The Numbers Game

Numbers

One of the things that I find disconcerting about the rise of social media and the nature of our digital connections is how easy it is to play the numbers game. Counting our followers, subscribers, Flickr awards, comments, contacts, likes, tweets, mentions, views, re-tweets. Then comparing our totals to others as a measure of our success and our talent or lack thereof.

Everything within the social media landscape is tabulated and charted in painstaking detail. Bounce rates, visitor loyalty, time on site, reach, followers. It is much too easy to analyze and compare; to see where we stand; to agonize over a downward trend.

Obviously, the reason we blog is to share – our words, our art, our heart. With each post, we are initiating a conversation. We click the Publish button, sending our words and images into the dark void of cyberspace. And then we wait. Wait for someone to comment. Wait for visitors. Wait for our numbers to go up.

Before I started this blog, I was a card-carrying member of the lurking majority. I rarely commented. Even though I was often moved, inspired, educated, challenged and awe-struck by the work of others. Work they shared so courageously, with humor and tears. Providing calls to action. Educating me to be a better photographer, a better person. Making me laugh. Giving me tools to solve problems. Improving my world.

And I failed to give back, to acknowledge, to participate in the virtual conversation.

Of course, now that I am the one putting the words and images out there, I realize that this is a two-way street. Every comment is more than a number – it is a connection. A way to engage. Something precious.

Even now, knowing all this, I sometimes still hesitate to comment. A post or Flickr image already has pages of comments and I say to myself – “What difference will my comment make? They already have enough.” Comparing numbers – mine to theirs; that ugly flair of envy.

Or I second-guess myself – thinking that I have nothing new to add; nothing of worth to say that hasn’t already been said in a superior way by others. And I sit, with hands poised over the keyboard, trying to come up with a clever contribution. As if clever is the same as honest. The same as a simple acknowledgement of what the words or images meant to me, saying thank you for touching my life today.

So, I do my best to ignore the numbers. To avoid comparisons. To participate in the conversation in a meaningful way. To be grateful each day that I have this amazing opportunity to connect with artists around the globe. To make a contribution, both with my words and images and by commenting on the work of others.

And to all of you who read my words and view my images, whether you lurk or comment, thank you. For being part of my “numbers”, my community, our conversation.

What about you? Do you find yourself obsessing about your “numbers”?

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Posted on September 23, 2011, in Blogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. What an honest and relevant post.

    There have times when I’ve got caught up in the numbers and used them to beat myself up with and there are are also times when they’ve left me feeling ‘less than’ in some way or another. These days I try to take a more relaxed approach to it and have stopped checking my stats for the most part, just letting it be.

    True connections have become more important than the numbers game and I’ve been blown away by those that choose to share such thoughtful, beautiful and encouraging words on my blog.

    • Kathryn,
      I am trying to do the same thing – just letting the “numbers” be. Trying instead to concentrate on building meaningful connections. Thank you so much for adding your honest thoughts and reactions. It is good to know that I am not the only one who has experienced that “less than” feeling through meaningless comparisons.

  2. I don’t really look at my “stats” anymore. I don’t find them relevant to what I post, although it is sometimes amusing to see what search words lead people to my blog.

    At this point I feel I have a fairly small but loyal group of readers, most of whom don’t comment but I know they are out there reading and that works for me.

    I like getting comments and I like commenting but only when I really have something to say. I respect that my readers feel the same. I don’t like feeling that I have to comment to get comments or that other people feel obligated to comment on my blog. I think it should be a conversation not a form of “thank you” note.

    I don’t know that I want a large number of readers and doubt very highly that I’d every reach a number over the low hundreds. I like being in and finding small communities on line.

    • Brigindo
      I really appreciate your thougthful comment – you make some really excellent points on this topic that gives me much to think about. Especially your ideas about comments not being a form of “thank you” notes. I must admit that now that I am a blogger I do feel more of an obligation to contribute to other’s work – I suppose because I now realize the effort that goes into creating a post. And I am trying to make more of an effort to make those connections.

  3. Here is a topic that could start a long conversation! I haven’t gotten caught up in the numbers game too much, although I feel a bit lonely when I post something and no one comments on it. But, as you say, there are the lurkers who visit and leave without a trace. These folks really irritate me, Why couldn’t they have taken one minute to comment? It’s so one sided! I feel I expose a bit of myself with every post, and it’s only common courtesy for some one to acknowledge that they looked.

    On the other hand, I really don’t know how some bloggers who have a huge number of followers keep up. A few of them acknowledge every comment with an email, and there are dozens and dozens. How do do they do it? I prefer quality over quantity. Making those real connections and getting to really know people is one of the joys of blogging. I’ve learned so much from some of the creative blogger friends, and it’s made me a better photographer and human being. Thanks for letting me rant! Your photo is perfect for this post. Have a great weekend!

    • Gina,
      Ranting is always allowed 🙂 That means that I have written something interesting!!

      It IS lonely to post and not have any measure that your words or images touched someone else. I think that is when we tend to sneak over to check out our stats, to see if anybody stopped by. Which just leads to disappointment if the numbers don’t measure up to what we wanted or expected.

      I guess we have to accept that blogging is, to some extent, a one-sided exercise – and that the comments we do recieve are just that much more precious. That we are lucky to have the opportunity to send our words and images out there and make connections with people in far-flung places. That, in and of itself, is rather a miracle – whether we connect with 1 or 1000.

      I’m glad to have you in my community.

