The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Jealous Blogger

Blogging about blogging is about as interesting as getting stuck at a bed & breakfast meal table with a couple in matching vacation outfits who have over 300 stories saved up about their poodle back home (complete with blurry pictures captured on their iPhone). But here I am, still discussing why we blog/comment because people keep bringing up great points that scream out for further conversation.


When I asked on Friday whether desiring comments was Wicked, I left it as an open question. With Gentle vs. Wicked blogging, we're looking entirely at the intention behind the act--it's not the act itself (writing or commenting or acknowledging comments or reading) but why you do it. So is desiring that someone leave you comments Wicked?

My feelings is that it's not wrong to desire response, to crave response, to need response--I think it feeds into who we are as human beings. When we write in a journal that we keep in a drawer next to the bed, we don't expect people to give us feedback on our thoughts. When we send them out there into the blogosphere--publicly--knowing full well that they could be read by anyone, we do indirectly state that we are looking for feedback, advice, comfort, accolades. After all, if you didn't want that, you could disable the commenting feature on your blog (and some do). You could make your blog private and give no one access (simply an online version of your private journal). But when you don't, there is a basic understanding in the online world that this person wants thoughtful feedback.

And by thoughtful, I mean that most of us don't leave that comment box open because we're hoping that someone will say something cruel or thoughtless to us. We expect that if we took the time to earnestly state something important to us, that others will treat our words with enough respect to use the comment box thoughtfully.

N from Two Hot Mamas made a fantastic point about craving comments on Friday's post: "I don't think it's wicked to want that, or hope for it. It's when people expect it that you run into trouble - or worse, in a far different way, when people base their own value on it."

You know exactly what she's talking about with that last part, don't you? The comparisons, the jealousy, the frustration. You see two bloggers, both equally gifted with writing, both with a similar situation, and one blogger receives 50 comments and one blogger receives 5. When we see ourselves doing the exact same thing and receiving a very different response, we get jealous. We wonder if our writing isn't good enough, our pain isn't real enough, our celebratory moments aren't exciting enough. And this is what I decided in the car during our eleven-and-a-half hour drive from the Cape to D.C.:

Blogging brings out jealousy because the effects are quantifiable and qualitative.

I had a friend a long time ago that I thought had the friendships I wanted. It appeared that she had a large circle of close friends, the sort who would drop by for an hour before dinner or go on vacation with you. The sort that would be considered fictive kin--chosen family--and they all lived in close distance to one another so there was flow between their houses or apartments. She was in a knitting club that met once a month with these women and the one time I was invited to attend, I went home and cried because I knew that I was on the outside of the group; only invited for this single visit to see how great their lives were in comparison to mine. My understanding was that they had barbecues together, went shopping together, raised their children together.

One day, I bumped into a woman from the knitting club at the library. I asked about our mutual friend and she sort of shrugged and said that she hadn't seen her in months. What about the barbecues? She didn't know what I was talking about it and mentioned that a few of them had done that once years earlier. What about the dropping by each other's houses and hanging out? Not really--everyone was too busy. Even knitting club was sort of a tenuous thing, happening some months and not others and our mutual friend hadn't attended since the one time she brought me.

Her friendships were quantifiable--I could count how many people she seemed to be socializing with. But the quality or nature of those friendships weren't accessible on the surface. I was jealous of something that didn't even exist and after going through enough friend's divorces, enough playdates, reading enough blogs, you could to realize that in most things in life, you can keep your jealousy in check by reminding yourself that you don't know what goes on behind closed doors. The person may appear happily married, but all of the divorces I've witnessed have taken me by surprise. The person may seem to have children with perfect behaviour, but spend the day at the mall with them and you'll see that no one's life is as rosy as you assume it to be.

But the elements of blogging that bring out jealousy are all quantifiable and qualitative. We can see the numbers--count page views, comments, readers--but we can also see the quality of that support; the retweets and the lengthy comments and the blog posts written asking people to give good thoughts to the person. There is almost nothing that is hidden; nothing that can appear one way on the surface and with some deeper digging reveal and entirely different reality. 50 comments are 50 comments. 50 long, heartfelt comments are 50 long, heartfelt comments. A retweet is a retweet. And it's daily--it's not spread out over a long period of time where you can see that everyone has an ebb and flow of celebratory moments. You can literally measure the response to your words on a daily basis.

Unless we are speaking about a strange, deep-seated deception (a person making 50 blogs in order to seemingly leave 50 comments as 50 separate people on one of their blogs...well...that is a level of deception that I would have to stand in awe of and give them props just for creating that much work for themselves).

But in the end, all information (number and quality) is gather-able, removing the rationality the mind provides in other forms of jealousy.

So, back to N's comment, I think we've all done this at one point or another--and if it's not with blogging, it's with something else. It's taking your self-worth from something entirely out of your control (hmmm...sounding familiar? Infertility anyone?). It may sound silly to get jealous within blogging, but what are comments other than a currency that values your words and thoughts? Comments are literally support, care, and attention in word-form.

Have you ever been to the Middle East? Perhaps this isn't true in all areas of the Middle East, but in Israel, we have open-air markets called shuks. Vendors bring what they want to sell and set a loose price and then buyers come and can either pay the set price or they can engage in the art of haggling.

Readership and commenting is almost like haggling. Proper haggling isn't just about getting a good deal--it's about setting worth. It would be rude to approach a vendor and offer them a penny if you know full well that what they're selling is worth over ten dollars. Haggling is about setting the worth--the customer states that it means X to them and the seller states that it means Y to them and they need Y to part with said object.

Well, what are we saying when we read something and don't comment? Or when someone writes something and no one comes to read it even though they have reached out to other bloggers by leaving comments and forging friendships (by which I mean leaving a real comment meant to engage and not a "hey, this was a good post. Come check out my new blog" type comment).

