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How I Made My Online Diet Healthier in February
As I mentioned in last month's report, I've spent February thinking about the health of my online information diet as it relates to blogs. I do think we're spinning into a big evolution in how we consume blogs, so I tried this month to pay close attention to how I respond to the blogs I read.
Here are some things that emerged…
Getting Clear About What's Nourishing
I visit my Google Reader once a day, usually first thing in the morning. At the start of this year, I was subscribed to about 150 blogs. As of today, that number is down to 70. It's still a little much for me to really keep up with, but already reducing the number has taken huge stress off me.
What's interesting is, I still look at more blogs than this each day, because I follow random links that show up via Twitter. And because I'm doing this, I realized that my RSS reader should now be reflecting only those blogs I really, truly want to keep up on week after week.
I made a practice this month of watching myself as I ranged through my feed reader. Which blogs did I click on immediately every time there was a new post? Which ones did I put off reading? Which ones did I find myself actively avoiding?
Slowly, I started letting myself off the "keeping up hook" for a couple blogs each day.
The Guilt! Oh, Lordy, the Guilt!
It's not easy, unsubscribing from blogs – especially when the blogger is someone I know and like/love/esteem. Somewhere in the past five years, we seem to have added a new social expectation into our lexicon of social expectations – if we're friends, then I have to keep up on your blog, and your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
I'm beginning to question this idea. I know people who are fascinating conversationalists on Twitter, but who, if I'm being honest, don't write blogs I find very interesting. I know people who write beautiful, inspiring blogs, but when they're on Twitter or Google+, feel somewhat less compelling to me.
All these tools require different communication skills! And very few of us will be good at all of them. Not only that, each of us has a very specific way of listening. So your blog may not grab me, but it'll be a must-read for someone else.
What I want to do is hone down all of the places where I'm social online, so that in any particular space, I'm interacting only with those folks who I find really interesting in that space.
I worry that we get so caught up in the "follower numbers," we forget to let each other create our best individual online spaces. I think I'll expand on this idea in next month's report, in fact.
Allowing for Changes of Interest
I also realized this month that there are wonderful blogs in my RSS reader that have delivered consistently good content over years, but my interest in the subject matter has changed. I'm slowly letting myself off the hook with these blogs, too, although this also feels guilt-inducing. Shouldn't a great blogger be rewarded with my attention? Theoretically, perhaps. But realistically, I only have so much time and attention. The minute I let blog-reading feel like a chore is the minute I stop being a good reader for everyone.
So I really need to let it be okay that I drift from blog to blog as my interests change. We're creative people, after all, and we're prone to new obsessions. Our blog-reading should be allowed to reflect this. I'm trying to remind myself that I can return to an old favorite blog at any time, and it doesn't have to sit, unread, in my feed reader until that moment.
Image by fra.ps, via Flickr
Frequency of Posting… it's Changing
Interestingly, the subject of "How often should we be blogging?" has come up in both of the blogging classes I taught this month. And the discussion in both classes points to an answer that's different from the one we were using a few years ago.
Back when blogging was new, it used to be the norm to blog almost every day. After all, you needed to stay on your readers' radar and all that. But now… all of our radars are clogged up with information. Getting on people's radar is now an infinitely more subtle thing, and I think it has more to do with quality than quantity.
I noticed this month in my RSS reader that, when a blog I was subscribing to was posting frequently, those unread posts really stacked up, and consequently I was more likely to avoid reading the blog for longer periods. I also noticed that, by and large, those frequent-post blogs often seemed to contain what felt to me like a percentage of "filler" posts.
I noticed that I follow quite a few blogs that post less than once per week, but those posts are always amazing, so I always read them, eagerly.
My New Rules Aren't Everyone's New Rules!
Here's what I think is really important about all this… it's just my method for coping with reading blogs. This doesn't constitute anything you should be doing. I think that when blogging was new, we all tried to evolve a set of universal rules for how we should be reading and writing them. But honestly, the information landscape is so vast and crowded at this point, we all have to negotiate this stuff for ourselves.
I will say, after my month of watching and letting go, I'm feeling so much more excitement about my RSS reader again. For such a long time it's felt like a burden I'll never master. Now it's starting to feel more like what it was designed to be in the first place: a tool for inspiration and learning.
What do you think?
Have you been changing the way you read blogs lately? What changes are you making?
And thank you, as always, for witnessing my little project!