Tag Archives: Comments

The Blogging Plateau

canstockphoto23123007Over the last year The Green Study blog has hit a plateau. There’s been very little growth in readership, commenting activity has been slow to middling, and I really haven’t improved as a writer. This is interesting to me. If it were a diet plateau, I’d have to make a few more changes to see progress on the scale. If it were a career plateau, I’d go back to school or attain some new certification. What do you do for a blogging plateau?

The first step in defining any problem, if it is one, is to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Reasons for Blogging

My blogging goals go through a regular review once or twice a year. Since writing blog posts takes time and is not financially rewarding, the intrinsic reasons need to be solid. Generally my reasons have been that blogging has kept me writing regularly for 5 years and I have connected with a group of interesting, smart, funny, and thoughtful people. That sounds nice and reasonable.

canstockphoto11177261If I were to really going to dig deeper, it would be that because I write in isolation, having outside, regular input on my writing soothes my insecurities and urges me forward. And frankly, too much time alone makes me super weird. Not in a kidnap-strangers-torture-cellar sort of way, but in a way that when I enter the world, everyone else seems like an alien and I engage awkwardly. Take me to your leader. Meep-meep. Engaging with others online seems to take the edge off, because writing me can do.

Metrics and Engagement

I used to be more aware of the numbers, the stats, the pings. At least the ones I understood. Whether it be a development issue or spam season, there have been several periods of time over the last 5 years when every new subscriber was a spammer. You lose interest pretty quickly in your numbers when they’re a tourist company trying to drum up hits or to sell you knock-off handbags.

canstockphoto9986430My metrics tend to be engagement – the comment section. Two things changed over the last year on my blog. I stopped answering comments in a timely manner, sometimes missing them altogether because I forgot to return to them. Secondly, I wrote more political posts and decided to institute a comment policy. While I don’t think this necessarily had a deleterious effect, it did slow down the social aspect of engagement, by not engaging in real time and by suggesting that there would be some level of curating.

The goal was to be less distracted throughout my day. Stopping one task to engage in another or getting caught up in ruminations about someone’s comment could throw me off-track for a good hour. It hasn’t worked well. I’m still distracted by one thing or another and am coming to terms with the fact that those are hard habits to break.

I think, too, I’ve been less attentive to commenters. When people take the time to write a comment, it is my hope that I can give it my full attention and respond in kind. But there is certainly a degree of burnout in these exchanges. They’re not full conversations, just interactions that connect only briefly as we move throughout our day. I found myself adding “Answer blog comments” on to-do lists which is a sure way to take the fun out of anything.

The Changing Environment

canstockphoto19233296Culturally, social media is not moving in favor of long form posts. Instantaneous feedback, things that don’t require focus, click bait that revs up our emotions, and content that adapts easily to mobile devices is where we’re at. Perhaps we can hope, like slow living or tiny houses, blogging becomes this hip, retro thing to do for people who have a lot of time and disposable income (hence the time). It doesn’t seem promising, though.

I tend to hunger for longer thoughts, developed ideas, and something with a little more staying power. Maybe there is still room for blogging, as long as we don’t compare it to the lightning fast zeitgeist of other platforms and without the expectation of winning a popularity contest.

A Non-Conclusion

These are some of the things that I’ve been mulling over. I know that growth is important to me, but haven’t figured out what that means in terms of blogging.

Do I change content? To me, this is like trying to write for an audience. I like the organic approach – people come here for the subject and sometimes stick around for the voice. Until I write something that irritates them.

Do I run another contest? Contests can be labor, and sometimes dollar, intensive. I’ve enjoyed the five I’ve done over the years, but I’m a little burned out. As the number of readers grew, so did the number of submissions and while I enjoy promoting others’ work, I don’t enjoy “judging” it.

Do I start allowing guest posts? I’ve never done that because I follow blogs for specific reasons, mostly for a writer’s voice. I’ve always felt it better to provide a link to the original work and let it and the author speak for themselves.

Without a profit angle or a willingness to actively use Twitter or Facebook, there are really no gimmicks, click bait titles, or fads I’m willing to engage in that will promote blog growth. There are only a few areas that I can work on: engaging more fully in comments, visiting more blogs and engaging there and lastly, but most importantly, working on my writing game. If it’s not improving, that bit’s all on me.