It's like two sellers, standing in a shuk with their wares and they can see that you offered a reasonable price to the first seller and offered nothing to the second one, but took objects from both tables. The first seller got respect and the second one didn't, and they are doing nothing different from one another--they are both simply selling objects. The first seller probably would tell you that haggling is a great hobby--they get a lot of self-esteem from the fact that people value what they bring to sell. And the second seller would probably tell you that working in the shuk is frustrating and they're considering packing up their table and doing something else with their time.

Reality is that all these thoughts are also negated by time constraints. People simply cannot comment on everything they read, cannot respond to every comment, and cannot read every blog post. We have lives. I went away to BlogHer and then away on holiday and I'm behind. I am very very behind and I feel terrible that people are waiting for a response from me and people gave me these great thoughts but I haven't told them yet and my Google Reader is groaning under the weight of unread posts. But what can I do? Blogging is a place where I derive a lot of support and happiness and ideas and energy (my G-d, I used to spend all my time with one book, getting one or two ideas. Now my brain is constantly working and challenged, reading such a diverse set of view points--sometimes on the same topic, sometimes on different ones). But it is still a small element of a very large life. It cannot be the sole thing I do and certainly, if we let it, blogging could become the sole thing we do timewise.

An interesting idea that came up in a panel at BlogHer (and now I can't remember if it was said or if I simply thought this and wrote it down, not speaking it aloud--so you're not crazy if you were at panels with me and don't remember this): at a dinner party, you would not eat a meal silently, wipe your mouth and walk away from the table. You would tell the person what you liked or didn't like. How you experienced their meal. If it was a birthday party, you'd sing happy birthday to them. If it were a wake, you would give them a shoulder to cry on. But regardless, we all know that we comment on the food because without those comments, the cook would probably stop inviting us; stop cooking.

In fact, blog posts are a lot like a dinner party. Everyone is invited in, and how you behave dictates whether you (1) still have a relationship with the person or (2) whether the host wants to throw more parties in the future. There is etiquette involved--giving feedback and also not shitting on the carpet.

Commenting is feedback; it gives the writer both confirmation of their point-of-view (you're not alone in noticing that or I've felt that too), challenge them (that is a good point but have you considered...), or general support (that's great news or I am so sorry).

But next time you read a blog post (hey, like this one?), pretend the person is sitting across from you, reading it aloud to you. And then gauge what your reaction would be if you were given these thoughts. Would you walk away without confirming that you heard the words and processed them? Would you give them a nod that says, "I heard you and I'm thinking about these ideas." Would you engage them in deeper discussion?

Again, I am all too aware of life's time constraints, this is a discussion, not a finger pointing session of good blogger vs. bad blogger. Because honestly, I am so freakin' behind on things and read so much without commenting, that I would fall firmly in the bad blogging camp. Good intentions are the only thing keeping me on the Gentle side. All behaviour points towards some definite short-comings.

But I do like to keep these thoughts in mind; the image of the two shuk vendors, the two bloggers, and make sure that I spread love and attention. That the Roundup features different writers each week, the Kirtsy'd posts feature a different blog. Keeping the image in mind helps keep my failings in check--that I do my best, even if my best doesn't look very good when you write out the details on a page ( 200 posts, left 8 comments... Fail). But still, my best is better than my worst?

A while back, I wrote about jealousy, admitting that I am a jealous person by nature. It's interesting to read the post now, because it is about publishing and obviously, the book has been sold and is now out. I was responding to something I read in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and I still think it's a must-read for every writer (and I know Battynurse is going to kick my ass for calling her a writer again--I tease--but if you put words together into coherent thoughts, you are a writer. Greeting card makers are writers and bloggers are writers and authors are writers--it's all just different forms of the same act. Just as a home cook may not fancy themselves a chef, but they're doing the exact same thing just on a different scale and place).

I was responding specifically to her musings on jealousy and the excellent advice her friend gave her about embracing her jealousy rather than sweeping it under the rug. I wrote then: "It feels like something constructive should come out of jealousy--that there should be a greater purpose."

And perhaps that constructive thing should be how we treat another person by helping them through their jealousy.

Since it is--for better or worse--a fact of life that most of us (though not all as the comments on that post state) feel jealous from time to time. And why not feel jealous with blogging too? If it's important to you, it is understandable that you'll feel something akin to jealousy sometimes. What is that saying? The opposite of love isn't hate--it's indifference. I think when you care about something deeply (and how can you not care about your thoughts, point-of-view and emotions?), you will experience the full range of expression tied to passion--happiness, excitement, contentment, but also the darker side, jealousy, anger, rage.

A blog is simply a receptacle for those elements of your life that you feel deeply about (thoughts, p.o.v., emotions). It is an empty screen and you fill it with your self. Hence why each blog is so important, why no two are alike unless we're talking about content theft. Why it actually does make a difference when someone starts a blog and why it actually does make a difference when someone stops writing their blog.

Chickenpig, I'm talking to you. Start writing again.

I'm not going to bother saying these are my last thoughts that came out of BlogHer '09 since I'm sure there is another post or two up my sleeve based on the additional thoughts that come from you. It's like a word crochet with each idea linking to the next one--thank you for adding the additional stitches.


Anita said...

"It's like a word crochet with each idea linking to the next one" I love this phrase. You always find the right words Mel.

I find myself being a bit jealous at times too but check myself quickly when I realize I haven't posted in a week (or two). That is something I am working on, committing to a certain number of posts a week. Like you I was on holidays and came home to a number of posts in my Reader. I found it overwhelming and came to realize that I just couldn't comment on everything so I chose to comment on the posts that really said something to me.

VintageMommy said...

Two thoughts: when I started my first blog about getting organized, being more productive and seeking peace of mind, I ended up reading blogs that were all about "5 Ways to blah, blah, blah" and being part of that community - even though I didn't really want to be that kind of blogger. Some of them were successful quickly, and I admit I was envious at first. But then I got so tired of the whole scene and I'm much happier now, blogging occasionally and working on other creative endeavors.

