September 26, 2006
In the last ten days or so, I've seen many of my friends posting about trying to find a balance, a way to continue to enjoy blogging and the interaction with kindred spirits it brings without letting it interfere with day to day life. A lot of us seem to be realizing that this can become so addictive it eats into our days and we find ourselves neglecting our families and homes and shih tzus. OK, I'm neglecting my shih tzu. You may be neglecting your iguana. But still.
My sister and I have been emailing each other for days trying to come up with a solution, a way to stop the madness without deleting our blogs. She wrote an amazing post on this subject this morning, in such simple and honest language, it all finally fell into place for me. So I've made some changes and in the hope that it might help someone else find balance, I thought I'd share them.
Let me say right up front that the last thing I want to do is hurt feelings. But you know what? Worrying about that is about half the problem.
See if you can relate to this. When we first started a blog, we each had a reason. Some considered it a journal, a way to record daily thoughts and happenings, perhaps for themselves or maybe for their children. Some (a lot, actually) started a blog as a way to keep family and friends updated on what's happening in their families. I started mine for fun. For me, it was going to be fun and I might meet some interesting people, people with common interests.
Then I discovered all the neat things you can do to enhance your blog's appearance. There's a lot of fun stuff out there and what I love is the challenge of learning how make it happen in my sidebar. Then I discovered bloglines. Bloglines is probably the best help feature you can use. But bloglines has that one little spot that tells you how many people subscribe to you. And you start watching that. Then there's site meter. Oh boy. That one can make or break an ego.
I started interacting. I got comments from people outside my family, went over to meet them and started reading them. Then I started liking them. So I started commenting every time they did a post. I'm still scratching my head that what started out, for me anyway, as a fun thing to do with my family that's spread all over the country turned into almost 100 feeds in my bloglines.
You know what? I like every single one of them. But how on earth would I function if I spent time every single day of my life with 100 friends who showed up at my front door? And that's exactly what we're doing when we try to stay in constant touch with 100 blogging friends every day or even every week. I don't know about you but I'd lose my mind if I had to spend even fifteen minutes talking to each of 100 friends every week, much less every day.
It can't happen Ladies. There's no way. You can't do that and have a life.
So....here's what I've done. I think this will work for me. It might work for you.
My first thought was to just delete people like crazy from my bloglines. There's nothing so intimidating as turning the computer on in the morning and seeing that you have 137 new posts showing in bloglines. So I did that. I deleted ruthlessly and took it down to 18. Can you believe that? In 15 minutes I took it from 96 to 18. I was so proud. Within two days I missed the people I'd deleted and felt like they'd moved to Siberia.
Bev did something yesterday that I thought was the bravest thing I'd heard of in ages. She totally deleted all the links in her sidebar. No.more.links. I was shocked. Then I started thinking about it. Here's what that does. Links in sidebars can make people feel good but they can make other people wonder why they're not there. No good. Popularity contest. High school. A constant worry for the blogger. I like her, I read her, I comment to her. Oh my gosh! Do I have her in my sidebar? If I don't, I've hurt her feelings. Or. I read her. I have her in my sidebar links. I'm not in hers. Doesn't she like me enough to include me in her links?
Solution? Delete the links in the sidebar. How can one person feel left out if everyone's left out? Well, that didn't come out right but you know what I mean.
So today I did that. I have to admit I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to install a collapsible box for my links that I simply could not delete it. So I moved my family there. But I deleted all other links.
Next? I put every single one of those sidebar links back into my blogline subscriptions. Yep. I'm back up to almost 100. But now I feel like I invited my friends back over and can stay in touch. If they're not in my links and not in my bloglines, they're gone. The trick here is to not feel overwhelmed when bloglines says you have 137 new posts to read. The mistake is to think you have to comment on everything you read. Honestly? It's OK to hit all read when you're busy and look at it again another day. People post. When you have time, you can catch up with them. A few at a time. So for me, no more 7 hour marathons of trying to read every single post and comment. I can't do it. And you can't either.
