The Underbelly of the Blogging World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the reader sees is the finished product, punctuated by  a picture that reflects the theme of the post. It’s well-groomed and ready for display.

But while housekeeping, indeed spring-cleaning, my soul I was struck by what I will call the ‘underbelly’ of the blogging world. I was convicted of how caught I have been in this underbelly – like a floundering insect entangled in the beautiful but deadly web of a spider.

For those of you who are not bloggers, which is most of my readers (and for that I am so grateful!) bear with me as I take you into this underbelly for just a moment. For those of you who do blog – I’m speaking our language.

It can be summarized in three words: Statistics, Link-ups, and Shares.

Statistics: No matter what platform you use, be it WordPress, Blogger, or another hosted site, there is an administrative page that gives you statistics. This page has numbers, graphs, data, and charts. It’s this page that will tell you how many views you have, how many unique visitors, where readers are from in the world, who read, how long they stayed, how many posts were read that day, that week, that month. It can be a fun page – when viewed in moderation and taken with a tall glass of confidence. But if not taken in moderation – this is an underbelly that sucks you in and bleeds you dry. At its most lethal, it makes you question your worth. You begin to believe that your worth is based solely on how many people have read your blog that day. This is a terrifying thought.

Mentions & Link-ups: CS Lewis in one of his writings speaks of something called “The Inner Ring”. He describes this as the hierarchies in the world and in the areas of expertise where we find ourselves. Every time we think we have reached the pinnacle, the highest place, the inner circle, we realize there is yet one more circle to penetrate. And so it goes – we never feel we will be inside that inner ring. It begins in elementary school with the popular kids, takes different forms as you get older, but always and forever it remains exclusive and feels elusive. It is capricious, this inner ring. One day you may be in it – and the next day you are outside of it.

And so it is with blogging. There are those who we perceive as being in the “inner ring”. They know each other and promote each others work. They do weekly links to each other’s blogs and get thousands of shares and likes on Social Media sites. And if we allow ourselves to enter and get caught up in the underbelly of the blogging world, we want to be in this ring – but it remains just out of reach. We write about the wrong stuff. We are just so far outside of this circle that we will always be relatively unknown. Or we are too old (It’s rare to find a successful blogger over 35) and therefore irrelevant.

“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.”

It’s easy to begin thinking it’s all about that inner ring – the mythical inner ring of the blogging world. We compare ourselves to those who we perceive are there, and we find ourselves wanting as we realize we are outside the ring, and will probably never enter it.

Shares: This underbelly is exhausting and never-ending. A place where we begin to judge our work and our worth based on the number of shares we have received on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Digg, Stumbleupon, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr….it is the underbelly of underbellies.

So what is the solution to avoiding this underbelly?

Identifying an area that needs work and a redeeming touch is only the first step. I have to be willing to either resist the underbelly or stop blogging. It’s that important.

And so I begin. Since Ash Wednesday I have not looked at the statistics page – Not once. It is so healthy. I don’t have a clue how many or how few have been coming by Communicating Across Boundaries. This past week I looked at only two other blogs, I stayed away from reading those who I perceive to be in the mythical inner circle, and was the healthier for it.

And I began praying specifically about blogging and writing, what it means to me, why it means a lot, what I would like Communicating Across Boundaries to be and more. It’s a journey and I have not arrived. But I do know that underbellies suck you in and before you know it, you are compromising to fit a mold. And molds have a way of stifling us instead of freeing us.

So this was one of the hidden places that needed to be cleaned and aired this past week. I wish I could say I am alive in this new found freedom, that my writing will reflect that and honor those of you who come by. But I’m more sobered than alive, more aware that I don’t want to waste your time – instead offering a space of light, rest, hope, and thought in the midst of a world that offers all kinds of underbellies that can catch us.

Thank you for listening.

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow.” CS Lewis

Blogging Wisdom

Sometimes truth slaps you in the face and you recognize it as truth, going away revived and restored instead of whimpering and whining. I went through a bit of a crisis recently and the quote below was used as a slap of truth. I adapted it from something else and made myself a sign, a sign to keep this truth alive.