Second: your post about the bloggers who ignored you in the past and now want to kiss your ring reminded me of several people I've known over the years who meet me time after time and never remember me. There's nothing that makes me feel less significant. A week or so ago I expected to interact w/one of these people and was hoping to have the courage to say (when once again he didn't remember me): "You've met me several times but you never remember". Darn, his wife showed up instead and she was warm and friendly!

I'm afraid it's the Scorpio in me that seeks revenge - at least in my fantasies!

Tash said...

When I don't have time, I find I don't read because I know I won't have time to focus and leave a comment. So when I have a few moments, I skim my reader for "Oh Fuck This Sucks," and if that doesn't appear as a title, I wait until I have time to go through it. I've been a bad commenter this summer.

Now I feel guilty. Thanks Mel.

I never got the whole "I'm not commenting on yours, cuz you don't comment on mine" thing. I mean, I understand it's kinda reciprocal, but are you then obligated to comment on every post? With a certain number of words? How many times? There comes a point where this quantifying gets a little crazy. And then I start to wonder if we all aren't missing the point of the actual blog/blogpost in the first place.

Lotsa food for thought here, lately. Thank you for that.

Lavender Luz said...

I'm here. I'm reading. I'm in Wicked mode, too, reading but not commenting as much because of my current caretaking duties.

I think that not only is blogging openly quantifiable and qualifiable, but also it can be deceptive.

I mean that you can build a story around someone's numbers, the way you built a story around the knitter.

If someone were to judge my "success" based on my stats during my husband's Ordeal, they might think I'm a much bigger deal than I actually am.

And if they were to judge me based on my sunken stats during this period of caretaking, they might too easily dismiss me as a bloggy nobody.

Yes, I get jealous when I see people with tons more followers than I have. But I also would not trade the depth of my bloggy friendships for quantity of comments.

Not that you can't have both, of course...

Jamers said...

So many good points! I used to think the blogging world was like a popularity contest that I didn't want to be a part of, but now I just look for things that really speak to me and my situation or things that provoke some sort of thought. I don't need to only seek out the "popular ones" or hope to ever be one of them.

I always make efforts to comment on things that I've read. After all, they've spent the time to put their thoughts and feelings out in the world, we've taken the time to read... can't we take that extra step to let the person KNOW that we've read it and understand/respectfully disagree/think that's great/send thoughts, prayers, whatever?

On the other hand, sometimes life gets too busy and you can't fit in all the reading and commenting. I just hope that people realize that and don't take things so personally when readership or commenting drops.

Meghan said...

I've been viewing everything in my reader as a guilty pleasure lately, something I enjoy doing but should really be doing something else, but your posts help to make me think and redeem me a little bit.

I'll be the first to admit that I've got jealous or hurt. It's similar to facebook, as that definitely quanitifies things for you, down to # of friends, # of comments, etc but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Aurelia said...

That's the difficult part about blogging, that yes even though I do read lots of blogs, I can't comment on them all.

I read close to 400 of them for pete's sake, and most of them were acquired but reading people who had linked to me or commented on me. And so i try ot reciprocate, but in the end, even if spent all day every day, round the clock reading and commenting, it wouldn't be possible.

And I can't do that because I have kids now after all this trying!

And some of them don't read me back anymore, but they still end up on my blogroll and I'd feel like a jerk dumping them even though a couple of them obviously dumped me a long time ago. (Based on the blank looks on their faces at BlogHer.) (No, I'm not pissed about that, it happens. No one can remember everyone!)

Plus the people who switch blogging platforms and their feed disappears or their address, all techie issues which drive me insane. If people switch blog addresses or go password, then they will lose readers, and that's the way it goes, not because we don't care, but because we can't find them anymore! (Send email notifications when you have a new post, thanks!)

Anyway, I'm kind of rambling now, but really, since I got back i am so completely overwhelmed.

The baby has been up sick and screaming every night, and I have been sick and there is so much going on, that frankly, it's just too much. We need to cut people some slack. Everyone.

Calliope said...

This was an amazing meal, Mel. And it is making me think.

I've recently read a couple, "why do you blog" type posts and I love that people are musing on this. It's like waving to a neighbor and either they wave back or they don't. When I wave I don't expect someone to wave back but it is lovely when they do.

I had to be clear on my comment intentions a while ago because I am the type that tries to comment often so that the writer knows that someone is reading. And I had to grapple with 8th grade feelings of lameness when the 50+ blogs I had read that day, and commented on, did not yield 50+ comments on the post I had put out into the universe. So I just try to remind myself that it is like waving- you do it because you want to, not because you have to and not because you expect someone (or need someone) to wave back.

VA Blondie said...

I am not the best blogger, and I am not the best commenter. I try, but I am not always successful.

I think my point of view is a little different. I think I am a bit of a selfish blogger. I started my blog as an open journal, and that is how I continue to see it. I think it is wonderful that other bloggers have such a large following. I could not be happier for them. Personally, I could not care if I have 3 or 300 followers. My blog is first and foremost for me. I feel like the few people who follow me truly care about my story, and support me in my journey. If my story can help others, I think that is great. I know I get a lot out of reading other's blogs and I will comment if I am so moved.

I do find myself more likely to leave comments on blogs which have fewer commenters. Not sure why.

Hillary said...

This is such an interesting topic. It feels very much like friendships and acquaintances in my "regular" life, but in an intensified way because blooging happens daily.

There are people who invite us over for dinner, and DH & I make a mental note to reciprocate and show we value their friendship. Many times this works out nicely and a friendship grows. But then there are the times we're really busy and time passes. They invite us over again and we feel a little guilty that we haven't initiated at all in the friendship. Or the times there is a couple that we just don't "click" with. Or we invite somebody over and they never seem to want to hang out with us again and it's a little awkward.

Perhaps there will always be those sticky situations that you have to muddle through with grace and kindness in blogging, too. But most of the time it seems the reciprocity will work out easily.

kate said...

Hmm. Thinking a lot about the analogy of the shuks...

