Saturday, November 05, 2011

True Confessions and A Little Math Anxiety of My Own


I have a confession to make.

Actually, I have a couple of confessions to make.

I am having a real problem with numbers lately--for about the last 40 days, in fact. Back at the end of September, you see, I began browsing the world of the 'mom blogs.' I discovered that it was a HUGE world. I had been blogging longer than some of these moms had been alive (or that's how it felt, at least), but I had clearly been left in the dust. This humble little blog of mine, the one I formed in Spring of 2004 simply as a way to stay in touch with people when we moved from the PacNW to the wilds of Montana, had never really grown at all. It went through a couple of facelifts over the years, sure, but really nothing more than switching from one basic Blogger template to another, plus a little bit of basic HTML tweaking.

I wrote because I loved to write. I recorded my experiences and the life of my family. I loved the idea that someday my children and their children would have this blog to look back on. They would understand life from my perspective and smile at memories that would have otherwise been forgotten.

I had a faithful group of a dozen or so readers, all of us bloggers for the same reason, all of us commenting on each others' blogs. Very occasionally, a new commenter would materialize, but eighty percent of those were just spammers. But I didn't mind. This blog was just for me, for my real-life family and friends. I plugged away, whistling while I wrote.

Then Facebook appeared on the scene. I ignored it. It was a time-waster for college students trying to avoid studying and networking after graduation, as far as I knew. I remember my sister-in-law, Ruth, telling me that I would love Facebook. I told her that I didn't need another online outlet for blowing large chunks of time.

But I was curious.

A year or two later, I poked around on that shiny blue and white site. I tentatively opened an account.

I fell hard.

After a couple of years, though, it began to cause problems in my life. You see, I am a person with opinions. Surprised? Facebook is full of people with opinions. Big opinions. Strong opinions. Unfortunately, it is also full of people who have no clue how to have reasonable, civil, respectful discussions when those opinions differ. Unfortunately, many of those people live near me. The interactions between the online world of opinions and the in-real-life world of casual acquaintances became very uncomfortable for me. I wasn't having fun anymore (and we all know that is my prime directive), and worse yet, I was dealing with an incredible amount of stress because of it. Things were getting ugly, all because of the shiny and useful blue and white site.

So I dropped it like a rock. I did. I can be a very impulsive person at times, which sometimes is a good thing and sometimes isn't, but in this situation my impulsivity led me to, with no warning whatsoever, simply posting a farewell in a status post and deleting my account. Just like that.

It felt great, like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt liberated and almost giddy...for about two weeks.

Then I began to feel the loss of it. I have lived a lot of places in my life, and the collection of great friends I have made is staggering. I never considered myself one of the 'popular' kids, and I spent my childhood enduring much teasing (not the light-hearted, good-natured, all-in-good-fun-because-we-like-you variety), so I am truly humbled and grateful to realize that now, at 40-something years old, I have an incredible group of friends--good people, bright people, encouraging and uplifting people, people who are humbly making a difference in the world, people with whom I am honored to associate. I'd always thought that if I could have just a single good, faithful friend, I'd be happy. If I could have a handful of close friends, I'd be blessed beyond measure. But look at me now. I have dozens of people in my life who I can talk to about most any subject, people who I could call if I were in their area and stop in for an excellent visit, then leave wishing it were longer.

I am rich, dear friends, and many of you are the shiny gold coins in my pocket.

The local friends were easy to stay connected with, but I missed the connections I'd re-established with so many of my faraway friends. Facebook had become a lifeline for those relationships. So simple. So efficient.

I caved.

And here's Major Huge Confession #1: I created a new identity on the shiny blue and white site using a pseudonym, just so I could stay in touch with my faraway friends. I contacted a select few people, the ones I had interacted with the most before the switch, and let them know my new name so they could add me as an official 'friend.' It felt a little awkward at first, responding to a different name, but I've been doing it for awhile now, and I feel like it is now just an extension of myself. When I look at the pseudonym, it registers in my brain as me. My friends list is very small and I like it that way. It is only those I consider intimate friends, and NO ONE from anywhere in Montana--not even my own husband and son.

It has worked well, to an extent, but I am feeling convicted more and more about living a double life. My local friends know that "I deleted my identity on Facebook" (true) and that "Sherry Chidwick isn't on Facebook anymore" (true). Kind of true. Well, technically speaking, but well, not entirely true.

It's time to come clean before this whole double life thing turns and bites me in the butt. I can already hear it growling.

Today--right now, in fact--I am going to switch my identity back to my real name.


There. Done. I'm back under my real identity.

Wow. That's crazy. I even added my husband and son as friends, finally.

So that takes care of confession number one. I will likely have some damage control to take care of as a result of this , but I am willing to take the risk. It's better to take charge of it myself, I suppose.

On to the second one.

Remember how I said that I started poking around in the mom blog scene? I learned a few things very quickly.

