I recently surpassed 50 posts for this blog which represents several personal achievements. First, it signifies that I haven’t quit. It’s estimated that most bloggers pull the plug in the first 2-3 months, I’m almost four months in. Second, it means that I am enjoying it (which I do, it has come to be my creative outlet and pseudo meditation). Third, it signals that a few apparently find my roadkill humorous, intriguing, or interesting. But during the time I’ve also learned a great deal about what bloggers find important and the lengths some will do to get more of it – followers.
Followers, for most bloggers, are a big deal. It’s secretly why we do what we do, otherwise we’d just journal in private. It’s our barometer that the content we put out there is desirable, important, and worthy. If we were really just writing for ourselves, why put it on the internet and check reader stats, page hits, and the like? And since there is a small minority using their blog as a full-time source of income it’s a hobby for the vast majority of us.
From the beginning I felt the urge to grow ChopperPapa’s reader base. I was constantly checking my Feedburner, looking at my analytics, comparing other sites and asking “what are they doing that I should be doing?” When I would land on a blog the first thing I would do is check how much comment traffic the site had and their number of followers as a way of sizing up the competition. But soon this become more important than the writing and, as a result, I found myself moving away from the genuine purpose behind the site.
My original intent for starting this blog was to share my experiences at being a father in the modern family through creating a platform that would draw single fathers (and mothers) into the conversation. During the process I established one standard to operate by – when they’re ready, I’d be proud for my kids to read it. This meant I wouldn’t have 4-letter words in every sentence, I would stay positive yet realistic, and I wouldn’t write at another individual’s expense. But almost immediately, after seeing the perceived success of some other bloggers, I began breaking this promise in the hopes of attracting followers; believing that if I too built it with sarcasm, crudeness, and grumbling followers would come.
In much the same way that I was going against my own principles, I’ve read posts from others which made me wonder if it was written purely for ‘shock and awe’. Posts which left me asking if the blogger really is like that, speaks that way, or is really that pessimistic. Then I discovered a sad example of the lengths bloggers will go to for readers – HNT (Half Nekkid Thursdays). For those unfamiliar, this is where a blogger posts risqué pictures of themselves ranging from flirty to x-rated for no apparent reason other than they can! I find no purpose for this aside from a desperate attempt to get attention. I’m persuaded to ask, when I stumble upon these posts, if I can forward it to their significant other, parents, or particularly kids as it seems the majority who participate in HNT are parents.
And it confirms something I’ve come to realize during my time in the blogosphere, social media has turned many of us into cyber popularity whores. We use these tools as a way to satisfy our craving for attention, to confirm our self worth, and validate us a individuals. Yet here is what I think most of us know, that when we base our self-worth on the opinion of others we will ALWAYS be disappointed. They will never respond in the way that we want or anticipate. And while I completely understand this I still struggle with it. I will write what I feel is an intriguing and relative post that everybody will dig. But after a few days if there is no feedback, I immediately begin to wonder if I even know what good is. Because I didn’t get the reaction I hoped for I begin second guessing myself. Which begs the question did I write the post to share my experiences and thoughts or to get comments?
But this certainly isn’t a blogger only struggle, is it? How many of us have broken our own principles just to fit in and be accepted? We warn our children against it yet we often find ourselves doing the exact thing. We will dress a certain way, drive a particular car, and live beyond our means to feel like part of the ‘in-crowd’. But for those of us who have already gone down that path we know that it dead ends at emptiness.
After finally coming to this realization and getting a reality check to the face from a good friend I decided to make some changes in how I approach blogging. I resolved not to track my readership or followers and only review my site stats annually. I promised myself to stay focused on the motive behind bringing ChopperPapa online regardless of how unsuccessful a particular post(s) might be, in other words I will not part from my principles to get a reader. I swore to always be grateful for those who read and those who comment on my material, I truly enjoy the interaction and engagement and look forward to more whether it be on deep topics like Manufactured Beauty or lighter fare such as RetroRewind. But most importantly I promise to always remind myself that the truest form of validation doesn’t come from a comment or a ‘Like’ button – but from within.