In my opinion, it tends to play out thusly:
You walk past two booths. At one of them, the sales person smiles, welcomes you toward their booth, offers you delicious cake to buy, throws in a cookie (just because), and promises later to stop by your booth and buy something from there. At the second booth, you stop by, are virtually ignored, and initially, you maybe buy a little something because it looks interesting, but eventually, you determine that even if the cake looks great it doesn't taste all that good to you. Maybe other people like it, but it just doesn't hit the spot. So you keep stopping by to nibble on the samples, but you rarely buy anything, because the seller doesn't seem to care whether you do, or because no matter how often you try it, your tastes never suit the kind of cakes this person sells.

At this point, I really want a slice of cake.

But anyhow, eventually, you begin to favor one vendor over the other. And while you may never fully abandon the second vendor (you are really hoping that eventually this vendor may start offering something you like, or at least start acting like they care whether you show up or not), you decidedly offer more loyalty, a higher price, more regular purchases from the first vendor who offers you what you are looking for.

And when you think about comments as a commodity (albeit an emotionally tinged commodity), it makes it feel far less wicked to consume from the places where you get the best customer service. But yet, it's kind of the same thing as selling with the expectation of people buying (aka commenting)-- how are you treating your customers? Do you ever go to their booths? Do you ever throw in the extra cookie, just because? Occasionally, you have to recognize that there is an exchange happening, and that if you aren't offering the kinds of food people want, and you aren't supporting your other local businesses in return, your shop won't last very long.

I admit to some serious jealousy at times. I write (and write and write) lengthy and well-thought out responses to people's posts, and while I have some awesome commenters, it's unreasonable for me to expect anyone to be as long-winded as I am. I definitely feel like I give far more than I get most times, but at the same time, I give too much, far more than is asked for. I don't hope for three page long comments, but I do hope that if my story moves someone that they will say so, in whatever way suits them.

So, I guess with all of this I mean: 1) good analogy - makes the wheels spin in a new direction. 2) I feel jealousy, too, and sometimes I wish I could be all cool and not care, but I am not at that place yet in my self-actualization process.

Lastly, I read the sentence "the book has been sold and is now out" as "the book is sold out" and I freaked a little because just last night, I finally convinced the arrogant twit who works the information desk at my local B&N to order your book for me (the moron actually said "wow, you're the second person this month to ask for that book"- I almost corrected him to tell him that *I* asked for that book previously this month and he told me they didn't carry it, point blank and turned his back on me, but I was just happy that I could finally find someplace locally that would be willing to get it for me!). I have really wanted to find your book on a shelf and shoot a great shot of it to send to you, but apparently, Winston-Salem doesn't believe in infertility books. I've been stopping by local bookstores, asking for it, and last night was the first time that someone actually said that they could order it for me. Sigh. Anyway, I'm just excited that I read that sentence wrong, because I would be really pissed that I had finally gotten the book ordered for it to have now been sold out. Whew!

becoming whole said...

As always, lots of good food, I go away pleasantly full, with plenty to think about. :)

I am like VA Blondie in that I am more likely to comment if people have fewer commenters. I am actually working on this, as some of my favorite bloggers have a lot of devotees (guess I'm not the only one who likes them), and I'm trying not to be such a lurker. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm the first to admit that I fit into the "bad" category. I read a lot of blogs, but I don't write on mine like I should, and I definitely don't comment on blogs like I should.

My problem is that I figure I don't have anything to offer them that someone else hasn't already said in some form or another. And, much like everyone else said, I find myself commenting more on blogs with fewer comments. I'm not sure why.

Anyway, thanks for this awesome discussion of this! You brought up a lot of points that I had never considered!

Kristin said...

"It's like a word crochet with each idea linking to the next one." What a brilliant, evocative phrase. That clearly shows how all our blogs are intertwined.

I only have one complaint. There were too many good points. I'd hit one and say "Ooooh, I need to mention that" and then I'd hit another and another and then I'd forget the first. So, rather than try and make my poor beleaguered brain work, I'm simply going to say, "Brilliant."

Lani said...

this was such an interesting read b/c chris and i just had this discussion.

i went off and started my own blog the other day b/c the subject matter i wanted to write about, chris didn't want on his blog. so i'm now elmcitymom! (i'll email you about it to add to the blogroll).

chris just doesn't get as many comments as i do really ever. and we realized its probably b/c he doesn't reciprocate. he doesn't read other blogs, or comment at all. he just doesn't want to read about others struggles like ours, it doesn't help him.

but when i write something on the blog, i always get a lot of comments. i try hard to read other blogs and comment but like you said, its sooo hard to keep up with. and sometimes makes me sadder. and i'm super busy! i always feel like a bad blogger and commenter b/c of it.

but anyway, thanks for the post about it, i find it all very fascinating now that i'm in the blog world (which i never intended to be).


Carrie27 said...

Totally started out blogging and commenting with jealousy. I stopped reading the blogs that everyone reads and comments on, because are they really going to notice my comment when they already have 20+ comments? What more could I possibly say that someone else hasn't said? I just didn't feel worthy of "these" bloggers. I walked away, stopped commenting, and instead just started reading and lurking.

With some time I have some regular commenters/readers and those friendships mean more to me than having 20+ comments. I feel the same with IRL friendships. Quality over quantity always wins over.

Magpie said...

Fascinating and provocative (in a good way!) post - I think I've gone through some stages - first just lurking, then commenting, then starting a blog, then wanting comments and adulation, and then settling into where I am now. I like the comments dialogue - but I'm not writing for anyone but me at the end of the day.

jill said...

When I read posts, often I am at a loss for what to say in a comment. I think this is because I usually over think things. I think "what if this sounds silly?", "what if my comment is too similar to someone else's?" "what if I don't say the right thing?" - it just goes on and on. I think I need to loosen up! :)

I really loved your post - it's all so true. To help me loosen up in my commenting, I'm going to try to imagine the post writer reading the post to me in person and the resulting conversation.

Clio said...

