!

  9. Great post! I think many are driven by statistics and "popularity" which could be a great motivator. While I can't say I don't enjoy checking stats from time to time; I am glad that stats are not the motivation I use to blog. Evan is my muse! I am glad my blog has stayed 'low key' and more personal knowing that the majority of my viewers are friends, friends or friends and family. :-) Love reading your posts! Thanks Carly!

  10. I must admit I don't understand the concern with numbers. Yes I get excited with the milestones eg I cracked 300,000 views this week, but the day to day stuff has never really concerned me, especially the unfollowing issue. I do think that the fixation on numbers is likely just an extension of real life concerns for many. If you are worried about what others think of you IRL and whether you're invited or not invited to things etc then that's bound to enter your views on SM.

  11. I'm a reader, not a blogger. (I started a blog a few years ago, but haven't kept it up.) After I read Carly's blog I check out some of the blogs that are linked on the sidebar of the page. And I get alerted on Facebook to an interesting article on BlogHer at least once a day. Don't get me started on Blogher, because once I read one post, it leads to another and another and another...

    Don't be discouraged if you don't have a lot of "hits," because there are millions of blogs out there! If someone is interested in what you have to offer, they'll find you.

  12. Carly, what an excellent post, and thank you so much for featuring my words. As a relatively new blogger, I find that my motivations fluctuate. That's why I'm always excited to read other bloggers' perspectives on internal (personal growth, insight) versus external (follower accrual, platform development) motivations. Keep up the excellent work. CJ

  13. I really needed to read this. So many things you said, are the things that i do, but wouldn't even admit them to myself. Thank you so much for your honesty. Great post

  14. It's definitely good advice! When I re-installed my blog, I decided not to include Google analytics this time around and that works for me. It may sound selfish, but I'm writing my blog for me, not my statastics (it doesn't mean I don't suffer from the occasional bout of curiosity, though).

  15. Great post Carly. I'm a slow blogger. Sometimes I get stressed about why my numbers are so small but then I remember that I mostly blog for me and my own sanity and not for others. I try to push myself to blog more but it doesn't happen. My words must come naturally otherwise they sound terrible or don't come at all. I never know how many Twitter followers or Facebook likers I have at any given time. I do enjoy the validation though but I don't need it. Great work. V.

  16. I love this! I know many of us get stressed out when our blogs are brand new, and our views seem low, but I absolutely think you need to really have a love for words and a passion for writing, in order to really create a good blog that people will come back to. Loved this post!

  17. Great thing that you get some tips on how to do blogging.

  18. HI Carly, I haven't read this right through but I get the gist. I have been wanting to express myself online, about my experiences and my own perceptions for a long time, however my psychiatrist has warned me about such things that you speak of here. He worried that I was not ready to handle criticism and stuff like that. I do however, feel strong enough to try and venture into this newer world of expressing oneself online. Validation of one's life experiences is so important for a healthy mind. I will read it all when i can later today. Thanks for highlighting this issue.


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