Have you reached a blogging plateau? Have you made changes to deal with it?

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The Next Five

canstockphoto5233804It’s been five years since I wrote my first blog post and I’m feeling a tad somber about that. Since then, I’ve written on a wide range of topics, mostly in regards to personal development and writing. I wrote an angry political post yesterday and it was a lesson as well, getting chided by a couple of commenters. I expended a lot of energy trying to be measured in reply and not devolve into personal attacks. I lay awake last night and decided it’s not worth it, so I am making a slight adjustment.

The idea of writing a public blog is both grand and petty at the same time. There are a million plus blog posts published every day on the internet. That I would presume to be one of those voices, after a lifetime of flying under the radar is pretty amazing to me. When people respond, you start getting the idea that what you say matters. Until you realize that you’re in the middle of a rancorous crowd, whispering read me, read me.

canstockphoto16878678I don’t want to write about little things all the time. But I don’t want to spend my time arguing. No one has ever argued me into changing my mind, so I don’t expect to do that for someone else. I change my mind slowly, on my own terms. Arguing just makes me feel the need to either run away or get unnecessarily aggressive. While I’ve been reading about how to be rational and reasoned in those situations, when push comes to shove, my frustration wins. I know it’s something I have to work on, but I’m not going to do it here. There’s better places to have conversation.

Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time, knows how I feel about the current state of politics and about our new President. So, I’m learning to become an activist. I’m learning more about my government and how it works. And I will use my writing skills to protest, persuade, and make my voice known.

canstockphoto6393530There’s a question of complicity. If I don’t use this established platform to raise my voice, am I failing in some way to honor my values? There is a particular flavor to the internet. I don’t think minds are being won over here. It is the mindlessness, the reactive nature of political commenters. No argument is advanced, but the same old tired back-and-forth memes are recited until eventually they’re calling each other stupid. It’s pointless.

It is unlikely that I’ll endear myself to the public at large, anyway. I’m not a believer, so I don’t care for religion. Any discussion usually lands me in hot water. I’m an unrepentant feminist and don’t have patience arguing about what it means or why some whackadoodles in the club have done what they’ve done. I don’t claim responsibility for anyone but myself.

I don’t watch TV. I don’t enjoy sports. I hate shopping. I don’t actively use Twitter or Facebook (my posts robo themselves over). I don’t like crowds of people, recycled sound bites or hugging. I can be quite bad-tempered when pushed. I like to spend loads of time alone. And I read indiscriminately. In short, I have very limited appeal online and in person.

With politics, I don’t see the advantage of starting dialogue with people who are dug into their trenches. It takes much more effort on my part than theirs to engage, because I don’t always assume I’m right. I have to critically think about and counter my intemperance. I’d rather engage people on other things and not go head-to-head on politics all the time. This is the only way we can remind each other of our humanity.

I get a little sensitive to the accusation that I’m intolerant and not open-minded, because those are held up as virtues. I’ve decided to get over that. We’re all intolerant and close-minded about some things, just not the same things. This is my blog and I should make a conscious choice how I engage and how responsive I want to be. And if a reader prefers all engagement, all the time, I’ll get over that, too, because there’s 999,999 other blogs that they could comment on.

canstockphoto5307402From here on out, I’ll continue to write what I want to write, but on hot button posts will turn off comment sections and Like options. I appreciate engagement, but with some topics there’s just no way it’s going to be enjoyable. I don’t enjoy squabbling and being told how stupid I am by total strangers. Who does? I enjoy reading editorials with no engagement, no Like button. I like to mull things over without the social media tug, so maybe some of you do as well.

My writing, when it comes to politics, needs to take on a more journalistic bent. As I engage in editorial writing to papers and magazines, the up-close-and-personal perspective that I write from at The Green Study will be absent. I’m great for blurting out my flaws and vulnerabilities, but I am also capable of a different kind of writing. And it may be more useful than me calling someone a douchebag here.  Although perhaps not as satisfying.

I don’t know how things are going to play out over the next five years. But I’m going to keep typing along in the hopes that something worthwhile emerges. canstockphoto10829751

An added comment policy can be found here.