1. My blog was very ugly and outdated looking.

2. My blog had pitifully few readers.

3. It was time to join the real social media scene and make something of this humble little blog.

4. I wanted to play with the big girls.

I gave my blog a serious makeover--albeit still within the Blogger template system. I went back through old posts and began to update tags, adding them to posts that were written before Blogger gave the option of tags, so that the entire blog would be searchable by topic. I added the content of my underutilized homeschool blog to this blog and added sidebar links to show that this is a homeschool blog as well as a personal/family one. I got myself signed up on Twitter and started to interact with other mom bloggers there.

And then, I did the unthinkable. I jumped on board with the 31 Days project created by a handful of the big girl bloggers, chose a topic, created a little 125x125 pixel button, and linked it up with with the project, committing myself to writing about emerging from the chaos for 31 days straight. I did it, too. I kept up with the entire 31 days.

With all of these efforts, my readership spiked. Really spiked. Check out this graph, documenting my blog's readership by month for the past year:

Now do you believe me when I say 'spiked'? That's October, my 31 Days project. Crazy, huh?

How did I get this nifty little graph? I have SiteMeter installed. I don't even remember when I put it on my site or why. Blogger has their own stats system built in now, so I could have gotten this same information without an external application. This little graph, and other ones like it have become my obsession for the last 35 days or so. I've been tracking readers by the hour, checking to see where they come from on the map, which websites they were referred from, what pages they read, and how their numbers compare to the hour before, the day before, the week before, etc. I've become a numbers girl and the math of it all has caused a fair amount of anxiety for me.

It has become a fairly ugly compulsion. I'm not proud of the amount of space in my brain I've allowed it to take over. I've lost the reasons that I started blogging in the first place. I've compared myself to others relentlessly. I've all but screamed for attention, trying to drive traffic to my blog. It's not been pretty. That's Confession Number Two, if you're keeping score.

So, I'm going to remove SiteMeter from my blog. Right now.


There. Done.

If I really need to track statistics for some reason in the future, I know how to find them within the Blogger system, but it's more time consuming, so I doubt I will do it much. I don't have any reason to do so right now anyway.

I'm going back to writing what I want to write on this blog, simply because I love to write, love to record my family's history and my experiences as a mom and a home educator.

So there you go. I'm attempting to be a little more transparent, a little more genuine. I'm back to just being me.


Tina Hollenbeck said...

Oh, I can totally relate to confession #2! Sometimes I look at blogs I follow (not yours) and wonder, "Why do so many people follow her? My stuff is better!" Boy, that's a real ugliness within me! So I just battle against it every time it rears its pitiful little head and put my focus on blogging for me. I don't have many followers at all compared to the big girls - and who knows how many of them actually read me on a regular basis - but I got them just being that's what I need to keep doing. I think it's good to not check the stats - I used to do that and stopped for the same reason you have. Just be true to yourself and to the Lord, and you'll regain your joy about it. :^)

As for Facebook...well, I hope you don't mind if I seek you out and send a friend request! :^) I've really enjoyed getting to know you over your 31 Days project and love connecting with other homeschoolers on FB, too. :^)

Sherry C said...

Incidentally, when I began writing this post on Saturday morning, I did not know I would switch my FB identity and delete SiteMeter before I hit publish, only a couple of hours later. True story. Told you I am a little impulsive sometimes.

Alana in Canada said...

I think that all counts as "simplifying" and "decluttering" your life, too. You need boundaries around internet stuff. I think we all do. Some of us are better at setting them than others. It would be so interesting to me to see if those of us with "clutter" issues also have similiar boundary issues--or if not similar, then different issues--but to the same extent (ie the same dgree of difficulties in establishing and keeping them whatever they may be.) Anyway, sorry, rambling!

By Word of Mouth Musings said...

Sherry, I devoured this post ... each and every word and I hear them , I live them ... I think I may even own them.
This blog stuff is hard stuff considering you could quit today, and be the end of the week, people wouldn't even remember you were around. And that is why I hit the realisation this week I have to write it for me, what matters too me .... because we really only matter to the rest for a little bit. I would hope that some of the online friends that I have made will be real friends for a long time ... but the counting, the numbers, the views ... its just not the real world! Sorry about my post in your post here ... but you really spoke to me with this :)

Tasker Family said...

Its funny that you should write this sort of post - I've been thinking about the "time wasters" in my life lately, so what you've written really rings true.

I've stopped checking all the "blogs I follow" on a daily basis, and instead sit down on Saturday morning before the family rises, with my cup of coffee, and scroll through. So if you looked at your sitereader this week, you'll notice this chick in Australia only sought you out once (I did follow you every day in Oct, and loved that it was mid-Afternoon my time when your post would go up).

But know that you're blog will be followed in Australia for a long time!

(BTW, I only followed 3 31-day writers, you, Nester, and Mom Creative)

Anonymous said...

It is so grand to read your voice again S. I have not been here in an age. I too have flopped into the facebook world, what our friend Karen once called, "the opposite of blogging; all comments and no posts." How I miss the depth of an entire post as you express here.

Glad all is well with you and yours. Considering rebooting my (ultra ancient) blog one of these days myself.

You know I still use my special pen for special times.