Staying afloat in the social media ocean

by Kristin on October 8, 2008

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

There are certain things I make sure I have time for in the week: meeting client deadlines, making (and drinking) coffee every morning, writing a few blog posts, cuddling and singing to my daughters at night, enjoying a glass of wine and conversation with Jason in the evening. Showering fits into this category, too (at least most days).

There are other things I can sometimes squeeze in and sometimes can’t. Like making a lasagna, taking a long walk, catching up with my parents on the phone, gathering dust bunnies on the staircase, trimming my nails. Those sorts of things.

Writing about how crazy-busy and overwhelming life is has just about reached cliche status. I have to say it though, even if it is a cliche: I’m feeling overwhelmed. It’s not the various work that needs to be done around the house and yard that’s getting to me, or the pressure of updating this blog with fresh posts. What’s getting to me is the daunting height of the social-media-networking-popularity-contest-platform-building bar.

When I reestablished my blog a few months ago, I wrote a post (Blogs and ulterior motives) about why I was back to blogging. I was told to build an “author’s platform,” and a blog is the best foundation. The writing part has been fun. I’m glad for the motivation and discipline.

But then there’s the other stuff. To do it right, you have to read heaps of blogs, every day, and leave thoughtful comments regularly. You need to give shout-outs to your favorite bloggers and hope they return the favor with their own link love. Then there’s making friends with (or just catching the attention of) important social media people and “big bloggers” on Twitter and at conferences and meet-ups. I’m still trying to find time to create a simple blogroll. There are so many bells and whistles I could incorporate into the design of my blog—some would be useful, others would simply prove that I know enough about blogging to be taken seriously. But as I said, I can hardly find time to clip my nails, people!

This morning, as soon as I finished a client project, I set aside 30 minutes to hunt down some new blogs. The top post of the first one I looked at, Citizen of the Month, immediately amplified my stress. The post is called “Chat with a New Blogger.” This new blogger (who remains anonymous) is young and eager and energetic. She knows who all the “big bloggers” are, and says things like “You’ve never read them? Everyone reads them.” She also talks about how to “get on people’s blogrolls” as a way to “get even bigger.”

If I had stopped reading at the end of the post, without clicking on the comments, I would have veered dangerously close to the brink of social media despair. But the reader comments cheered me immensely.

“I…don’t find the ‘big bloggers’ all that interesting,” one said. “They are way too gimmicky for me and, as you know, too aware of their ‘brand.’”

Another reader wrote “I just like to read good writing. What do you get for being a popular blog anyway?” Not fame or money, she points out.

And then there’s this one, which made me laugh: “i have no idea what most of these applications are, i removed my one blogroll and would take down the other one if i knew how. my dog loves me, she’s what makes me feel important.”

Finally, this comment left me in a good place: “I’m always surprised how serious some people take blogging. They become so obsessed with their stats, blogrolls, and readership. More often than not, they forget why they started blogging in the first place!”

I feel less overwhelmed now than I did when I started this day. There are lots of good people out there who aren’t caught up in the game. And I’m not going to let myself forget why I started blogging in the first place. Not the author’s platform stuff, but the real reason: I have stories to tell.

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  • http://dagsempire.blogspot.com/ Dagny

    I found my way here because you linked to Neil’s blog in this post. I was intrigued. And I’m glad that I clicked over.

    I started blogging because I wanted to re-find my voice as a story teller. I don’t care about how many people to whom I connect (as evidenced by comments and links and stuff). All I care about is that I connected with someone. To me, upsetting are the posts for which there are no comments. All I want is one.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin

    It’s good to meet you, Dagny. I know what you mean about wanting just one comment. It’s not about ego, it’s just that stories need an audience. We just want to know we’re not telling them into the dark. So thanks for reading—and commenting.
    K

  • Arathi

    I truly find your writing very inspiring. I think it’s wonderful that you write about daily things and make them so interesting and thought-provoking, you know? IAnd let me assure you, this is totally not inspired by any social pressure.

  • http://bernthis.typepad.com JESSICA BERN

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Your post is something I need to cut out and paste to my computer. There are so many times when I feel like I’m once again the unpopular girl and I’m not “in” with anything. I start with the obsessing with the stats and the commenting, etc and then, Thank God, I am now at a point where I stop myself and say, “Why are you writing? Huh? Why?” and I have promised myself that if the answer is ever anything but “B/C I love to write” than it’s game over.

    Thanks again.

  • Elaine Tolsma-Harlow

    I like my wine & conversation at night with a little dark chocolate (yum!)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin

    Hey Jessica. It’s good to meet other writers who can empathize with how I feel! We all need to come up with a way to regularly remind each other to keep writing for the right reasons. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll look forward to checking out your blog, too.
    K

  • http://talk2theanimals.net/ Janet Roper

    Hi Kristin,
    I’m a first time visitor, & found you by searching Champaign-Urbana on Twitter. I went to school at the U of I and IWU, which is close to Normal. I love, simply love the name of your blog, and your explanation of it.

    For me, doing the social media thing is like going on a treasure hunt. I visit a lot of places before I find one that feels ‘homey’. Glad I found yours!
    Harmony,
    Janet

  • http://www.cars4causes.net Virginia

    I am happy to see a writer blogging for the sake of it!
    I have been writing all my life, and I started blogging as a job for my charity, Cars4Causes. I also blog for myself on Intent.com, which is a real interesting community of writers. I am interested in social media from a business standpoint, but mostly because I want to get the word out about the good work we do here. For myself, I have been on Myspace for a couple years, and didn’t even know about all the other sm out there until I started online for my job. I agree with your high-school clique analogy completely, but there are also some real generous and wise people out there who are trying to give a hand to the small time players, and are willing to share what they know to benefit others. I am enjoying the process, as well as the opportunity to get paid for spending my days on the Internet! My daughter’s complaint? I don’t ever go on my personal Myspace anymore.After spending all day at the office watching Twitter and doing other social media as well as blogging 2 posts a week for C4C http://blog.cars4causes.net I hardly go online for myself anymore! Ah, balance, where for art thou?
    Great blog, keep it up! Cheers! V.