Jeff Smith 2 p.m., May 22
- Community Blog
- Memorial Life
The Measure of Success
"Breathe. Know that the Internet has no eraser." -- Liz Strauss
Some years ago, I started one of those MySpace pages, but quickly, like within a day or two, changed my mind, and deleted it. I registered at one time on Facebook, and on Twitter, but took those accounts down, too. I had browsed a number of blogs at the time and found some of them interesting, not enough to keep me coming back to them, however. And then a few years later, there was a subject that was very much on my mind that I wanted to discuss. I searched for message boards that covered the topic but none of them were on the point that I wanted to discuss, and what’s more, some of the boards wouldn’t even allow discussion of the points I wanted to cover. So I decided to start my own blog.
I searched the web for a good place to blog, found one that was easy to use, formatted it, gave it a catchy title and added photos, wrote a number of posts, first drafts, then began to edit some of what I had written, then once I had enough finished entries to start out, I posted them and launched the blog. I invited a few people from other blogs and message boards to read my blog. Word quickly spread. The blog almost instantly generated a large number of hits; the link to the blog was being spread via all the forms of net interaction, and I was getting a fair number of comments on some of my blog entries, readers were also contacting me privately, off the blog.
Many of the comments thanked me for opening the blog and allowing free discussion of this controversial subject, added their own thoughts on the subject, expanded on my points. As I edited and added more entries, to the point or on related topics, the reaction was gratifying, comments ranging from stunned because they had not thought of this or that point but that it was clear now what was going on or what I had written made perfect sense, to compliments on the actual writing, and comments that I should write a book on the subject.
I was pleased with my writing on that blog. While I am not naturally or by training a good writer, the subject had inspired me. Not only was the quality of the writing good, but the quantity was astonishing to me, the words just poured out, driven by this overwhelming need to express my thoughts in a cogent and persuasive discussion on the matter. I was coldly objective, analyzing the subject from a number of angles, driving my points home one after the other, providing evidence to support each point, tying the points together, links in the chain of what I believed to be, and the comments supported as being, a devastating argument.
This was a themed blog, and I was pushing on toward the final post, or posts, in which I would wrap everything up in a sort of final summation. I was completely immersed in what I was saying on the blog entries, in the discussions, and in the convos I was having re the subject of the blog, and though I was often writing day and night, the work was effortless and satisfying on every level.
One day, someone wrote me privately, off the blog. She said that I was a hater, and a sanctimonious twit and that what I was writing could cause pain to certain people. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Not the personal comments about myself, but the idea that something I was writing might be hurtful to people I didn’t know. I had allowed myself to believe that I was objectively analyzing a subject of great interest, without considering the further possible ramifications.
I wrote this person back and said I had taken her comments into serious and careful consideration and that the final posts I was writing might cause her to think differently on the matter. I then wrote her again and said having considered the matter further that within the next twenty-four hours I would make the decision whether to continue or close the blog. I tried to work on the posts I had been writing, but my thoughts had completely come apart, I couldn’t remember what I was going to say or how I was going to say it, in fact, I stopped writing the post altogether, never even went back to it. I could only think about the possibility the woman had outlined in her message.
I added a post on the blog telling my readers what had happened, what this person had written me, without naming her, and said that very likely I would be closing the blog soon. Some readers urged me to ignore the comments, begged me not to close it, suggested that I convert it to a private by invite only blog, but I had no interest in doing that; obviously, anything I wrote on the blog could be shared by copying and pasting. I also knew other people had written on the topic in harsher terms, but I couldn’t control that, I could only control what I wrote. I was done. Within the allotted twenty-four hours, I had erased all the content of the blog and closed the blog.
When I thought about it later, the whole thing was a bit scary. During its short existence, the blog had had quite a bit of success with the potential to become huge; with very little effort, it had grown in readership, and I realized I could have easily acquired a bigger audience through adding a few more key contacts. Even the fact that it had the followers that it did troubled me because I couldn’t unwrite what they had read: Though I had done what I could to limit the potential damage, to some extent, I had shaped people’s thinking on a subject, to an unknown extent after that, they would share that thinking with others. I suppose all bloggers want to be successful, though I hadn’t considered that when I started the blog. In this case, how would success be measured?
I had been in over my head and didn’t even know it.