Goodie Ace told some unemployed friend of mine that you were disappointed or annoyed or happy or drunk that I hadn’t answered the letter you wrote me some years ago. You know, of course, there is no money in answering letters—unless they’re letters of credit from Switzerland or the Mafia. I write you reluctantly, for I know you are doing six things simultaneously—five including sex. I don’t know where you get the time to correspond. (via Letters of Note).
Well, there must be some money in answering letters, or at least the modern social media equivalent of personal correspondence, or few authors, businesses, and non-profits would have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs. It’s hard to quantify in dollar amounts the efficacy of these social media strategies, but without such strategies, potential readers, customers, and donors would have a hard time connecting with available products, services, and causes. It’s as if you don’t exist without a social media presence.
For those whose use of social media, particularly blogs, isn’t connected to a product or service, what is the “pay out”? Is blogging worth it? It seems every blogger asks this question (and blogs about it) at a certain point. For me, 3–4 months into blogging feels like as good a time as any for this type of self-reflection.
Each blogger has his or her expectations of how blogging will “pay off.” For some, it’s building a platform for the sale of current or future goods or services. For others, it’s about sharing life experiences, photographs, thoughts, and expertise with a wider audience.
To me, exchanging ideas with an online community is one of the more fulfilling parts of blogging, but it’s hard to gauge the extent to which such an exchange is happening. Page views and “likes” are virtually meaningless, as readers often “leave their cursory mark and move on” without reading the content, as Donna, the Master Gardener and photographer of Garden Walk Garden Talk (a truly beautiful blog) discussed in a recent post. Better indicators of an “exchange of ideas” seem to be thoughtful comments, re-blogging, and organic links, all of which are relatively rare because they are time-consuming marks for a reader to leave behind (and so I am very appreciative of readers who take the time to do it). Besides, a reader’s apparent silence doesn’t mean he or she did not read the post and think about it. I learned that silence is not necessarily a sign of lack of interest or understanding back in law school, where I felt harassed by my professors’ use of the Socratic method, an invasive pedagogical tool that many believe silences women.
The lack of meaningful engagement with readers and other bloggers can be disheartening. Many bloggers feel they don’t get much out of blogging, or at least not enough out of it to warrant the time commitment. As described in The New York Times, based on a 2008 survey, the mortality rate of blogs is high: “95 percent of blogs [are] essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.” That matches my own observations, as several of the blogs I started following when I launched The Misfortune of Knowing roughly four months ago have been inactive for almost as long as I’ve been around. Maybe these bloggers will resurface, but they probably wouldn’t have disappeared if blogging had been as fulfilling as they had hoped.
As I evaluate my experience thus far, I can say that I have enjoyed blogging, an activity that does more than satisfy my narcissism. Blogging hones my research and writing skills and keeps my brain limber. This blog is a place for me to chronicle my thoughts, sort of like a public diary, and I’m looking forward to revisiting what I’ve written on literary themes, the law, and parenting to see how my thoughts have evolved with time and exposure to new ideas. If any of these thoughts are worthy of comment from someone passing through the blogosphere, then that’s a nice bonus, but it isn’t necessary for me to think this blog is worth it: I could blather into the WordPress void forever!
Image: AMB, Misfortune of Knowing, using a photograph of my daughter taken by Lynne Krohn in 2009.