Hi, why Happy New Year you ask? You have guessed it. It is the beginning of a new year for my Blog. I dislike New Year in January. I am not full of joy or anticipation as I find it an anti-climax after Christmas with nothing immediate to look forward to except long nights and cold dark winter days. I decided this year that I would celebrate New Year with my Blog in April (Well, strictly March, please forgive three or four more weeks.)
A year on I remember what caused me to start a Blog. There were couple of main reasons that prompted me to give it a go.
Our Minister at Church was going on Sabbatical and in her absence I had volunteered to lead a series of reflections each Sunday through Lent. The format I devised was 20 minutes with a “thought to ponder on”, a piece of music on which to reflect and a blessing at the end. Each reflection took place after the morning service and was open to anyone-Church attendee or not. The themes were from a Lent poetry book called “the heart’s time” compiled and commented on by Janet Morley.
It occurred to me that if I set to up a blog I might reach a wider audience. I thought if I am going to do this, I might as well see if I can talk to a few more people than will turn up on the day.This was the second reason for starting the blog.
The first reason and the seed for branching out onto Social media and writing a Blog had been sown much earlier. During a work based crisis I had been appointed an external mentor to help me overcome difficulties and practise new strategies. His help had been provided during spring/early summer of 2013. My mentor discovered my love of writing and it was he who suggested I start a blog
I am not a native to the Internet. I still remember when mobile phones were first introduced, the size of house bricks which I had to shout down hanging out of a window to get a signal. Computers were equally clunky and slow and a mystery as to why it was such a palaver to turn them on and off. When my mentor first suggested setting up a Blog I was appalled.
I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or any of the usual suspects. I thought I would find it too intrusive as I like my privacy and anonymity. All I knew of social media was what I had heard on the news. Death threats on Twitter to a woman who dared to suggest that a woman appear on our £5notes; bullying on teenage websites with tragic results of a teenage suicide; personal videos going viral (how alarming and exciting!); the danger of identity fraud.
“No,” I said, in my purist way. “I am perfectly content to write for myself in scrappy notebooks in my usual chaotic manner. Think of the intrusion of privacy. If I write on the Internet it stays out there in Cyberspace as a memento for all time.”
The seed planted began to sprout. When I heard a daily service on the radio in which the Minister spoke about the gulf between the generations on how they approach the Internet, I pricked up my ears. He mentioned how the younger generation at his church had talked about the benefits of social media to the crabby older generation like me. They found it a place of Spiritual support. It is not all bullying and criminal activity.
Another thought that had run through my head was what if I have no followers? What if I put myself out there and nobody cares? What if I feel more isolated and alone, the classic “Billy No Mates.”
I struggled to set up the blog. What a headache! I needed help and advice and I sought it. I was put in touch with a very patient person who didn’t know me from Adam. He didn’t have a blog himself, but he was an expert in Information Technology and he talked me through it by setting up a blog to show me how its done. Even with his help I almost gave up. Yet here I am, a year later, still a novice and yet content with how far I have come.
And what have I discovered from my year with Social media?
I will mention the negatives first:
- Post envy: The content of the post was never meant to be all about me and yet I discovered I had an ego. There was a fellow blogger who started a Blog at the same time as me. She was published in Freshly Pressed and she had so many Likes and Comments it blew me away. I was jealous. How come she had so many people looking at her blog? What about me, “Billy no mates” who struggled to get a single Like and certainly no comments for ages?
- Spam: I decided early on to be strict about Spam. I am a sensitive soul and I knew that a lot of negativity would be destructive to me. And so I just don’t allow it. I sometimes note with mild amusement that I have far more spam comments than real comments. Other than that I ignore it and I have begun to care less about its presence.
- Addiction: my husband says that I have become addicted to the blogging world. He notes that I turn the computer on when I first get up in the morning and I take a peek at it just before I go to bed. I must admit the thought of checking the Reader gets me out of bed in the morning. I worry that I am neglecting friends in the real world who I haven’t written to for ages.
- Time goes too fast: The blogging world goes too fast for me. I cannot keep up. I notice a post I want to read and by the time I get chance to look it is lost in the backlog of a sea of posts.
Now for the flip side -the positives.
- Lesson in humility to combat my post envy: I have come to admire my fellow bloggers who continue to blog day in day out regardless of how many Likes or comments you receive. I find myself deliberately seeking you out. Frankly it is less disheartening than following those who receive a zillion comments every time. Apologies to all of you who have numerous comments. I still follow you from a discreet distance. It amazes me if you do find my blog, become a follower, or give a Like or comment. I appreciate every follower, every Like and every comment even if I fail to follow back or seem lame in my acknowledgement and reply. (To be truthful I would become overwhelmed with too much information if I attempted to follow everyone at once.)
- Comments and connections/the opposite of Spam: I love receiving true comments. I am amazed at the depth of conversation and connections with my fellow bloggers when I comment on your blog and you comment on mine. The kindness, the courtesy even when we disagree is more uplifting than some of the disjointed chats I have in the real world. I often feel awed by the depth of the discussion and the kindness within the connection, so much so that I have shared personal stuff I never dreamt I would be sharing when I set out on this journey.
- Invaluable friendships: I have come to depend on you, my few friends I have met here in the blogging world. I hope you know who you are. If you think it might be you, it definitely is. Sometimes I reach out in pure need, and with gentle love and affection your words are a balm to my soul. At other times you give me cause to reflect anew and I want to toss about the idea with you. (This dependency, or perhaps interdependency, is this the opposite of addiction or part of it?) I prefer to think that I am drawn by the stirrings of the Spirit of God. When I am being nudged by the Holy Spirit, I often have a restlessness about me until I have taken the action/ made the communication I am drawn towards. After the action, decision, connection has been made the serenity I experience is beyond my power.
- Time slows down: Yes, I miss a lot of posts. Sometimes I come back to you days or even weeks later. And if I comment, you reply. I am so glad that you reply and we can have an in-depth chat even weeks later. Even though it is in front of the world, sometimes it can feel like it is just you and me. Time slows down because I find myself reflecting on the posts I do read, for a long time afterwards. And sometimes I reply with my own post on the same subject. The pebble dropped in the middle of the still water continues a ripple to the far edges of the deep lake. (Now who is it who talks about pebbles being dropped?)
Finally, dear fellow bloggers, I want to thank you for sharing this experience of my first year of writing a Blog. When I set out I wanted to reach more people with my words of wisdom. I never dreamt that you would reach me with yours.
On Monday when I was still trying to compose the end of this post, I heard on the radio that in the UK there is a higher incidence of teenage girls reporting depression and anxiety. Social media was given as part of the reason for this and the instant score of popularity with the number of likes we receive when we post something on the internet. When we receive 100 plus, euphoria; when we receive fewer than 6, a cloud of gloom.
Well, this old woman of too can also be affected by it. And I am supposed to be mature. I will pass on the words that came into my mind when I first set up the blog.
In the words of Eva Perron on her death-bed as written in the musical Evita:
I thought the more that loved me, the more loved I’d be; but these things cannot be multiplied.
All I want to do is connect with a few others and share my experience and understanding of Divine Love despite or perhaps because of my human blundering as I journey on.