The other day I had the fun of recording a podcast with Brent Schlenker, which then led to a much longer follow-up conversation. In the course of our discussion, we talked a lot about our blogs. One thing that came up is what I call "ego-blogging." Since our Skype call, I've been thinking more about it and can't get it out of my head.
In my mind, ego-blogging doesn't refer to writing a post about myself. Some of the best writing I've done has about me in some way.
No, to me, ego-blogging is when I write a post primarily because I'm hoping that it will get me noticed and that others will link to me. Writing these posts may interest me, in the way that virtually everything seems to capture my attention, but they don't ENGAGE me and there's a huge difference that I can literally feel.
Ego-blogged posts are the intellectual exercises. They are the the posts I write for other people, for some imaginary audience that I don' t know particularly well and with whom I haven't developed a connection because when I'm ego-blogging I'm NOT connected to other people. I'm living in my own head--or inside a search engine, more likely. Ego-blogging is blogging for a grade, rather than blogging because you want to learn or genuinely have something to share. It's the online equivalent of that kid from your 6th grade class who grubbed for every grade--and we all know how we felt about THAT kid.
There are a lot of signs when I'm in the grips of ego-blogging.The post just doesn't feel right, even as I'm hitting "publish." After it's up, I'll obsessively check my stats to see if there have been any visitors and scan my inbox for incoming comments. I'll have Technorati on reload to see if anyone else is linking to me, hoping, praying that they are. All the while, I'm feeling squeamish and uncomfortable, knowing that this is what I'm doing and yet somehow powerless to stop.
And the really bizarre thing (or maybe not) is that my ego-blog posts are not good. They are pedantic and inauthentic and a little too much like having a teacher give you a lecture. They are the posts I write from my head, not my heart and they violate the cardinal rule of blogging--be passionate about your topic. They are ugly, I hate them, yet they persist.
Although my 31 days to Building a Better Blog experience was a hugely positive one, something I've realized in the past few days is that it fed my ego-blogging habit and I'm not happy about that. I find myself searching for topics that I think will "sell" and obsessing all the time about what I'm going to write. Not because I have something to SAY, but because I must WRITE. I must produce a "good" blog or else. I've become unbalanced.
The worst part of ego-blogging is that you end up doing it alone. All of the things that attract me to blogging--the opportunity to have a voice, to state a point of view and be authentic, to connect to other people who share my passion and engage them in conversation, to learn from my experiences--I chase these things away when I fall under the spell of ego-blogging. I'm too busy worrying about "marketability" and not worrying about finding the things that I really want to say. I'm optimizing for a search engine, not optimizing my network of learning and people. I'm alone, disconnected from even myself, and I lose my way.
Then I have to find my way back. So this is me, on the way back.