Up and Down
My infallible WordPress stats counter tells me that this blog recently passed the 700 posts and 8000 comments mark. We had a little party, WordPress and I, which consisted mainly of the WordPress minions showering me with randomly generated congratulations and what I imagine were intended to be inspirational quotes. I’m not too proud to admit that I choked up a little. So touching, that WordPress would take the time…
At any rate, the passing of this momentous milestone means—that’s right, you guessed it!—it’s time for another tortured, myopic reflection upon the nature of blogging where I predictably vacillate between self-congratulation and self-flagellation and various other points in between. If you’ve seen this movie before, please feel free to ignore the following and put your next ten minutes or so to more profitable use elsewhere.
Still here? Ok, well on with the show, such as it is…
Six and a half years of doing anything tends to lead one to make certain conclusions about said thing and here is what I have noticed about the phenomenon of blogging. It simultaneously nourishes and cultivates some of the best and the worst tendencies that I have. The best? Well, obviously I like to write. Some of you have—publicly or privately—even scratched your head a bit at how much I apparently like to write. Can you leave no ordinary feature of daily life untouched? Must you subject everything to some kind of elaborate theological analysis? Don’t you have a job?! Well, yes, I do have a job and, yes, evidently, I can write about all kinds of things that might just as well be left alone because, well, I do. I like to write. Blogging isn’t exactly the most glamorous form of writing, to be sure, but it gives me a space to do what I like. Which is good.
And the worst? Well, I am one of these people who is constantly tempted to evaluate myself based on what others think of me. I believe the technical term is “people pleaser.” Not very good or healthy, but there you go. And of course the world of blogging gives you all kinds of ways to evaluate/compare yourself to others. There are the blog stats that only writers see, of course, but these are kind of last decade. Every piece of writing out there now seems to come with a very shiny and very public row of icons at the bottom, each with a little number that rises or, more frequently, forlornly stagnates, to provide a real-time update of just how popular your piece is. Or isn’t. And so every post is subjected to the scalpel of the online community. And we watch… and wait… Will it be liked? How much? Will it be shared? How often? On which platforms? By whom? Will people comment? Where? How will I know? Please, please oh Internet, tell me that you love me!!!
Pathetic? Um, yes, yes it is. Just last night we had some friends over and the conversation turned to a recent compilation/vote of “Christian blogs that you should be reading.” It was discovered that mine was not among the list… which led to a handful of confused attempts to nominate it… which led to a friend nominating my blog from my own computer… which I had already voted for another blog with, thus apparently registering my profile somewhere where profiles are stored in perpetuity… which led to the comical outcome of my little blog appearing at the bottom of a long list of Christian blogging heavyweights with my own name as the nominator. You can’t make this stuff up. Look at that poor sap, nominating himself… it’s so sad. I felt like the last kid standing when the teams have been picked on the playground…
So, like I said, the best and the worst.
Of course, in my more rational moments I know that traffic and hits and shares and stats and “likes” are not how value is measured. I know that naked numbers do not necessarily measure quality. I know that the Internet is a very fickle and fleeting lover. In my more rational moments, I know that truly meaningful engagement with a handful of people will probably do me quite a bit more good than the elusive praise of many, and that I ought to be grateful for the affirmation and encouragement that I do receive. In my more rational moments, I know all this and more. But I am not always (or even often) rational .
So, I continue to have this complicated relationship with blogging. I am trying to hold this medium and the tendencies it encourages (at least in me) up alongside the consistent warning of Jesus, found in numerous places throughout the gospels, to be very careful of doing things to secure the praise of others. Praying, giving, fasting, whatever. Don’t do it be noticed, Jesus says. If what you want is the praise of others, you will have your reward, but that is all you will have (and you will soon discover that it isn’t much). I think we could safely include “blogging” in the mix. If ever there were a practice that seemed almost engineered to be about securing the praise of others, this would be it. Most of us don’t get paid for this, at least not directly. Our currency is praise. And an unstable and unhealthy currency it is indeed.
Having said all of this—having demonstrated the appropriate amount of remorse, skepticism, self-awareness and faux humility—I must do what I usually do at this point in “one of these” posts, which is to simply say, thank you for reading. Sincerely. There is so much that is good and worth reading out there on the Internet playground, so many voices that I admire and learn from regularly, so many profitable sites to visit… It really does mean a lot that you would drop in here every now and then. I thank you for reading, for pushing back, for challenging, for disagreeing, for encouraging, and for generally making this a life-giving space for me, personally.
When I actually manage to bracket out the peripheral noise and numbers and clamour and competition, I am profoundly grateful for the little community that has formed here, for the real human beings, with real names, real stories, real hopes and fears, who spend time talking about things that matter on the journey of life and faith. It means a lot to me.