Probably every blogger faces this temptation, wielded as it is by the twin demons of Conceit and Self-Doubt. I want my blog to get viewed. I want you to like me, or at least to be provoked to comment.
I started this blog about two months ago, firmly convinced that I have important things to say. There’s a world out there formless and void, and darkness is on the understanding of everyone, waiting for my unique voice to give shape and order to the universe. Fiat Blog.
Needless to say, after the initial flurry of excitement over “Look! I’ve had this blog for only one day, and already I have followers!”, I settled down into a vague disappointment that apparently the mere fact of setting my thoughts out there in blog form was not some magical key of greatness.
“Oh well,” I thought to myself. “Give it time.” After all, everyone’s got to start somewhere. And I always feel a little weird about posting on a blog that’s only been around for less than a month, as if by posting a reply I’m throwing words away into some flash-in-the pan. (This is incredibly unfair to new bloggers. Why should their lack of posting history prevent me from telling them they have made an insightful post that made me think?)
I made my first comments anyway.
I got my first comments, from people that were already my friends. “Give it time”, I told myself. “Give it time.”
I got my first self-doubt crisis, caused by the “you just published your nth post – and you still didn’t remember to add any tags, you moron!” message. Ok, it didn’t actually say “you moron”, but self-doubt will do funny things to even the most innocently-worded prompt. (Incidentally, I always lose an unidentified amount of this “you just published” message at the bottom of the screen. There appears to be no way to scroll down to that half of the screen and see what I’m missing. Anyone have an explanation?)
I read the WordPress explanations of tags and categories, and thought I had them down right, then began to wonder. Am I doing these right? Is there some unspoken blogging etiquette that I’m trampling all over? Am I putting too many or too few tags? Are they overly specific to the point of obscure? Are they too generic?
I still haven’t solved this question precisely. It’s just shelved, awaiting understanding.
I got my first unexpected spike in traffic. In retrospect, I should probably have expected it, wading into the highly-charged and definitely opinionated gun debate with a provocative headline like “My Jesus Will Shoot You“, but at the time it took me by surprise.
“Yay!” I thought, “now I’ve hit the big time!”
Comparatively speaking, of course.
That was when I first began to really watch my blog’s statistics page like a hawk.
“Why did no-one stop by to visit yesterday?” I began to wonder. Oh, it looks like people only view my blog when I put something new up. I’d better increase my posting rate.
Thankfully I was still running in that first flurry of blogging enthusiasm I suspect most people have, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. But I suspect some of those first few posts could have done with another day or so’s polishing, instead of being rushed out there ready or not.
I got my second self-doubt crisis. I began to wonder why posts that I thought were brilliantly incisive and insightful and bound to start a conversation should be more or less ignored. Or why posts that I thought would almost certainly provoke strongly-worded disagreement were also ignored.
“Come on!” I’m saying inside. “Like me! Or at least, if you think my ideas are crap, and have reasons to back up your claim, tell me!” I’m a grown adult. I think I can handle being disagreed with without taking it as a personal affront. View me! Like me! Comment on me!
The stats page can be quite a tyrannical little tin god. It’s needy; it wants you to sacrifice your integrity and deepest sense of identity for the sake of What’s Popular With The Readers. It ties up your sense of worth into a fluctuating prison based on how many likes and comments you get. Am I popular? Am I making people think? Am I significant?
Even as a child, I was decidedly fringe. I came by my sense of self-worth the hard way. So I don’t care so much about being liked by absolutely everyone. But I desperately want to know I’m significant. I want you to comment. I want to know that I made you think, or that you think my opinions are threatening enough that you need to reply and deconstruct them.
I’m the sort of person who, in responding to someone else quoting CH Spurgeon or DL Moody or John Wesley, will say something like “I don’t want to set myself up over and against the likes of <fill in the famous preacher du jour>, but…” before I go on to say that I think they’re wrong.
I’m lying, obviously. If I didn’t think my opinion was better than theirs (even though they are the great DL Moody), I wouldn’t comment at all. Conceit, perhaps, but it made me comment on your blog.
And my stats page both reinforces this conceit and feeds my ever-present self-doubt all at the same time. It sits there, singing its siren-song in the form of the “last 48 hours’ traffic” ticker up in the corner. Come and bow at the altar of popularity and significance.
But it has enough of a hold on me that even if there was a way to disable that little ticker, I probably wouldn’t do it. Just like the rest, apparently in some ways I’m still in thrall to the idol.
Hang on a minute, though.
Where does my sense of significance come from? From the fact that someone commented on my blog, or from the fact that I’m made in the image of God Himself and that Christ died to set me free?
Obviously, the latter. Or at least, that’s the Sunday School answer I know I’m supposed to give.
I’m significant because I’m made in God’s image, after His likeness. Because Christ thought enough of my worth to die for me. Because God thinks enough of me to bring me to Himself and to want to take me home with him once my time on earth is done.
I am not bound to the tyrannical idolatry of my stats page. It truly does not matter. I blog because I have something to say. If you don’t want to listen, is that somehow my responsibility?