It’s not you, it’s me.
This post is intended primarily for fellow bloggers – non-blogging readers may want to check out another post at this point …
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary* – or, as it’s known in these parts, Tuesday afternoon – I popped a quick update on to a Facebook blogging group about my decision to remove myself from the Tots100 ranking of parent bloggers.
I didn’t expect much of a response. I got one, though – over 100, in fact. As the likes and supportive comments along the lines of ‘I’m thinking the same’ started pouring in, someone suggested I was starting a revolution, while another joked that this was my ‘I am Spartacus’ moment. Clearly I wasn’t alone in my feelings.
I’m not much of a revolutionary, in truth. I can’t even flounce off in a huff the way my four-year-old daughter is so adept at doing. (I don’t flounce, I just shrug and go ‘meh’.) This was very much a personal decision, not an example for others to follow.
But here’s why I did what I did – a decision I had been mulling over for at least a year – and why it really says more about me than it does about Tots100. This isn’t a critique of the ranking system, more a critique of me.
Let’s start with a little background.
I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years in all, with this blog being parenting-focussed for the past four. I spent nearly a year recently in the top 100 of the ranking – a rarity for any dad, let alone one with a full-time job. I’ve been offered more than my share of opportunities, and yet I’m not concerned about monetising my blog.
So while achieving a high Tots100 ranking is important to many, particularly those looking to earn a living from blogging, it’s not important to me.
There has always been a little voice in the back of my head. It’s the same voice that makes me fiercely competitive about anything I care about. The voice that seductively whispers in my ear about all the things I could be doing to benefit my Tots ranking.
For the most part I’m pretty good at ignoring that voice. But every now and then I will go on an Instagram-building blitz or focus on improving my Klout or Moz scores or any of the other elements that make up your Tots ranking. (If you really want to know how Tots works, here’s my quick guide.)
That isn’t writing for writing’s sake. It’s writing for the sake of a number. It shouldn’t be what I’m about. 95% of the time it isn’t what I’m about. But occasionally it is and I get sucked into a game I have no need to play other than to satisfy my own ego.
I don’t like that side of me. It’s the side of me that can get obsessive about things, to the detriment of myself and those around me. It’s the side of me that gets distracted by Twitter or taking a photo for a blog post when I should be focussing on my kids instead. I do this too much.
Now I know in reality I’m never going to be the best blogger in the world. I also know I don’t have the time to compete with those who do have the drive to make an income out of blogging. I blog because I like to write, no more, no less. If I was being pretentious – which, let’s be honest, I am a bit – I would say scribo ergo sum – I write therefore I am. The only audience that should truly matter is me.
I like that side of me.
It’s the side of me that finds joy in being creative with words. It’s the side of me that pours his heart and soul into the Meet the Parents podcast and my parenting parody songs, which both take up a lot of time for comparatively little return. But I do them because I love doing them and stats be damned.
And that’s where I’m trying to get back to. I should have the freedom to write only about what I want. And that extends to my social media activities too. Of course, I’d like to double my page views and have a huge Instagram following – who wouldn’t? But I don’t need to. And walking away from the Tots ranking is my way of removing temptation and giving myself the freedom to focus on enjoying writing.
Now I’m in no way knocking the Tots ranking and those who place a lot of stock in it. I applaud anyone who makes a living from blogging – all power to them. And I’m definitely not suggesting that everyone should ditch that little badge in their sidebar, declare, “Nevermore”* and shuffle off into the wilderness the way I have done.
But it’s the right thing for me.
Every month when Tots updates I see people getting upset over the fact they have fallen in the rankings. I hear others bemoaning that other people seem to be doing the same thing as them and yet are 500 places higher, have twice as many page views and eleventy billion more opportunities.
What’s the old expression about comparison being the thief of joy?
It’s all too easy to pin your mood on a number or to fall into the trap of treating stats as a yardstick of quality. It’s the kind of thing that leads to negative behaviours such as playing the follow/unfollow game to boost social media followers, and to a million and one other tricks of the blogging trade that sit somewhere along the spectrum between smart and sharp practice. Like anything in life, blogging has a small but dark underbelly that can turn the biggest optimist into a hardened cynic.
I prefer to focus on the positives of blogging – and there are many. And that’s why I’ve decided to turn my back on the Tots100, because I don’t want to get dragged into the cycle of comparison, competition and cynicism. It’s not a course of action I would recommend for everyone. But it’s absolutely the right move for me. I want to get back to blogging being all about the writing. I want blogging to be fun. And that’s all that really matters to me.
* Yes, I’ve been quoting Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. I did say I was a bit pretentious …