It's a relief to know that feeling a little jealous is a normal thing. LOL! I have felt that occasionally, and felt guilty about it. I try to remind myself of the reason I started blogging in the first place and of the great friendships that happened in the process. I do care about the people I read. They are in my thoughts constantly, and this is one reason I don't have a huge blogroll. I have one that I can manage. I also don't like to add random people as friends on Facebook either, for the same reason. I guess I am at a point in my life that quality and connection mean much more to me.
Another interesting thing I notice is that because I don't use my real name on my blog (although I use all my real feelings and facts of my life), it's not as bad if I only get 2 comments for a post. Normally, IRL, I'd take that as rejection, but by not using my name, my reaction becomes less subjective. I understand that it was my writing or my subject theme that did not touch many people, and then I feel cool about it.

Deathstar said...

"It is an empty screen and you fill it with your self." - I love this sentence. I remember a couple years ago, I asked my husband why he didn't read my blog and I was really hurt because I felt if he didn't want to read it, it meant that he didn't really want to know me. What commenting did for me was to affirm that the real me was good enough, that I was understood. That lead to healing.

Jen said...

Are you getting more comments than usual on the posts about comments? ;)

It's a time issue for me now. I feel guilty sometimes that I don't have the time I used to have to comment. I used to be able to comment on every post on Lost and Found every day. L&F was smaller then too. I still comment a reasonable amount, but not like I used to be able to. I'm meaning to get back.

tbonegrl said...

I struggle because readership of my blog is up, a LOT, but I don't get a ton of comments. I have to admit that like you, I am not the best at always commenting. Sometimes on reading, even. You do wonder what people are reading when they look at your blog and read the latest post.

However, I haven't gotten to the point yet where I feel hurt/competitive/sad about my lack of comments. Sometimes I'll post something and get a lot of comments (for me) sometimes something I think will strike a nerve, and it falls flat.

Man, the last week has been thought provoking for me! You should go to Blogher more often...err...maybe not!


Kate said...

I try as a rule to leave a comment if I visit a site even if its a short comment due to time constraints because I know that people like to have their voices heard. We're people, we want acknowledgment.

Sometimes when I get a lot of comments on a post or a huge amount of hits I get nervous becasue I'm thinking "OH man, they like this post but I can't possibly write another interesting post again can I?" I get performance anxiety.

This wasn't the point of your post, but your point about jealousy of close friendships of others is one I can relate to and I too had a similar realization once. It helped me let go of jealousy in that area and many others.

Sunny said...

Well said, Mel.

I do my best not to feel jealousy when blogging... I do leave comments as much as possible (always when someone comments on my blog, which is possible because I'm so small), and I am truly, truly grateful for every comment that I get. Those people aren't forced to click over to my blog and read... but they do, and they care enough to let me know. I love that.

But sometimes I do feel jealousy, at the number/depth of comments I see on other blogs. And most recently? When I see a blogger who I love and comment on regularly... but who does NOT comment back on mine... leaving comments on other blogs that I read. It makes me feel uninteresting, that my writing must be bland and my story common.

It passes pretty quickly, though. I have bigger things to worry about in my life. :)

Melissa G said...

Fantastically thought provoking post. I can definitely relate to a lot of it.

The first month I participated in ICLW, I was astonished at the amount of comments I got. It gave me a high that I hadn't felt since probably high school. "They like ME, they REALLY like me..." But when I noticed other bloggers were getting the same amount of attention on a regular basis, I started to kind of question my own self worth... I know I'm not a terrific writer, but I can't be that bad. Maybe my situation isn't as relatable as the folks doing IVF???

When I stepped back from it all. I thought about how and why I started a blog. I started it just for me, as an outlet. And the first 8 months that I had it, I kept the privacy settings on. So that my husband was the only one who could read it. I didn't need feedback, I needed to blow off a little steam. Each post is for me, and the comments are a bonus. Whether it be 3 or 13.

On the other hand, I still sort of crave some sort of feedback. (human nature,right?) But I will take quality over quantity ANY day. So when I'm reading other blogs, if I don't leave a comment its because I don't have it in me to offer something substantial and genuine. Do I feel guilty about reading and not commenting? You betcha. Especially when that person has been great about commenting to me. But I justify it to myself by knowing that I can offer more later.

Another reason is sometimes I feel intimidated. There are many of your posts that I am in awe of. But they leave me feeling like there is nothing I could possibly add to such a magnificent piece. Other than: "well said!" or "great post". It's not that (you) or the writers have made an environment inhospitable, its just my own baggage holding me back. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, great post!=)

battynurse said...

Nah, I'm not going to kick your ass. I still say though that my blog feels more about me emptying my brain out so I have a half decent chance at getting some sleep and less like I'm a writer. I'm still amazed sometimes that people bother reading what I ramble about.
I think that jealousy is sort of a normal although not so pretty reaction that everyone has. However I think it's what we do with it. Do we let it drive us and what we do and how we live or do we acknowledge it and move on.
I have to admit that I comment a lot. It's hard for me to not comment. I want to let someone know I'm listening or that I've felt that too or something. There are a few blogs I don't comment on often although I still read but those are ones that either don't have much connection to the ALI world or that for some reason I feel like I'm not wanted there (long story to that one). I don't know if I've ever commented just because I wanted someone to read my blog although I know I've felt extremely honored when someone with a fairly large following comments on mine.
I don't know if any of this has made sense. Maybe I should go to bed now.

Cassandra said...

At a dinner party, unless it was someone very close I would never tell the host what I didn't like. I instead selectively say what I like, or if it's all awful, thank them for the effort. And if it's that awful, next time I may not attend, or maybe I'll eat half a meal beforehand.

But to me, blogs are more like cocktail parties (or weddings, or other huge events) than dinner parties. You're not hosting 8 people, hand-picked; you're hosting 50 or 100 or 200. I will try to thank the host at the end of the night, but beyond that, at some parties I may be able to (and want to) engage the host at length and at other parties I'll just enjoy it on my own.

