This is a long one, but I want you to read it, so grab a coffee (or wine, if it's after noon, and you are so inclined).
Image: randya38 via Flickr
In middle school, there was a girl named Phaedra. She had curly brown hair with giant bangs teased sky-high and shellacked with hairspray. Our generation of eighth graders singlehandedly put a dent in the ozone with all that Aqua Net; me included. Phaedra had thick, shiny braces on her teeth, brown hair, blue eyes, an outgoing personality -- and she was popular. Everybody liked her.
In high school, several queen bees ruled the roost. One of them was Lena. She was smart, pretty and sweet. She had an upperclassman boyfriend, one of the cutest boys in school; she had a big house. Everyone thought her dad was cute, and she even had a car. Everyone liked her too. People just flocked to her and wanted to be her friend.
I was never that popular kid. I was always on the fringe. I wouldn't exactly say I was a nerd -- OK, I definitely was a nerd up until 10th grade, but somewhere around that time things started to improve for me. I was already in varsity gymnastics, but I made the cheerleading team. I joined student government. I ditched glasses for contacts and started to get a handle on what to do with my hair. By my senior year, I could call a lot of those "cool" kids my friends -- including Lena -- and I even made prom court. To this day, I still can't believe that happened. I didn't have that outgoing personality that draws people in. I was quiet. I wasn't the star anything. I wasn't loud enough, confident enough, smart enough, different enough or pretty enough. I didn't have the right clothes. People didn't flock to me the way they did to them. I mingled with them. But I couldn't BE them.
I've been blogging for about four years now. At first, I was totally oblivious to the whole blogging industry that was exploding around me. I started seeing bloggers post about comparing themselves to others, feeling inadequate, and reading a post and wishing they could have written it. I was like, what are they talking about? Then I came out from whatever rock I was hiding under and realized that there were some really popular blogs out there gaining thousands of followers and that blogging was moving in a new direction.
Somewhere along the way, I started having some of those feelings myself. It was a feeling that I couldn't quite put my finger on. And then it dawned on me that some of those old feelings of wanting to be accepted and liked that I had in high school had resurfaced but substitute high school for the blogging world. And it was kind of weird to realize this, because as an adult I thought I had put those emotions behind me. I work full time; I pay bills. I have a greater awareness of the world. I have a full, happy life with fulfilling relationships. I have a mortgage and a husband. Why am I concerned about being popular and liked? With coming up with a really witty status update that will stand out? Ain't nobody got time for that.
The blog world is full of popular kids, cliques, and social hierarchy. And it can feel very competitive. I'm not saying any of it is bad, or good, or even intentional -- but it's there. I think it's just the nature of the beast. Here's the thing: I've never been, and will probably never be, that cool kid. I didn't win prom queen my senior year in high school, and I'm certainly not winning any popularity contests in the blog world today. Popularity was important to me as an insecure teenager, but it's not what I'm after now as a slightly less insecure adult blogger.
I ran for class secretary my freshman year of high school. It was a really bold move for someone like me. I was terrified of the whole process, and I still can't figure out what possessed me to do it. And I failed miserably. Not only because I was an unpopular nerd, but because I was too afraid to "put myself out there." I didn't want to put up too many signs. I didn't want to hand out candy with a vote for me tag on it. I didn't want to ask people to vote for me. I was running for a class office, but it was almost like I didn't want anyone to know that I was. The more people that knew I was running, the more would know when I failed. Plus, I couldn't actually let them know how bad I really wanted it, because that would make defeat even more embarrassing.
In that sense, I am just not a natural when it comes to selling myself. I don't always like to put myself out there like that. It makes me feel vulnerable and I've never liked asking people for help or favors. I want you to like my blog but I don't necessarily want to ask you. I'm stubborn. I want you to stumble upon it and make the decision on your own. Perhaps by osmosis.
I'm not the life of the party. I'm more of an understated introvert and I guess my blog is too.
I can't be more eloquent, funnier, craftier, more domestic, more fashionable, more this or more that then I am. It's too exhausting to try to be something I'm not. I can only be me.
Popularity is seductive. We all want to be liked. Being liked is validating. The more validated we become the more we want it. The less validated we are the more we want it. It's a natural desire, but I try to be conscious of not letting it determine how I feel about myself.
I have come to understand that not everybody is gonna like me even if I like them. Not everyone will want to read my blog even if I read theirs. And vice versa. A lot of people are not going to be interested in a single thing I have to say. It doesn't have to be personal. It's just life. We can only read so many blogs in a day anyways.
I can comment 'till the cows come home and some bloggers will never acknowledge my existence. Ever. And I am not a no-reply commenter. Again, trying not to take it personally.
There is no exact science to blogging or popularity. It's what you make it, and it's what you bring to the table as an individual. Some bloggers will write two words or post a picture and get a million comments, and the next person could post that same picture and get none. Some blogs employ all the tricks in the book to gain readers, and then there are others that don't have to or choose not to.
I realize that if I don't do certain things, I may never get noticed. If I don't throw a party I can't expect anyone to show up. If I don't coordinate my ideas, I can't expect a lot of people to know about them. There are many tools of the trade available for growing readership, but I haven't really utilized all of them. I can't seem to decide what feels right for me and my blog. I do a bit of self promotion here and there, but mostly I just take it as it comes. It's the so-called "organic approach," which basically means slow.
Then there is the business side of it all. Thinking too much about search optimization, page views, or how to "drive" traffic makes my brain hurt. Marketing what? It's too much like work and I don't think of this blog as a job.
Here are the blog stats in all their glory. It's not anything to brag about. Normally you see this stuff posted on the sponsor tab of a blog, but I don't have one of those, so I'm putting them here -- and after this, you are likely never to see them again. I have the lowest number of likes in the history of any Facebook page I have ever seen. I actually think it's kind of funny. I'm still not sure why I even bother with it. I don't pay that much attention to page views, but I've seen anywhere between 180-450 per day based on the Blogger dashboard numbers. Nowhere near the astronomical 8,000 per day page views that some get. My jaw about fell off my head when I saw that posted on someone's blog.
Maybe I should be embarrassed of these stats after four years of blogging, but I'm not. They're just numbers. I wish I felt the same about my weight.
I try not to confuse popularity or followers with quality. It's really important for me to think about MY definition of blogger success. Whatever that means to me is what will dictate the direction of my blog and how I feel about myself as a blogger. Not everyone is cut out for blogger mogul status. Yes, you heard it here first; I've coined the phrase. It's very impressive how far some of them have taken their blogs, and I think that's great -- but not every blogger will get there.
For me, it can't be about followers because if it is, then that means I'm a total fail -- and I refuse to believe that's the case. I just want to write. I'm working on a novel. I enjoy documenting my life so I can look back on it later in life and I've been doing so since I was nine. For me, it's about good writing and feeling good about what I'm putting out there. It's about consistency. I may not have a set blogging schedule, but for the most part, you know you won't go too long without having me pop up in your news feed.
I love the relationships that I've formed with other bloggers. It's about writing, engaging with other bloggers, and having a good time doing it. As long as I'm doing that, I'm good. I'm not going to sit here and say I don't want people to read my blog, or that I wouldn't be happy to have higher numbers. I wouldn't be on the internet if I didn't want anyone to read my work. Having higher numbers would be cool...but not having that doesn't make me enjoy blogging any less.
I may not be good at getting a lot of people to like me, but I am good at getting a few people to like me a lot. There are some really good blogs that not a whole lot of people are reading -- and I like to believe that one of them is mine. Not so much the whole "nobody is reading" thing, but that my blog is good.
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