One of the things that blogging is often touted for is the ability to make connections between people all over the world with similar interests, lifestyles, and struggles. After about fifteen years of blogging, journaling and otherwise being an online oversharer, I can bear witness to this being totally true. I’ve become acquainted (and even close friends) with some truly amazing people via posting my random thoughts on the web over the years.
Recently, I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut. I blog… I tweet… I comment… I’m involved in blogging related communities…. but I feel more disconnected and isolated from my fellow bloggers than I’ve ever felt in my entire blogging history and I found myself wondering why that might be.
As I found myself reading the blogs of a couple of ladies in the last week who were reaching out on their blog for support and connection, I found myself writing comments and then taking pause as I was just about to finish and realizing that I didn’t want to hit the submit button. Writing a blog comment seemed terribly impersonal! Instead, I tracked down their email links and explained that I felt my comment was more appropriate as an email. In one case, the lady happens to live in my neighborhood and we have arranged for a coffee date next week. In the other, I offered my willingness to email back and forth and my IM contact information.
Suddenly, I found memories flooding forward of days of blogging past. I started remembering a time before we were saturated in online connection… A time before the blog comment. Before Twitter. Before Facebook. Before a million other different social networking sites. Back when the only way to contact most of people that you read along with was an email address and perhaps an IM name. I remember a time when the fast majority of the blogs I read were people whom I had daily IM conversations or exchanged nearly daily emails with (but more often IMs).
Over the years, this has become less and less the case. It’s rare that I hear from a reader of my blog anywhere outside of in my comments or on Twitter. If I do hear from someone via email, it’s generally regarding a exchanging a guest post or a button… rarely is it to start a conversation about something that I might have said… and you know, that makes me sad… but I also think it’s something that I can take steps to do something about, and if you’re feeling the same way… you can too!
One, reply to comments on your blog in emails rather than on your blog. You know, now that I’m saying that it seems so completely obvious of a way to connect with other bloggers and in particular ones who’ve taken an interest in something that you’ve written… but, it’s something that I’ve rarely ever done. Probably because I totally get excited when my comment count for a post gets into the double digits, even though I know that half of the comments are mine…. but the the downside to artificially bloating your comment count is often times your commenters never see your reply because most people don’t bother subscribing to follow-up comments via email, because honestly? It’s a real inbox clogger and depending what solution you offer on your blog, sometimes hard to unsubscribe to and unless they’re really really interested in what you might reply, they’re probably not going to remember to check back either. You’re more likely to get to know your readers if you email them!
That said, you ought to be commenting with accurate email information, and if you’re commenting on blogs that are powered by Blogger, you need to make sure that you’re not a no-reply blogger (see tutorial to make sure that you aren’t) so the owners of the blogs you comment on can write you back!
Two, if for some reason you don’t feel completely comfortable commenting on someone’s blog post, send an email! Sometimes someone shares something on their blog that really strikes a chord with me but I feel too uncomfortable to post it on their blog because it’s not something I readily talk about in mixed company. Or I want to ask a question that I suspect the answer might not be something the blogger wants to reveal publicly. Rather than just ignoring the impulse, I try to email the person. Sometimes I get a reply, sometimes I don’t… but it’s a great way to reach out.
Three, if someone emails you… by all means respond! I am SO guilty of not replying to the follow up emails that people have sent me to their comments, and I think I miss really meaningful chances for discussion on a daily basis, simply because I was either too busy, or too lazy, and occasionally too afraid to email back and start a conversation.
That said, I also think that if you don’t receive a reply back every time any time you reach out to someone that what you say isn’t important or that the blogger for some reason doesn’t like you. People want to connect, but people are also often busy. I don’t mean to ignore replies, but I do tend to only reply to things that seem really important to reply to. Like for example… if you emailed me to thank me because I posted that I liked your pants on your blog, chances are you probably aren’t going to hear from me… but if you ask me a question about something, I totally will.
More often than not today, I feel like sometimes we get really caught up in trying to comment and tweet and make all of our interactions with each other public, and to be honest… They don’t have to be. There’s something just as rewarding in getting to know someone via an email or IM.