Most of the non-ALI blogosphere sees a miniscule percent of readers comment. Largely thanks to your efforts, we have very different expectations and practices. Unless you can spy on others' stats and I just don't know it, we don't actually know what other people's numbers are really like, the reader to commenter ratio. I suspect there are blogs that have an almost 1:1 ratio but have a small number of readers/commenters, and that many of those that appear to have lots of comments actually are seeing only a tiny percent of readers leave comments.

Just like you don't know what happens behind closed doors in other senses, we may not really know what happens behind the stats.

Brenna said...

This is the main reason I try to keep my blog-reading list to about 30 blogs. Any more, and I can't keep up. I like to comment on each post, so if I keep my blog world smaller and more intimate, I can maintain the kind of relationship with the blogs I read that I'd like people to have with me through my blog. I don't mind that my readership isn't huge because I count some real, true friends among my readers--people whose blogs (and families) I've come to love, who in turn share some love with me. That kind of relationship is such a special thing, I find that I don't feel particularly jealous about reader or comment numbers. (Now writing is another thing entirely--I'm frequently jealous of the quality of writing I find out there!)

Chickenpig said...

Ok, woman, it's coming in the mail. My laptop, that is, which will allow me to go to a child-free area of my home and think and write. Right now my computer is in the corner of my playroom and I have to wrestle two three year olds off of me to right now.
AAAArg I just had to stop this comment for 10 minutes while I tried to fix a broken toy truck. How on Earth do you manage to do it, Mel? Seriously. Fingerboard!

Chickenpig said...

PS I read tons of blogs and all of the ALI blogs touch me deeply. But some of them I just can' comment on. How, in good conscious, if you're not wicked, can you post on someone's blog who has lost a child after years of infertility when you have 3 healthy ones at home? How do you give support to a person who has lost her twins at 22 weeks when yours were born full term at 38? Or speak to a couple with a 1 lb baby struggling for breath in the NICU when your baby girl was just born at a whopping 9 lbs? A lot of times it would just be cruel and nasty. I want to give support, I don't want those bloggers to feel they should come to my blog and feel the need to comment when they are in pain. There are SO many of people in this community who have way too much suffering on their plate. I think blogging is about sharing that plate...if we all just take a nibble that blogger won't have so much pain to eat. Those who are not too full of suffering can come nibble on mine, or share in my bounty of happiness. It's all good.

~Ifer said...

Excellent post.

It is a tough place to be in sometimes, honestly. I write my blog for myself, to help clear out the thoughts that run rampant inside my head sometimes. I write my blog with the hopes that people who DO come across it will understand and relate to the posts.

But yes, I love the comments, because then I feel that I am reaching someone. It isn't about having more readers than the next blogger, it is about knowing that someone relates to my thoughts and understands where I am coming from. And maybe, just maybe, that they are in the same place, or have been in that place before.

I don't think it is necessarily wrong to want comments and to crave a large readership, as long as your reasons behind it are not a competition to be the most popular girl in high school.

FET Accompli said...

A tasty, filling blog meal (isn't blunch the best meal of the day?) I think that the number of comments we receive relates, in some part at least, to how we choose to "market" ourselves. For example, if we sign up for ICLW every month, the comments are more likely to flow. Those who have never signed up for ICLW probably have less exposure, and less of a chance for people to discover their blog, to acquire followers and to be added to peoples' bloglists.

Jendeis said...

Hmm. (Good word "hmm" it covers lots of thoughts). I think there are three reasons why I might hit & run (that is, read without leaving a comment).

1) The post already has a lot of comments (I feel like the blogger doesn't need to hear what I may have to say on the subject since it's undoubtedly going to be the same thing that everyone else wrote).

2) Jealousy (I've been struggling a lot lately with jealousy for those bloggers that have 1, 2 or 3 kids whereas I have none (especially where the blogger has "lapped" me). Sometimes I skip the post to come back later; sometimes I read then and don't comment).

3) Nothing significant to add (sometimes, but not always connected to #1) (there are some posts where I feel moved to just write a line letting the blogger know that I'm here, that I read, and others where I just don't have anything to comment on).

Anonymous said...

As a new blogger, I wondered if I may be a "wicked blogger" b/c I do have an intent (not expectation but rather a hope) for people to stop by and get something from my blog when I comment on theirs. I understand that I have been following them, getting to know them and getting fun, perspective or info from their blogs. I hope they can ultimately find some of that on miy blog sometimes.

As for the jealousy, you are totally right...we never really know what goes on in someone's life based on what they are comfortable sharing. Just know what you have and appreciate it!!

Thanks for your thoughts on this stuff...I have found it helpful to read as a newbie!

Chelle said...

I don't think it is possible to blog without feeling that kind of jealousy at some point. I find when I feel jealous, I realize that with the good comes the bad. One of my fellow bloggers who had lots of comments on her blog not only got thoughtful comments, she also got hateful comments. I also think that the number of comments you get correlates to the amount of effort you put into commenting on other people's blogs. For example, I can't expect comments from 50 people if I don't comment on 50 people's blogs. Friendship goes both ways, always. Now that isn't to say that I expect people to comment on every single post I put out there because I too get too busy to comment on all of their's, but a comment every now and then lets me know that they are still there.

I really like this post. It is very thoughtful and very well written. It says things that I have said to myself so many times. It is a great reminder that while blogging can be qualititave and quantitative, we might not always want what comes with having 50 comments on a post.

Lut C. said...

Your dinner party analogy is a good one, but as any analogy you can only take it so far.
The host of a dinner party has chosen you to attend, as a guest, so yes, it would be rude to eat and run.

A blogger has not specifically chosen you to read (of course there are exceptions).
Maybe it's more like offering tastes of food at a market stall. Does the person providing the food glare at customers who taste and leave without comment?

Anyway, I feel more compelled to comment when there are less than 10 commenters before me.
It was adopt that rule of thumb or cut half of my blogs from my reading list.

JamieD said...