I deleted site meter. I don't need the agony. I truly do not care about the numbers. If I could make the spot on bloglines that tells me how many subscribers I have go away I would do that too. If you get caught up in the numbers, number of hits, number of people subscribing to you, number of comments you get, you're going to get so caught up in trying to change the numbers, make them go up, that you spend way too much time "working" it and not enough time just enjoying the communion with friends.
This one was the hardest for me but I deleted all the cute buttons to things going on in other blogs from my sidebar. It's too much. It's too hard to make sure you're not leaving someone out who has a new thing going and wants you to help them support it. And I'm a minimalist. I like things neat and clean. It was getting out of hand.
It's not that I don't support my friends who start a new meme or a one-time great thing or make a huge statement that needs to be noticed. But from now on I will support them by doing a post about it with links back to their site for further information. No more endless trails of buttons supporting things in my sidebar. I honestly believe if I do a post about it the people who read me and are excited about it will do what I do. I have a notebook sitting right here in front of my computer where I write these things down so I won't forget the details I need to know to participate. I'm much more likely to refer to my notes than I am to remember whose site I need to go to for a button to click on. I love the buttons. Some of them are adorable. But my notes work better for me. I'm sorry. But I really like a minimal sidebar.
For me personally, it's more comfortable to leave a comment for my friend saying I support what she's doing and will post about it. Once. Period. And I truly hope that doesn't hurt feelings.
A couple of times I've set up something to create fun interaction like how you met your husband or how you came up with the name of your blog. But I set up a link so you could all connect with each other and left it at that. That works for me.
The last brave step to get complete control again and really make people understand that I don't care about numbers nearly as much as I care about simple honest communication would be to disenable comments. I'm not quite there yet because I admit that when I do a post I'd like to know if anyone read it. That, to me, is the final frontier. If you can disenable comments, then you truly are blogging just to record your thoughts. I like the interaction. So I can't do that. I don't count my comments. I read them. And I take them to heart.
So in a nutshell:
The number of people in my bloglines is absurd but I care about every single one of them and don't want to lose touch with them.
I'm not loading my sidebar up with buttons and icons any more. The people I support will know it and so will anyone who reads me.
I do not have site meter and do not miss it. At.all.
I edited every person I subscribe to in bloglines to "private." I'm not being rude but it's nobody's business who I subscribe to. The people I do subscribe to will know it. And the people I don't subscribe to but occasionally read won't know that I don't subscribe to them. Again, it avoids hurt feelings.
If you subscribe "publicly" to people in bloglines, anyone can click on you and discover who you subscribe to. It feels important to me to regain some privacy.
I do not expect people who read my posts to comment every single time. Occasionally, just to let me know you're still around, is fine. And I will do the same for you.
I will not comment on every post I read.
It's OK to hit "all read" when you're overwhelmed or just busy having a life.
I do not have links in my sidebar. It feels like cheerleader tryouts in high school. I hated cheerleader tryouts. I hated feeling unpopular.
And here's the big one. I do not have to post every single day. Some days I have nothing to say. Some days I'm busy. Some days I'm not even here. (Yeah, it could happen!) And some days I might just throw a "happy week" cutesy post out there. I don't expect comments on that. That's like getting a thank you card for sending someone a thank you card.
I'm thinking these changes will work for me. I can keep blogging, keep interacting with the people I've met and love to stay in touch with, and still have a life. God, my husband, my two daughters and my precious grandson will appreciate having me back.
When I first started blogging I immediately gained a reputation for being the OCD, over the top, neat, clean, perfect housewife. Let me tell you, you should see my house, my yard, my shaggy shih tzu, the kudzu in my bushes now. I'm stopping the madness.
And I think I just broke the record for the longest post ever written.
Really. This should be fun. It should be inspirational. It should be a lot of things. But it should NOT be crazy.
Posted by Barb at 6:00 AM