I hate it when I disagree with people I admire. I never know exactly how they will take it. I also have to wonder if I am wrong. So I end up mulling, thinking it through and figuring out where I stand.
I did that and now I am ready to say, “I got to disagree with you on this one, JT.”
A couple of days ago, JT Eberhard posted about emails asking him how to increase hit counts on their blogs. I imagine those authors look to JT as successful while accessible. Not that they want to be exactly like him but they somewhat admire JT’s social status.
JT explicitly states these emails “infuriate” him. I won’t argue with that. But he goes on to state why these emails annoy him in such a way to present the authors as being disingenuous and deserving of ire.
And I am not buying it, at least not fully. I might be wrong. There may be aspects of these emails that would give me more insight into the motivations of the authors. JT doesn’t present them. So far as readers know the people asked JT about his opinions on increasing blog traffic to their sight. They maybe even inquired if he was concerned about traffic himself. JT states that blog traffic is not a concern for him. I don’t disagree with his assertion. I believe him when he says that he had no idea of his stats prior to joining FtB. What I don’t believe is that he can divine the motivations of the people who email him about increasing blog traffic.
I don’t believe that JT can possibly know if a person motivated by increased traffic is disingenuous in their motivations to be a part of the movement.
I blog. I watch my stats. I care about increasing traffic. I might even ask someone one day, “how did you manage to get so many readers?”. None of this means my primary, secondary, or even tertiary motivation is popularity. Hell, I blog anonymously so how fucking popular can I possibly be. I still care about my hits. Let me explain why I care about my hits. If I wrote merely for myself I would be writing in a journal. When I write on a blog I write for an audience. I want to make a difference in the way people think about a number of topics. I feel like my perspective has a chance of doing that. I want to connect with the world using my words. It took me many years to believe, just a little bit, that the words I write may be capable of connecting with the world. It took me most of my life to have an inkling that anyone would care.
Surprisingly, some people have cared (at least in the short time I’ve been at this). People caring about my words is not only “flattering” to be but also important to why I choose to continue to blog. If I am going to take the time and money to put my efforts into blogging (cause this shit ain’t easy for me) then at least a modicum of traffic is necessary to keep me motivated.
That isn’t to say that no traffic strips me of my motivation to be active in other ways. Traffic just serves as a reasonable motivation to blog. There are other motivations to be active in other ways.
But what if those emails come from people who have no other means to be active? What if blogging was a person’s only means to change the world. Shouldn’t they fucking care that their words reach as many as possible? According to, JT, no because they should be “out doing shit,” instead of worrying about their numbers. That is awfully privileged of JT to assume that everyone can just go out and debate theists, start secular student clubs, even create a local meetup group. I guess we are supposed to ignore that JT has a social support structure that likely made his path into activism easy for him.
There is simply no way to tell how many bloggers have immovable obstacles preventing them from doing activism JT’s way. There is no way to tell if the person sitting at home concerned about blog hits is agoraphobic, too scared to come out to be active, or simply lazy. Consider someone like myself. I live in a small town in the south. Teachers openly pray in the public schools here. Extremely vocal atheist activists in a town like this one risk perpetual unemployment. That doesn’t mean I am not active. I am. I am just not out debating theists in public. I have to take a more strategic route towards tearing down religion. Some people in small towns like myself can’t come out of the closet on most fronts, but there’s also no way to tell if these people are not “out doing shit” themselves. They might just be doing it anonymously. They might just not be telling JT about what they are doing. It also doesn’t mean that they can’t be concerned about blog hits while they are “out doing shit.” I am rarely at home when checking my stats (I save home time for writing and doing a plethora of chores.) Typically I just go to a bookmarked page on my phone and give it a quick look. I can easily check how the blog is doing while I am out acting like a “proper” activist.
So yeah, I’m disappointed. I get that it’s easy to get angry at disingenuous people. I just don’t agree that JT can possibly know if they are actually disingenuous. People have all sorts of motivations, all sorts of limitations that affect their participation in the atheism movement. By assuming motivations and shouting “poser” at fellow bloggers JT only serves to discourage them and possibly other potential voices.
Then again, JT may not be making assumptions at all. He may be privy to a context he has chosen not to share. My point remains the same. It is not disingenuous slacktivism to care about blog hits and JT’s post (whether intentional or not) insinuates that it is. That insinuation is wrong.