blueberry smoothies, your personal theology, and other inconsequential items

“Blueberry smoothies are the most cheerful color.”

I actually considered tweeting that. Not the idea-forms, is-immediately-rejected kind of “considered”. If it hadn’t required me to leave the kitchen, I might have actually tweeted it. [This is one of many reasons I will not own a smartphone until a museum offers me $50,000 for my flip phone.]

Luckily, I realized that this would be an awful tweet because of the reason: NO ONE CARES. But before the alarmists and people-who-think-they’re-too-good-for-the-future take me as one more example of the hyper-narcissistic twentysomething blogger, I’d like to give my own reasons for my almost-tweet. I didn’t think anyone was waiting to hear what I think the most cheerful color is. And I wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself. I was honestly struck by the delicate lavender speckled with earthy indigo, and I wanted to share it with someone. If another person had been in the kitchen with me, I would have remarked upon it and probably never thought of tweeting about it. But there wasn’t, and for a moment I thought that tweeting my smoothie would actually contribute to some kind of conversation.

This carpet cleaner worked REALLY WELL, but using it gave me a headache!

It’s easy to see how that is not the case with the smoothie tweet. Even if I’d had a picture, I couldn’t really share the accidental-everyday beauty of that moment; but without one, it is a boring and stupid thing to make others read. But like I said, I’m not worried about narcissism. I’m worried that the narcissistic and the well-intentioned can end up in the same social media boat, paddling around in a sea of no one cares.

I’ve been a student of the blogosphere this summer. I’ve read a ton of blogs, followed every post of many, and kept up with my twitter feed. I’ve written here,  submitted guest posts, and came this close to making a tumblr. And I’ve noticed a great many people suffering from blueberry smoothie syndrome [myself included, obviously] – people who think they’re making vital contributions to an important conversation, when really they’re not. I’ve learned to be wary of those who say that “blogging is their calling” – many of these people seem to be “called” to put out some pretty average work. And I’ve seen that a post “going viral” is a bit of a crapshoot, while most any not-ugly, not-bad blog can gain a good number of followers with several months of very hard work.

I know I sound like a big rude downer, so let me clarify – I don’t think my own blog is better than average, and I really respect people who put in the work to gain an audience. But I do think the blogosphere in general, and individuals in particular, need to understand: your blog won’t change the world. AT LEAST [I’m shouting over an imaginary clamor of objections] not more than anything else you do. Yes, we all hope that our story will resonate with just one person, or bring a thoughtful moment or a smile to someone’s day. But here’s the real-life facts: probably 80% of the people who read blogs are themselves bloggers. And all people who read blogs tend to follow the sites that agree with their opinions and interests. The blogosphere is really a bunch of tiny baby spheres of ultra-specialized groups. Even if you have a large following, you are not talking to “the world”. You are talking to other organic farmers who have internationally-adopted twins, or something. Even if you have a very large following, you are talking to people with internet access and free time.

Or maybe you’re not that interested in reaching the world; nearly every dedicated blogger you come across is going to say they just want to “start a conversation” or “build a community”. But only the blogs with the very most followers/commenters really come close to doing that on a consistent basis. This is purely a numbers thing; if you’re really really lucky, every tenth person to read your post will comment. So if you’re blogging to “start a conversation”, are you not actually talking to the 90%?

Of course you are. That’s why the social media people don’t talk about how to build a “conversation,” they talk about building a “platform”. You’re speaking from a platform.

Again – I’m not saying any of this is bad. It’s bad when people forget that everyone doesn’t read blogs. That they can state their opinion in elegant prose with a touching story, and not change anyone’s mind because their audience already agrees. That 500 people have already said what they’re saying. That you can’t mix up its and it’s.  [Oops, that is my other blogging peeve].

Here is my point [I’m so bad at getting to these] – I support your blogging/tweeting/tumbling efforts. But. BUT. Don’t imagine that your blog is more important than other things you do with passion and excellence. Don’t talk about it to people who don’t care. Don’t ignore real-life opportunities to write a passionate “manifesto” [seriously, who decided everyone should have a manifesto, thereby cheapening an incredibly cool word?]. Because you’re a whole lot more likely to change someone’s mind on an issue by talking to them one-on-one. And you may be “called to blog” for your own sake, not everyone else’s. And your time and attention is precious to the people you love… not so much to your followers.

As for me, I’ve never claimed to write for more than just to be writing. However, if this post changed your life, let me know so I can tweet about it.

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1 Comment

  1. Well-said! Particularly the fact that most people who read blogs are themselves bloggers… and that online conversational attempts ought not to usurp offline ones.

    Although, for the record, I would have enjoyed your blueberry smoothie tweet. 🙂

    Reply

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