With Google’s recent update of all its programs a few weeks ago, I was shoe-horned into their new “Blogger” set-up when signing in and adding posts/editing this blog. I’m not sure why Google, and so many other web-based enterprises, feel a need to be forever “updating their look” when there was nothing wrong with the previous “look.”
Aside from adding a function that directly allows links to open up in another tab, I can’t stand it. For one reason only. When I log in, every time, I’m faced with a chart that shows readership based on the past few weeks of viewing, and then when I get into Edit Posts, I’m also given a breakdown, post by post, of how many times individual readers have read that post. In short, where statistics used to be a sidebar choice that I never chose, it’s now shoved into my face every time I get on the thing.
There doesn’t seem to be any way of editing that statistical view off the home page. So I’ve undertaken the highly scientific method of placing my hand over the screen where I know that chart will appear, and then when I get to the Edit Posts page, shifting my hand so it hides the column of statistics showing readers per post.
Why? Because I’m not writing for statistics, or in hopes of hyping myself to the extent that tens of thousands of people are checking in here weekly to see what I’m doing. From what I saw, looks more like dozens, which makes more sense as I shoot for posts every other week, as opposed to every other hour. I know if I was getting those big numbers, my Comments section would be deluged by that predictable brand of internet twerp who feels a need to dump on every site he reads … I get a few here sometimes, but not enough to bother me. (And if they did, I’d simply shut off comments.) I’m not worried about comments, one way or the other. You’ll never hear me pining for people to comment.
So much has changed about why I write over the years. I’d say in my early 30s, I was wildly ambitious to hype myself, and get my name out there, and have people read me, and write outrageous, crazy shit to draw attention to myself. And as the decade wore on, I could see, sure, I could make it to some level doing that, but it’s a put-on, I’m not doing anything for the sake of pure writing. I’m … just … hyping … myself. Some of the people I was writing with at the time at my NYC weekly paper, I’ve seen, have hyped themselves into varying positions of low-level fame. God bless them, too, but it just felt off to me after awhile. There’s writing, and there’s hyping yourself. They’re not the same thing, although the internet has encouraged writers to do nothing but hype themselves 24/7, to the extent that I know doing so has become equally important as their ability to write with any sort of purpose or passion.
New York City does nothing but encourage that level of hype over talent. Editors and anyone else who should be on the lookout for talent are not on the lookout for talent. They’re sitting back and letting it come to them … and what comes to them are people desperate to see their name in lights. Some of them are good writers, some are so/so, and some are charlatans. Their ambition is not to write, as it once was, but to receive adulation as a writer, that special sort of respect we give to them. I recognized that yearning within myself, like I said, up through my 30s, but after awhile realized, I don’t need it. I somehow reasoned my way into getting through life without the approval or respect of strangers, and in doing so, saw through that crazed determination I once had.
Not that I’m some guru with all the answers now. I just know one wrong answer. It’s a miracle in life to know any real answers.
Most annoying to me are the blogs with the guy, always a guy, who has an opinion on everything, usually expressed a few time a day on various worldly topics. Usually an opinion geared towards liberal or conservative readership. And the guy never comes up with one original thought. He’ll be commenting on a link to something he saw or read that day and then flooring us with his wonderfully one-sided analysis of the issue at hand. You better believe that when Joe Paterno took his tumble from grace, every shithead on the internet who falls into this category had his snap judgment on the situation, brandishing his Superman’s cape and saving us all from this raving, ancient pervert … when all the writer was doing was ruining a good man’s life just before he passed on, with no evidence, with no real knowledge of what he was writing about, just that finger in the wind, sensing which way it was blowing and adding his own hot air to the instant hurricane.
Thanks, guys. And that’s only one example of the sort of faulty internet logic that these guys employ to, I don’t know, boost readership? Position themselves as voices of moral reason (when this is about as far from the truth as you can get)? You tell me. Because when I land on one of these blogs with our modern-day Socrates putting out bite-size nuggets of faux wisdom, I’ve seen it so many times in the past that I just get the hell out of there.
What I try to do here is picture the reader as a friend in a bar, talking over drinks, because I’ve realized there’s not much more valuable in life than making simple, human connections with other people. That may sound goofy and stilted, but look around, on the web in particular, and you can see just how disconnected people have grown from their sense of humanity. Walk the streets. You’ll find people so obsessed with their smart phones that they’re completely out of the moment and disconnected from their physical reality. And you realize, that’s just passing them in a moment, and the larger reality isn’t the person putting the phone back in his pocket after checking a message, but obsessively thumbing the damn thing for the next half hour. Reality is an unwelcome diversion in the eternal smart phone session.