Wonderful post, Mel - and wonderful comments following!

Like Kristin, there are so many great points, I don't even know where to start.

Though my blog is for me, I think jealousy is a factor no matter how hard you try to side-step it. The affirmation and support you feel from a comment is ~addicting.~ I feel I eventually got to a point where, the more I bared of myself, the more I needed the comments and validation.

I haven't been the best blogger lately. I finally relented and read all my blogs and didn't comment on one. Like declaring reader bankruptcy. But I am trying to make up for it as we speak!

Jen said...

Hmmm. Great food for thought. While I am (mostly) writing for myself and have not been writing that long (3 mon), I recently remember being saddened by the realization that only one person was commenting on my blog. Made me start wondering if I should just make the blog private and relieve myself of the hope for comments/validation. Or maybe I just needed to be reminded that my feelings were normal...and that I get a lot out of the process of writing even if others aren't reading/commenting.

Thanks for the food for thought.

Anonymous said...

comments mean a lot to me, especially when things are not going so well. i really do appreciate them. yes, i want them.

i don't think its wicked.

but my jealousy or "virtual hurt" when i saw that over a hundred people had stopped by my blog after it was posted on lost and found...and only a handful commented...mostly people that are "regular commenters," too.

maybe that was wicked.

i don't know. i just didn't understand it. on lost and found - it says - "go offer this person support/congratulations/whatever." so people came to my blog...and then said nothing.

in the dinner/guest analogy - readers were invited to my blog by lost and found.

i had just had my second failed IVF cycle - i decided that what i was writing about was too painful for some. the way that reading about a pregnancy can hurt, only this time you CAN see yourself in my position. in other words, at least a few readers were probably about to do IVF or in the midst of IVF and were worried that they would be me - with bfn's. who wants to read about THAT when you are trying to keep the hope meter on high?

i don't know. i felt wicked for being hurt - afterall, no one "owes" me anything. i know that. and then i posted about it, which i felt just sounded whiney, but i was really wondering about it and it had affected me.

and its hard to admit that i was bummed out by it, of course.

maybe i'm a wicked whiner.

Beautiful Mess said...

I am guilty of being jealous of certain bloggers at first. Then, I realized it isn't about that. To me, it isn't about how many comments or readers a writer has, it's about how I can leave a comment and make the write feel what I wrote. If the write is celebrating, then I am celebrating too! If the writer is grieving, I'm grieving right along with him/her. I put myself in the writer's shoes and I try to feel what has been written. Sometimes it works out for me, sometimes not. But always, do I leave a comment that is from my heart.

Yeah So said...

I am the worst commenter, and I always feel bad about that - I expect everyone to read and comment for me, but I don't do it myself. And you know what's funny - everytime I comment here, you always write me back, and it always amazes me that you would take the time to do that - I mean you barely know me and you have zillions of readers...but now because of this post and your dedication, I am going to be better at it. I just went through my bloglines and commented on every one of my friends blogs! Thanks!

heathernkids said...

This was a great read. Thank You! I find that only my close friends and family comment, and thats a-okay with me. :)

KuKd Chick said...

Great post. Come check out my blog.

Just kidding. :-)

Actually, this is an interesting one. When I first began my blog, it was because - I felt - (and maybe this is why we all start blogs) that I had something to say that was different from everybody else was saying. I felt I had a different take on the topic of stillbirth, and could fill a gap in the blogosphere that others might appreciate too. It's true that when you put your writing out there publicly, you're making a statement: this is good, dammit, and worth reading. So everybody read it! Getting comments is a way to prove to yourself: yup, this IS good. And people are reading. If you don't get comments, it's like: must not be good.

That's how I felt for a while anyway.

Then, I started realizing that I really have a love-hate relationship with my blog. What all blogs do - and my blog is no exception - is add additional chatter to an already chatter-filled, blog-filled, sensory-overloaded world. I'm not saying that some of it isn't beneficial and helpful and interesting for others. There are certain blogs which really help out - like this one, Stirrup Queens.

Whether or not people commment on my blog, honestly doesn't bother me anymore. It used to, but I made a concsious choice to let go of that concern. I think it's because my blog, for me, it isn't and will never be - my life, or a measurement of anything. It's a very small side-pocket on my real life, which is where I have real friends, real experiences, visceral joy and sadness.

I realized a long time ago that in order to generate readers for blog, I'd have to do certain time-consuming and creative things that carved away time from my other loved life. Things that model, in fact, Stirrup Queen and other large blog-o-empresses. I'd have to go around and post, post, post on others' blogs. I'd have to generate buttons and awards and other participatory blog-o-events involving little icons that link back to my blog, and get other bloggers to do those, so that there were links to my blog scattered all over the word. I'd have to seek out "best blog" contests to nominate myself for, or get nominated for, ask everyone to vote for me. I'd have to do awesome things like Stirrup's Lost and Found and Creme list, all of which - ding - would bring readers over. That's how a blog-o-empire is created, and precisely what Stirrup Queen has done with great genius. And I - and many others - are lucky for it, because this is - as we know, one of the more useful and informative blogs out there.

But I don't have that in me. I'm too lazy, too into happy hour with friends, too into reading and travelling, too into sex, too into my dog, too into long conversations with friends over coffee, too into playing spades over shots of tequilla. I have a job that I love, which also takes up gobs of time. I haven't the ambition and drive to generate more comments - which, as I've said, doesn't just happen at the flick of a switch. In this information-overloaded world, it takes time, energy, ingenuity - and people like Stirrup Queen have at least the second two of those thins. FOr me, the more I focus on my blog, worry about comments, fratically dig around to get more readership, the less I feel like I'm living my real life. Which means I feel like I'm cheating myself.

Which is also why I know my blog has a shelf-life, even as readership slowly grows organically. One day, I'll run out of things to say, and it'll be done, and I'll say, "well that was fun." Bye, commenters and non-commenters! I'm moving to a bungalow in Thailand for a couple of years. :-)

Piccinigirl said...

