Thursday, July 9, 2009

About "Followers"

When I entered the blogosphere as an active blogger, I learned how things work the way most of us do--by doing. I clicked and added and linked and posted and commented and followed. Wait, followed? What's that?

It's a way to subscribe to another blogger's RSS feed. It allows me to link to blogs that I find interesting, helpful, insightful, and worth keeping track of, and it helps me read the new posts by letting me know when they are posted. Once I subscribe, I become a "follower." Like so many e-life terms (like "friending" your DH on FaceBook--weird) this one was a bit uncomfortable. Following in real life seems to connote agreement by suggesting that the one who follows is aiming to go in the same direction as the one being followed. Going in the same direction can lead to an assumption of agreement and "rubber stamping" the ideas posted by the followed blogger. For me, following meant merely to keep track of and pay attention.

"What cool, interesting, insightful, or controversial thing will they say next?"

When I ask that question, I click the "follow this blog" button. I usually add bloggers who have the common link of bereavement or parenting struggles of some kind which fits "going in the same direction," but it feels more like we walk together or meet along the way--not follow.

Another bit of awkwardness about this "following" is that I now had followers. Weird, again. I don't think of my readers as aiming to follow in my path. Yikes! Who would want that? I have no delusions of guru. Rather I recognize that others simply have some interest in reading about my journey. They frequently comment, and sometimes don't, and both responses are fine and appreciated. I changed the title of followers to readers, but that sounded so impersonal, so I went with the FB term--friends, so my blog better reflects how I feel about them, but (and this is an UGH), Blogger insists on labeling them "followers."

Now, I've been on the blogosphere for nearly a year (I know, a neophyte), and have discovered an issue with this follower thing. Some bloggers find that they will have individuals stop following, and conclude that it's because of a post the follower disagreed with or was offended by. The now non-follower removes his/her link as a consequence of that disagreement or offending post. This feels crappy to the followed, and may result in hurt feelings. The blogger may become more careful with his/her future posts. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, we ought to be careful of the words we sling out into the universe for others to encounter. We should be careful not to incite hatred or spread vicious lies or be downright mean--because I think nice matters. But, perhaps, it's the term that's causing the trouble.

If we understood, that people read our blogs for a variety of reasons, we might not feel hurt if they stop following . . . or get a big head when we gain another "fan" as Google describes it. Not everyone who follows is a fan. If perhaps, we understood that following wasn't always a "hey, you're my hero" kinda thing, we might be better served. More importantly, we might better serve by contributing to a conversation about this most difficult and joyous life. (Yup, I'm goin' all human condition on ya.)

Sorting out my own participation, I made several conscious decisions about this follower thing. I like reading a wide variety of opinions and pathways, and my life is richer when I read posts with which I disagree and agree. So, if I'm a follower of your blog; I'm a fan!--meaning, "I love reading your blog." It's a gem when I discover a blog that pushes buttons, prompts me to see life in another way, or makes me go "hmmmmmm." It's also validating when I read a blog where the blogger's ideas resonate strongly with me. I see myself as 'reader,' and as I wrote before, I have no delusions that those who read my blog are following me. I like the way following allows the blogger to link, thereby expanding e-life connections, and I like the way following helps the blogger keep in touch with interesting people who are willing to articulate their life experiences, emotions, and what holds meaning for them. Oh, I also like the recipes and pics of the backyard, too!

In short:

Following is cool; I just don't like the label.


  1. And this is a cool post, as always. You are very clever.

  2. Well, I'm flattered that you have chosen to "follow" me. I haven't made myself anyone's follower yet, partly for the same reasons you outlined (I use Google Reader to follow blogs I like; what's the difference?) and partly because I'm lazy, lol. I need to do some updating of my blogroll, etc. Maybe on my upcoming vacation.

  3. This cracked me up! I hate that too. I even did a bunch of research to try to figure out how to change that stupid luck there. Blogger is smart! I did find that I could add a subsribe button, but then that takes off all my followers, which I like to have up so that others can click on them and wander on over to their sites...not that I couldn't just put everyone in a blog roll.

  4. I hadn't thought of it in these terms, because I don't use the google thingamabob...I use bloglines, which just calls it something boring like "my feeds" or something. I agree with Hope's Mama, though, that you are very clever. Also wanted to mention bloglines, as you may have more "followers" than you thought. :)

  5. I stumbled upon your blog tonight and just wanted to express my gratitude to you for the thoughts and experiences you have shared here on your blog. Next week will be the one year mark of losing our twin daughters. As I've read through some of your posts, I've appreciated how much of what you write is how I feel, too. From one grieving mother to another, thank you for writing and sharing.

    - Megan
    (mom to Elliana & Emmaline)

  6. I totally agree- it's odd to think of people as following me (especially since I follow many of them which leaves us going in circles :)). I'd renamed mine 'circle of support' because that's more of how it feels to me- those are the people supporting & encouraging me on my blog. (though as becomingwhole said I know there are others that also offer support without the follow button :))