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What It All Comes Down To

I’ve been trying to find my way back to a state of reasoned calm, following the election and the current repetitive rhetoric still filling our airwaves. It doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong, no one is listening.

canstockphoto177612Every time I get to a moment where I think, okay I’ve got this, I’ll catch the news that another member is being added to the billionaires’ club of the new administration. I hear that an education predator, one who has made gobs of money off the very system she has lobbied for, is going to impact the education my child will be receiving until she graduates, and it fills me with rage.

But I am beginning to return more quickly to center.

Nobody is listening and my words and rage are like so much flotsam on a vast ocean of noise.

canstockphoto158133What is becoming more clear is that the American public is, as it has always been, subject to the whims of the wealthy. It doesn’t matter who you voted for – you’re nothing but human capital. Liberal or conservative doesn’t matter. If you’re not a gazillionaire or have your own network show, you’re just peasant grist for the mill.

This notion is actually freeing in a way. If nothing I do matters, then I get to do what I want, feel how I want to feel, be who I want to be – all without a politician’s input or political labels. For some people, this means expanding – reaching out to others, committing to service, broadening horizons. To others, it means curling up in a tight ball, hanging with like-minded people, protecting oneself at all cost. We get to decide who we want to be. That’s a damned powerful choice to make.

I’ve read some posts and articles by many articulate and reasoned people. They argue opposite points and I think, well, that is something to think about. It made me realize that we can talk ourselves into anything. We can look past all kinds of flaws in reasoning and become so enamored of our own talking points as to sound like reflexive robots. We seek out confirmation bias for the pure pleasure of feeling self-righteous, comforted, and above all, right.

I’ve walked for miles this week. My knee injury is slow in healing and each step is focused on not slipping or stepping down too hard. But I’m moving forward with quiet concentration. Yesterday, I mapped out a four mile walk that included a stop at the library. The sun was out and the sidewalks were melted off, a lovely November surprise. I gingerly walked uneven pavement, stepping with a wince off curbs. Each step a measured choice.

Over the last year, I read a lot of comment sections on news sites and I realized that they actually made me more stupid. Comments are often not measured choices. I wondered how this affected my worldview – to constantly read angry, denigrating insults, regardless of political affiliation.

canstockphoto9209863Every article, no matter the topic, triggered a cavalcade of repetitive and childish squabbling. This article made me laugh, because the comment section was reflective of nearly every news comment section I’d ever read.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bypassing comment sections and trying to stick with the news. It’s a challenge. Vitriol is addictive and even if it’s not you writing it, reading it is a hard habit to break. It feeds the little part of your brain that likes to feel amped – that burst of rage that lights you up and gets the adrenaline going. The primitive urges of modern life.

As I stripped away the filthy layers of this election season, I remembered that the same things that mattered most to me before, mattered most now. My family, learning, contributing positively to society, writing, friends, etc. While I was thinking about what matters, I tripped over a great new resource, the Action for Happiness website. Check out Action #30. I’m still digging in, but I like the positive vibes from the site – and lots of reminders that politics is only a fraction of life.

duffyprintHumor is also a much-needed palliative. I have a fondness for political cartoonists. When I was 16 and editor of the school paper, I went to the Iowa High School Press Association conference. I fangirled Brian Duffy, a political cartoonist from the Des Moines Register. Pigs featured prominently his cartoons, since much of Iowa life is focused on farm culture, so I had a very specific request in mind. He drew me a huge pig which hangs on the wall behind me and makes me smile to this day.

Here’s some cartoonists that have made me laugh lately:

  • Claytoonz     Syndicated Cartoonist Clay Jones. He’s a liberal after my own heart, so it might not be your jam. I enjoy learning about his thought process that goes into the work.
  • Tabula Candida  A historian who likes to doodle. I always feel just a little bit smarter if I get the joke.
  • Wrong Hands Cartoonist John Atkinson does a fantastic job combining history and literature with the idiosyncracies of modern life.

So what does this all come down to? It comes down to getting in touch with our own humanity and inner lives before pretending we’re ready to understand that of others. Casey Fleming at non(seculargirl) wrote a great post “Sermon for Self-Purification” that covers this exact point.

womaninnerlifeThe election results triggered a heavy duty depression in me, but it made me realize that the whole year has been a bit of a bust. There have been few highlights and brief glimpses of enthusiasm were easily squashed. It wasn’t only the election, it was that I had allowed my inner life to be eclipsed by things out of my control. No matter which wealthy bastard is in charge, nurturing our inner lives and deciding who we want to be, are really all we have.

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