Friday 20 January 2023

The Vagaries of Blogging

The other day, I wrote a blog post about a tiny incident that had amused me: catching myself looking around, a bit embarrassed, to check that nobody had seen me be less than perfect. It struck me as a mildly ridiculous, but very human, moment. 

I nearly didn't post it, as it was pretty light weight and inconsequential; but I did anyway.  And to my (mild) surprise it got more likes and comments on Linked In than anything I had posted for quite a while.  That, too, struck me as amusing. Normally I try to share something that is thought-provoking, or offers an insight, or at least some musings about some aspect of my professional practice - all things that you think might better engage the type of people who read my Linked In posts.  But no, it was the trivial and inconsequential post that got more people engaged. And it's not the first time. And -interestingly - the comments were often quite insightful and always thoughtful - more so than the original post.

And that got my wondering: why? I came up with several hypotheses. One is simply that I had given the post a punning headline, so people may have been misled or intrigued by that, and got sucked in to reading it. A second is that people find it refreshing when a Linked In post isn't 'how wonderful I am, buy from me' or 'How inspirational this person/quotation is!' A third is that my laughing at myself prompted the reaction: in some a sense of vulnerability that is a common human condition; and in others a sense of pathos - a number were keen to reassure me that I wasn't a failure of a human being... (this one missed the mark, somewhat, as I am more inclined to an inflated sense of my self-worth than the reverse, and such posts are, in part, an antidote to that).

The question that then arises, of course, is: do I therefore publish more posts of that nature, rather than my (clearly less engaging) thoughtful pieces? And that raises two further questions. One is, was that post really more engaging, or (for example) am I indulging in confirmation bias?  And the second question is, is the point of my posting to get the most likes/comments, or something else?

A quick skim back over Linked In shows that there was certainly more comment on this post than on others recently; but perhaps not as much as I was thinking. On my own blog, comment is much less frequent (that in itself is interesting) and reader numbers were similar to other posts.  Also, my own blog (on which it is much easier to see these stats over the long term) shows that my most-read post of all time was a more thought provoking one (about non-judgemental coaching, as it happens, and what we really mean by that). 

Turning to the second question, whilst it is easy to be gratified by likes and comments, that is clearly not the reason for my writing - otherwise I could produce much more click-baity posts. So why do I do it?

There are several reasons. One is that part of my identity is as a writer. I believe I have a certain talent for writing, but have only written one (published) book - blogging (in which I include posting articles on Linked In, as I always cross-post my blog posts in that way) is an outlet for that part of me. Related to that, I find that writing is often a good way for me both to clarify and to capture my thinking at a point in time; and writing for others (as in blogging) is very different from my own reflective writing. On the one hand, I clearly can't go into specifics about individual clients without fictionalising them to make them unidentifiable; but on the other, writing for others has a different dynamic, in terms of meaning-making, and reaching (at least) some tentative conclusions etc.

However, the most important reason for blogging is that I see it as an effective way of staying in touch with a wide range of people who have come across me and my work, in a way that I hope they find enjoyable and thought-provoking. And perhaps that last point - thought-provoking - is why I will continue to post mainly more reflective pieces about my practice and my thinking, and save the trivial life stories for the odd occasion when they arise and may speak to the enjoyable part of the mix...

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