  4. Hello Brenda, I follow your blog and you have put the number game into words so eloquently. That’s why I don’t always comment although I love reading blogs, I can’t always find the words. I learn so much from blogposts and in so many ways. It’s not always easy to give a meaningful comment and sometimes I can’t come up with anything other than “nice” or “lovely”. But then again I like it when someone comments on my images on flickr even if it is just a short comment. And if I don’t get enough comments I feel as if the image wasn’t all that good. But I did learn in the FYE class that how I feel about it is much more important. So looking forward to your next blogpost…..

    • Monique,
      Oh, I completely understand your feelings on this. I struggle with this all the time – not knowing what to say that can add to the conversation. Especially when I read something that already has a bunch of other comments that seem to be filled with great wisdom and clever, witty sayings. And my mind is a complete blank and I have no words. Even though I really do want to let the author know how much their words or image meant to me.

      Thank you so much for contributing to this conversation and for being part of my community.

  5. I don’t think I get overly involved in the numbers game but I do love to have people comment on what I have written and now on my brand new photoblog something about the pictures I have shared. I have been so inspired and encouraged by people all over the world and that is what I find so much fun about blogging. I have communicated with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet or to learn from. So what is fascinating to me is not how many people visit my blogs but where they are from and what they have to say.

    • Ginny,
      You have such a great outlook on the whole numbers game! I too have been amazed that people from around the world have actually been to my blog, read my words and looked at my photographs. Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a world where technology has given us that opportunity? The capability to share our creative pursuits with other artists? Thank you so much for joining in this conversation,

  6. I, too, have really enjoyed connecting with artists all over the globe. And in our recent FYE class I felt that I made (that we all made) some really good connections with other gals of like interests. I learn so much from those I “follow”, and, no, I don’t always comment, just as those who read my blog don’t always say anything either.

    The numbers game can be a trap. Over the last few months I’ve realized how to enjoy blogging without looking at those numbers like I did at the beginning. Yes, I have obsessed over those numbers, in answer to your question. But now I only check the stats maybe once a week, for a different reason. I just like to see how global the reach is…that is fascinating to me.

    • Deb,
      You are so right – how getting caught up in the numbers can be a trap. Especially when it makes us feel “less” in comparison to someone else.
      Nothing good can come from that.

      One of the best things about the FYE class has been the connections made within the group. That has been a real joy for me and has greatly expanded my artistic community. Thank you for being part of that.

  7. What a great post!! I think this is something we all go through at one time or another. I went through a stage of disappointment, and shall we say loneliness, where I watched the numbers and the comments. I’m not doing that as much anymore, I’ve realized that people do read my blog, but like me, they may not always know what to say. I don’t always leave comments on other’s blogs. I;m afraid my comments are boring or dull. I also realized through FYE class, that what I shared was from my heart and not to impress anyone. Yes, I look at numbers occasionally, but more to see how many people visited and where they’re from, than how many comments were made. It is encouraging to me to know that what I work so hard on creating is being read. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read the comments. They inspire me to keep doing my best.

    • Cathy,
      It would seem that this fear of not knowing what to say or how to say it is a common malady. I struggle with this all the time – even in my responses to comments, like this one.Trying to add something meaningful to the conversation often seems so difficult – I just don’t have the words. But then, as you said, it means so much to us as the author to hear from our readers so I have been trying really hard to make the effort. Thank you for making the effort here and for joining in this discussion.

  8. P.S.
    I forgot to say I love your photo! I love the vintage feel of the rusty numbers and the old wood!! Great textures!

  9. Great post, you could have been describing me too. I’ve been through a phase of being stats obsessed but I have to remind myself that I created my blog for me first and foremost. It is lovely to find and meet like-minded people and I love it when people take the time to comment but I understand the lurkers too – I was one for a long time and a lot of it was lack of confidence in what I had to say. I’m always using this quote ‘comparison is the enemy of creativity’ but it’s so true….I still have to remind myself of it every single day though!
    ps I love your photo, the textures are gorgeous.

    • Becs,
      It seems that we all go through this phase in the numbers game. Counting and comparing until we realize what harm it does. Thanks so much for sharing your quote – it certainly is something that we need to remind ourselves of daily. And I think it also applies to the lack of confidence that we have in our own words and why we hesitate to comment. I will read what others have written and immediately decide that my words can’t compare to theirs. Which keeps me from commenting. Silly really when I know how much I appreciate EVERY comment that I receive.

  10. Thanks for giving me a lot to think about. I love your emphasis on jumping into the conversation, being honest, making connections. I try to remember those aspects of social media and forget the numbers, but it’s tough.

    • Lisa,
      Obviously this topic hit a nerve with many of readers. I think we all struggle with how to best engage in the virtual world. And how to use “our numbers” in a positive fashion instead of letting them crush us with disappointment. I’m still trying to find the best balance. All we can do is keep reaching out, building relationships – numbers be damned!

  11. Brenda – I was drawn to your post by the picture of numbers! actually I didn’t realize these were telephone pole numbers! this would make a great addition to my font library… I admire the way you can put your thoughts in print. While I think like so many of the blogs I follow, my words tend to be so simple? well, in reality I am really a pretty quiet person in a group. Your way with words makes me wonder if you were a technical writer or had to write a lot during your career?

    • Christine,
      Thank you so much for your compliments on my writing. I must tell you that every post is a struggle for me as writing is not something that comes naturally. In my professional career, I was in information systems – creative writing was NOT something called for during those days where logic and problem-solving where the key skills. Today, the delete key and my trusty thesaurus are my constant writing companions.
      And you and I share the same quiet person trait – I am extremely introverted in live social settings. I do much better in the virtual world where I can craft my responses, take time to think through what I want to say.
      And there is nothing wrong with simple writing – if it comes from the heart then it will connect with your readers.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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