Blogging was always for me a way to connect and let people into my life. In real life, I let lots of people in, normally on sight or I think that I wanted more people to come in, to stay and yet I didn't want to have to be anything too silly, too serious, I didn't want to be anything more than Kir, to be able to do it and have people come in.

When I started reading blogs, I never thought "I could do that"..I just liked reading and still do. I liked being the cheerleader, the friend invited in, the shoulder. I wrote and made Kir's Corner because I just wanted to write and see where it went. I have TONS of thoughts, I think about blogging all the time, but then the exhaustion kicks in and I just can't. Plus I am very very sensitive about what I say, how I complain, it's my OCD and I'm ashamed but I want to bitch and moan about motherhood some days and I just can't make myself do that on my blog where it started with me wanting to be a mother so badly. *head hung in shame*

I like when people read, or ask where I've been. I would love to have someone tell me that my blog made a difference, but I also know that there are parts of it that i just don't have time for...and making time lately isn't working.

so I don't think I'm jealous anymore, just lazy and feeling like "what do I say..?" so I post pics and tell you how the boys are and I don't tell you about me and the migraines and the fibromyalgia that they finally diagnosed and the visits to the dr's and all the bloodwork and tests and meds etc. I just can't...not yet.

If I read a post, I comment..period. It might take me a day or two, but I always do it. That's the least I can do. Right?

Coffeegrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coffeegrl said...

I love your ideas in this post and I love far too many of the comments to feel that I can coherently respond. Unlike an actual dinner party - the the ability for a blog to create asynchronous discussion (comments occurring at different times along different trains of thought) sometimes makes it harder for me to know how to participate in a meaningful way.

Random thoughts: I like and agree with Kate's extended analogy of how the marketplace with different vendors elicits different responses from shoppers. That said, I don't really want to think of ALI blogs as vendors. Sure, if I'm marketing a product, I should be thinking about the customer experience and how I can get them to buy my stuff and come back. But so many blogs are online diaries and experiences and emotions and that's a whole different ball of wax. I shouldn't have to throw in an extra cookie to get you to come back to see me if you're offering support and friendship. Right?

In fact, I respectfully disagree with Chickenpig's comment. Just because someone has been lucky or successful doesn't mean they should stop offering support. My word. Funerals would be lonely places if the folks with living relatives didn't attend because they felt guilty or wanted to be sensitive. I totally appreciate where her comment may be coming from as I think there are both sensitive and insensitive (those who appear to be gloating or rubbing it in) ways to offer "support" and comments on a blog. But I think it just comes back to the Gentle and Wicked kind of concept. If you truly mean well, it will show and your comment will more than likely be received as such.

Chris said...

Asking for feedback could never be wicked, however asking for feedback for content, could! :)

areyoukiddingme said...

Although not exactly appropriate to this line of thought, Pearls Before Swine has some excellent views on message boards and commenting this week:

Pearls Before Swine

jodifur said...

I try to comment, I really do. But more often than not I'm reading through google reader, and just don't click over.

Bad, bad, bad, I know.

Artblog said...

Might be a bit late on this one but as you say, time constraints :)

I'm like most people in that when I get comments I take it as a compliment someone took the time to although I know myself to read many blogs, yours included (I read every post you write) but don't always have the time to comment or am guilty of saying, I'll come back to that one and leave a comment, then forget or something comes up or whatever and then I never do or simply a week has passed by :(

I have noticed some very popular bloggers, not yourself, but some who get a thousand comments each post, whether I think that post interesting or not (sometimes they really aren't interesting at all :) and they still get loads of comments but they themselves never leave any on principle, not even one. Obviously it doesn't bother anyone or they wouldn't keep coming back.

I try not to take it to heart when say, you or some other favourite blogger hasn't left a comment in a while, I try and understand that they might have good intentions but not the time. I hope others feel the same when I haven't commented in a while.

I frequently remind my blog friends that I am still around reading but not always commenting.

I know this simple fact comforts me when someone bothers to click over and read my posts but don't leave a comment. It says as much to me as a meaningless comment.


MsPrufrock said...

I'm immensely behind in blog reading, which has been a problem for me within the last six months for some reason. I try to catch up, and in my zeal to clear my Reader, I find myself reading and not commenting. Naughty.

Somehow though, when I'm at my most irrational, I worry about my comment level on my own blog. It's a no-shit situation - I don't comment much on others' blogs, so I shouldn't expect people to comment on mine. I think some of that comes from the fact that when I was an IF blogger, my stats were far, far higher. I get it; I blog about anything that comes to mind these days, all topics are covered. Back then, it was All Ute, All the Time. That brings the punters in it seems.

On the odd occasion that I'm being reasonable, I acknowledge that time is an issue for a lot of people. Hell, it's obviously mine.

Typing all this rubbish makes me feel as if this is using up my comment-writing allocation for the month. I just read this post and felt I had to contribute because it (as always) was so well-written and thought-provoking.

Bea said...

So this is from forever ago.

The jealousy is a hazard of blogging, I think. Just like it's a hazard of living. Always someone with something you don't have even though they deserve it no more than you. Or even if they deserve it, you can be jealous of the fact they deserve it and you don't. It's one of the things you have to deal with and move on if you want blogging to work for you, just like you ought to deal with it in real life so you can get on with that life instead of wasting energy on being bitter. But I don't think it's evil to feel jealousy, it's only human. The "good" and "evil" comes in your response to it.


Mary O'D said...

Wow, this was a fascinating post. The section on the knitting club really struck home to me -- that's how I feel about my neighborhood women's happy hour.

I don't have a blog, but I enjoy reading others. I am more of an editor than a writer at heart. I read tons of blogs and rarely leave comments. You're right, it's rude. It's kind of like being a stalker.

I appreciate the insight and will apply it to my blog reading from now on. thanks.

btw, we met briefly at s austin grill in maryland at the post-dc-blogher event last year. I was the large, big-haired, Cecily stalker.....