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Why are you Reading This?

2 July 2013

Most of my blog traffic comes from twitter, where I mostly engage with scientists and academics of various stripes. Many of them are bloggers too. I read lots of their blogs. Sometimes I comment on them. Sometimes they comment here. In general, I don’t get so many comments on my blog. But I know it’s not that people aren’t reading. I get a reasonable amount of feedback over on twitter about posts that people appreciate.

It’s a little puzzling to me that some of my least-read posts are the science ones. But, truth be told, I’m not a very good scientist. And my posts about science don’t begin to approach the rigor of, say, Scicurious. And also because I somehow fell primarily into a crowd of biology-oriented folks who quite reasonably have no real reason to be interested in healthcare delivery engineering. And healthcare delivery engineering is a small enough field that there isn’t a huge community of us.

When I write about alcoholism, I get a few more readers. And the previous post to this one, about abortion, was the most-read post I’ve ever written. Meta-science will occasionally draw readers – grantsmanship, paper-writing, why not to get a PhD – but for the most part, I don’t really know what people want to read or why. I know that writing about alcoholism has led to a number of people contacting me for help. People who have become very important to me.

Last night I had dinner with @girlscientist. She was visiting ECC and we decided to go grab a quick dinner in a brief open moment in her very busy schedule. We talked a little bit about this blog, and she asked me what I get out of it. And you know what? I’m not sure. I told her: “I think it’s less about what I get out of it, and more about what I put into it.” So she said: “So it’s more like and online diary.” It wasn’t a question. And she’s right.

Why am I writing my diary out loud on the internet? I don’t want to be alone. I’ve spent most of my life lonely. In recent years, I’ve learned how to be less lonely even when I’m solitary. I’ve learned how to bring myself to a relationship, rather than expecting another person to change how I feel.

I am now a man in the middle of his life. I am still youthful, but I am not young. It took me longer than most people to figure out how to cut through the reflections and echos. How to see people as themselves and not as imagos and caricatures, contorted into shapes I assign for them. I’ve never been great at empathy. I remain unclear about what the world wants from me. I remain unsure about what I want from the world. Though I don’t necessarily envy those who are clear, who are sure.

What is this space for? Am I just howling into the digital dark? And, if I am, does it serve me? Why are you reading this? Why am I writing it? I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 July 2013 07:35

    I’m reading it because… I don’t know! I’m another one of the Twitter crowd, and I certainly must have ended up here because of one of the biology-types that are on your twitter feed a lot. Maybe even @girlscientist. I read it because it’s personal and because it’s compelling and because it’s interesting hearing other people’s thought processes. Maybe a little because it’s outside of my own life experience and that intrigues me. But I write for similar reasons: whether or not any biology grad students get anything out of my blog, writing it is very cathartic and when the comments do come it’s a reminder that I’m not on my own here!

  2. 2 July 2013 08:09

    I started blogging because I was lonely. I kept blogging (albeit sporadically, at times) because of the community I found, beyond just science, delving into deep personal realms. I don’t know whether it’s science or academia or just work environments generally, but it can be isolating. I think an aspect of ‘professionalism’ is keeping it professional, keeping personal stuff out. It’s important for career, but we can lose sight of the personal struggles and triumphs, the underlying chords that are an integral part of the music. Subconsciously we know they’re there, but we assume, in other people’s lives, they’re subtle and harmonious. This community provides a space to feature them. To connect with people as people and not just professionals. To find that we’re no alone in having stuff going on in our lives.

    I suppose that’s a long winded way to say: I’m here – reading this blog specifically & in the community at large – for the people, the openness and the honesty that let’s me know I’m not alone.

  3. 2 July 2013 08:59

    FWIW, my actual science posts get little traffic (unless they deal with cannabis dependence in some way and the denialistas start in). In the ScienceBlogs days, this was a regular observance for those who did a lot of ReasearchBloggingTM in combination with “other”. The comment payoff always was negatively related to the blogger effort on a post, went the meme.