I read so much horseshit about “this generation” and how our lives will change as a result of their gadget addiction. No. Their lives will change. Their fingers will get bigger. Their eye-sight and the ability to read small print, worse. Their lives more engaged with actual reality, simply by default. And I have to think most people too wrapped up in this nonsense will slowly but surely become relatively normal human beings, as opposed to these meandering, soul-less device bots they are now.
Generally speaking, any prognostication on teenagers or people through their mid-20s never takes into account that these people are going to change radically in the next decade of their lives, be it political views, personal philosophies, lifestyles, etc. It all changes. To gauge them in the present tense and take that measurement as a barometer of how the future for all of us will play out is utter bullshit, and the mark of someone with no eye for the big picture. Essentially, we’re talking about toys, for overgrown children, that have been expertly marketed to them, which is the real story here. I wouldn’t call it “just a phase,” but I would recognize that the recent college grad who can’t walk in a straight line on the sidewalk due to her Twitter obsession is going to have way too much real-life shit going on a decade down the road to be that same errant twat forever. (Call me an optimist.)
This whole “statistics in your face” function with Blogger is just an extension of this putrid self-absorption. I’d wager that most people writing blogs, if they’re hung up on statistics, probably get a cruel wake-up call when they’re faced with daily reminders of who is or isn’t reading their site. Unless the blog is wildly successful, there’s bound to be a small (but hopefully dedicated) readership. As for wildly successful blogs, man, look around. There’s a teenage sort of nastiness to most of the really popular ones. An obsession with celebrity. A surface appreciation of pop culture. Or this pretentious desire to be everything to everyone as noted a few paragraphs earlier, which I’m recognizing is just another row of vanity mirrors in the funhouse. These people are like the Scarecrow at the end of The Wizard of Oz, rattling off square roots after the wizard gives him his fake diploma.
It struck me as a better idea to provide something no one else can – more drawn-out essays, observations and stories that I can relate to you from my life and experiences. Which may bore the shit out of some, or at least I hope that’s the case given what most people find intriguing these days, but if I’m doing it right, may also form some sense of connection with people on the same wavelength. And you don’t measure that with statistics. Either you get it, or you don’t. I know how to pump up statistics. Write one-liners and small paragraph posts, numerous times a day. Hype myself on Facebook and Twitter. Badger these larger amalgamator sites to link and hype my site. Give away free music constantly. Put pictures of celebrities on the site and write about them. Hurl insults. Stir the pot. It’s not hard to do.
But again, I have to ask myself why I’d want to do that, and that question goes all the way back to why I chose to write in the first place. It was simply being a reader first, having my mind blown by people like Hunter Thompson and William Burroughs, and foolishly trying to mimic their styles. And after realizing I couldn’t, still noticing that I enjoyed the act of putting thoughts on paper, and that people recognized that I had some facility for it. Recognition kept me going for years, the longing for and acquiring of it, but even that conked out on me after Dad passed on. I lost the urge to impress upon other people how wonderful, witty and knowledgeable I am. Fuck, I’m not. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I’m a complete idiot. I’m like anyone else. While that realization set me free in a number of ways and got me more in touch with how the world really works (as opposed to how I want it to work), it also showed me that the world will go on spinning just fine without me. And I think that’s something people who long for fame can’t quite get through their heads, which is a large part of what drives them to succeed in their chosen endeavor.
So why write at all? Because it’s what I do. And I’m good at it, or at least I’ve bullshitted myself into thinking I am. In any case, you’re stuck with me, you dozens of weirdoes who probably still listen to vinyl albums and get along with your parents. If Blogger was being really honest, instead of statistics coming up on the entry page for their site, they’d have Google create a type of mirror connected to a computer’s web cam, only instead of giving a fairly accurate physical portrayal of the writer’s face, somehow incorporate Photoshop to guarantee the person is rendered far more attractive and appealing, the same way Cinderella’s dog sisters all thought they were beauty queens whenever they gazed upon their reflections. That’s what most people want. Hell, that’s what most people see.
Update: Holy shit. I just logged in to enter this post, and Google got rid of the “in your face” readership chart. Please disregard the above blathering. I can go back to feeling like a normal human being.