Monday, January 7, 2008

Competition, blogging, self-esteem and a bit of procrastination

I have been in the midst of a very intense emotion all day today and I can't identify it. Whatever it is, I'm afraid to go near it but I am drawn to things that touch on it, that resonate with it. I called my friend D while I was running errands this morning and D suggested I blog about it, that maybe by writing about it, whatever it is, I could identify it.

So that is what I will try to do. But not now. Because it's still too scary right now. Maybe when I'm done with this post?

Instead I will write about something else that has come up that has left me with mixed feelings. When I started this blog, I didn't really know what I was doing (I still don't, really). I looked at a lot of other blogs and here and there I picked up references to various aggregators and the whole feed thing that I still don't understand.

But I submitted my blog because I knew that if no one knew I was here, no one would read anything, and I knew--I just knew--that eventually I would use that as a weapon against myself, a way to prove that my depression was right all along and no one cared and I was just babbling away to no one and it wasn't going to make a difference so why bother?

I am moved beyond expression that the blogosphere in general and the Jewish blogosphere in specific has proved that train of thought very, very wrong. That potential weapon has been neutralized. And now with mixed feelings I have become aware of another.

I didn't realize that one of the aggregators encourages readers to rate posts, or that it automatically rates the post as soon as it becomes aware of it. The aggregator appears to rate the post based on the number of words; short posts, even if they speak of something important, are rated lower than long posts even if they are about nothing. One of my readers pointed me toward this aggregator (JBlogCentral) and explained to me about the ratings and how readers can rate posts and what it meant that I had an overal rating of 4+ stars with only a couple hundred points. And then I found out about the JBlogAwards.

It took me a while, clicking on things around the site, to figure out how it worked, and then I felt uneasy when the site itself encouraged bloggers to rate their own posts.

Because when I write something, it isn't here to compete with everyone else's posts or earn me international attention or win a Pulitzer prize. I'm not qualified to offer psychiatric advice or rabbinic advice or medical advice. It's just me, trying to muddle through life the best I can while dealing with depression and anxiety, and relying very much on the strength I have found in being Jewish.

I know that competition is a good thing, generally. Competition is what allows me to afford my prescriptions. Competition is what drives my need to give my children the Jewish education I never had. Competition keeps a paycheck coming into our family.

But how do I take it when some people rate a post that to me is raw and vulnerable and just lays my reality out there for everyone to see, a five and others rate it a three? Or a one? Was I just not angst-ridden enough? Not compelling enough? Not provacative enough? Not political enough? Perhaps I didn't provide enough gossip or badmouth people in shul or threaten to out my rabbi? Or perhaps I was too much out there, too emotional, too honest. I don't know.

I remind myself that I am writing this blog primarily for me because I have never successfully maintained a written offline journal. As a bonus, the feedback I've received is tremendously helpful. And a result I never expected was that it's apparently helping others, those who are experiencing similar issues, those who are caring for those experiencing similar issues, and those who want to help via their profession or vocation or simply because it's important to them.

At the same time I'm reminding myself of this, I'm noting that some of the blogs I enjoy visiting, like Rabbi Without a Cause and A Mother in Israel, are at least today on the Top 50 blogs list. Yid With Lid, who hosted the most recent Haveil Havalim, is today number three.

What do I feel? Disappointment? A touch of benign envy? Happy with the overall ratings despite individual votes? Does it affect my ego? Should it? Why does it even make a difference? Who relies on those ratings anyway? Is that last question at all a sour-grapes sentiment?

I want to be Seen and noticed and valued, and the ratings and awards seem like a good way to accomplish that, but there is dark territory in there for me.

My feelings are very mixed. The only way I know that my blog is anything positive in the world is from comments and email that people have left, and the occasional mention on another blog. I can't at this time trust ratings and awards. There is too much potential for me to criticize myself or stomp on an already wavering self-esteem if I allow ratings and awards to define the worth of what I write, which on this blog, is most certainly tied to the worth of me.

7 comments:

Leora said...

You are one gutsy woman. Most bloggers are talking about non-personal topics like Gilgamesh floods vs. Noah's flood or warding off the ayin hara by pouring lead. I can understand your mixed feelings. It's like you want people to get what's going on for you, but at the same time you don't want anyone to misunderstand you or worse, to use the information against you.

Keep up talking out loud on your blog.

Shira Salamone said...

Your blog is an important contribution to the blogosphere. Don't be discouraged by the ratings nonsense. Just keep blogging.

On the other hand, don't be concerned about noticing the ratings. Believe me, there are plenty of us in the blogosphere who suffer from "blog envy," me among them. I figure I can either kvetch and quit blogging or kvetch on my blog. Egocentric that I am, I'd rather kvetch on my blog--and hope to get comments. :)

Jack's Shack said...

Ignore the ratings. Some of those places are fixed so that the results only show certain blogs.

Write for yourself and it will all work out.

Keli Ata said...

Don't give too much credence to the individual ratings or anything. Many people read and enjoy blogs without necessarily bothering to rate them.

But J Blog is a good way to get your blog noticed and people reading your blog are definitely helped and inspired and gain insight they wouldn't find elsewhere.

And unlike many other bloggers, you get comments. People are coming to your blog.

I get fairly decent ratings but only three of my best friends ever come over to comment on my blog. Sometimes I worry if a particular post gets a low rating I've offended people terribly and I feel awful.

Other times people can ve quite petty. I recently got a 2 star rating just because someone didn't like a subject heading I used.

So please don't let the rating thing upset you too much :) I'm sorry if it has.

Rivka said...

Leora: Thank you. Believe me, I never thought of myself as gutsy. Having questionable respect for the status quo, maybe. :)

Shira: Thank you. I don't feel either discouraged or congratulatory. Just very mixed. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing in general. Just not a good fit for my disposition, I think.

Jack: Thank you. I really can't write for anyone else, and so far this blog has proven to be the journal I can keep, so I will continue.

Keli: Nothing to be sorry for. I'd rather know than not know. But now that I know, I can let ignorance be bliss and simply not go check out the numbers. The bottom line for me is that I'm not going to change what I write because of how someone rates it.

My summary is "One Jewish woman's struggles and successes dealing with life, G-d, and depression", not "One Jewish woman's rantings about things she knows not nearly enough about while trying to avoid talking about life, G-d, and depression".

:)

Keli Ata said...

My thoughts exactly :) :)

In fact, I started my own blog at the suggestion of a rabbi because I was pretty stiffled in what I was permitted and not permitted to write at work. So first and foremost my blog will always be an outlet of expression, and it writing helps me to sort things out.

If it's interesting or entertaining or thought provoking once in a while, great, but mainly I need to express myself. Ratings aren't a part of the equation.

mother in israel said...

Rivka, that service rates posts when they first come up. I used to consistently get a 4 or 5. No one else would ever vote for me if I didn't add my own rating. Occasionally I got a lower initial rating if the post was very short. For the last few months or longer, no matter what I post, I never, ever, get higher than a 2 for the initial rating. It would be nice for me to think the 4 meant something and the 2 didn't, but that would be foolish. Anyway, all those fours got me into the top 50, but I won't be there for long, and giving myself a 5 doesn't make a bit of difference since no one else votes for me anymore at all. Well, maybe it will help a bit, but I don't bother anymore.