  4. Ruth permalink
    2 July 2013 09:17

    I am not a scientist nor am I important in any way. I am not an alcoholic. I read your blog & follow you on twitter because I find your mind fascinating & your writing compelling & helpful. I stayed up all night once reading everything you’ve ever written (that I could find). Many of your alcoholism posts seem to apply to life problems in general & some have brought me to tears. What more can one ask for? πŸ™‚ I also appreciate your wit & sense of humor. I hope you keep writing.

  5. Dee permalink
    2 July 2013 10:53

    I read this and other blogs because it gives insight into how people think which I would otherwise not have. I love people watching and I think that reading blogs is little bit like that. I can observe and assess from a distance. Blogs also help me realize that I’m not alone in my insecurities, fears and experiences in life. I don’t read the science posts through mostly because I don’t think I’d understand them even if I did read through. I did however enjoy that simulation that you posted once.

  6. 2 July 2013 15:03

    My blog poses same question with similar responses. It is just my online diary more for me than the reader.

  7. Syd permalink
    2 July 2013 16:48

    I read other blogs because I do feel connected to the people who write them. They are cyber “friends”. I don’t know anything about your field although I do know a little about modeling (ecological and physical). I enjoy the honesty of your posts. You aren’t lecturing to the reader but simply laying things out there. I like that. I write on my blog because it is an online journal of sorts. It isn’t as detailed or as revealing as my written journal but allows me to share some of what I am experiencing in this life with others. I used to blog more about Al-Anon, but have found that I was beginning to be repetitive and didactic. I prefer to just share about living, although lately there appears to be a lot of sharing about dying too! Anyway, I do read you every time that you post. I don’t comment every time because there are some posts about which I feel unqualified to post. Thanks for being here.

  8. 2 July 2013 18:35

    I read your blog because you have a way with words that makes me see and feel things from another person’s point of view. As I’ve told you, my dad is an alcoholic – no longer drinking but still has the same mindsets sometimes. Your blog helps me feel empathy for him where I used to just feel anger.

    I also like your science posts because I find what you do important and intriguing. We’ve all sat in the ER for WAY too long before and know hospitals don’t run as efficiently as they could. Also, you get really excited about your science and I love reading people who get excited about their subject.

  9. Kelly permalink
    2 July 2013 20:41

    I read you because you are interesting. I think I stumbled across you via your niece’s blog, but I don’t really recall. You write honestly and openly and that makes for a good reading experience. I think I write for the same reason you do- I approach it like a diary of sorts. I put it out in the open because I like the connections I make through doing so- I like reading and responding to others blogs, too.

  10. Lisa permalink
    4 July 2013 15:07

    I think you journal here because you have honest things to say about your experience that will help someone. It is also a great venue to practice opening yourself up in a strangely public type of diary while remaining (for the most part) anonymous. I wish I had the discipline and inspiration to do it myself!
    I follow you because once upon a time we both reclaimed our lives by waving a white flag and turning over our will in the same wonderful facility. You are my touchstone to that time and place. And, like Ruth up there, I thoroughly enjoy your writer’s voice.

  11. 6 July 2013 06:59

    I have read your blog for years! I like it because it is honest, intelligent, and well-written. I am not a scientist, but I work in healthcare. I am also a sober alcoholic.

    I started blogging because I had an injury that prevented me from physical exercise and I was going batty. Once I found the community aspect of it, I was hooked. Probably because I too am lonely. Mine is now a journal. I couldn’t continue being a single-message blogger after 7 years. The days I get the most hits are days when I am miserable or in crisis. Sad.

  12. Kim permalink
    7 July 2013 02:58

    Your experience, strength and hope.

  13. Kath permalink
    19 June 2014 17:24

    I am an Alanon member and read inspiring blogs. Glad I found yours and thank you for sharing

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