Sitemeter and sin

June 14, 2007 | Uncategorized | 16 comments

For those of you who have blogs, I ask: Do you find yourself tempted to the sins of pride or vanity when it comes to checking visitor statistics?

For a while I was lucky in this area. Way back when I started this blog my sole purpose was to seek answers and have reasonable, focused discussions about religion. Because of that, I specifically did not want a lot of readers. The fact that I only had an average of nine visits per day for months and months was just fine with me.

But as the site has grown I must admit that I feel a twinge of anxiety if I see a significant drop in readership or if the number of Bloglines subscribers goes down. And when the 2007 Blogger’s Choice Awards nominations came around I was shocked that my site was on the first page in the Best Religion Blog category for weeks, at one point ranked as high as #5. I tried to tell myself that that’s not important, who cares, but I admit that I gritted my teeth a bit when I saw that Et Tu had slipped to the second page (leave it to me to turn a blog about seeking God into a forum for pride!)

This was all brought into relief when I closed comments and turned off stats for Lent. I really thought that that wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I found myself surprisingly anxious to know if anyone was even reading my blog anymore. Every time I was tempted to log in to my Sitemeter account or check to see if the number of Bloglines subscribers had increased, I was forced to admit my pridefulness, and to ask myself if my motive was the glory of God or the glory of Jen.

And once I finally got used to not knowing if I had any readers I felt like my writing was more honest, more in tune with the Holy Spirit than at any other time. It sounds crazy, but it was easy to believe that not one single person was even reading my blog anymore. And it was a wonderfully freeing concept — my self-consciousness faded and I began to think of my little posts as more of a conversation between myself and God.

Anyway, I don’t think that wanting to know how many readers you have is always sinful. Watching visitor trends can help you create better content, and it’s only natural to be curious about how many people are reading what you write. Yet I think there’s a slippery slope that’s easy to go down, where you start to care a little too much about other people’s “approval” of you in the form of increased hits.

What do you guys think about this? Has anyone else ever found looking at visitors statistics tempts you to pride or vanity?

16 Comments

  1. Martin

    I do check my site’s (Papal Encyclicals Online) statistics about once or twice a day or so. I’m just curious to see what referrals sites are linking to me and how many hits and page views I get. I can’t really say it’s an occasion of sin … but I do like seeing the numbers when it get lots of activity. Back when Pope John Paul II died, it got many thousands of hits a day for a while.

  2. Livingsword

    Hi Jen;

    Interesting blog, I think you make some good points, and I can see why your blog is so popular (all that and this is my first visit). Here are some simple thoughts of mine, I think it comes down to religion and rules against a genuine relationship with God. If a person is trying to live by religious rules of conduct it is much easier to fall into the trap of sinning in these ways (note I said “easier”, we all sin). If your focus is upon your relationship with God then because that is the fulcrum of your life it is much more difficult to sin. For example if I keep as a “high priority thought” how much I love my wife that is much better than thinking “Do not commit adultery”. Relationship trumps “being good”, religion and rules.

  3. Milehimama

    I pretty much ignore the Sitemeter stats – I just use the referral page to make sure nobody’s coming across my site by Googling creepy things like “pretty little girls + swimsuits” or something.
    Bloglines are another matter… I sub to my own blog, so I can see what it looks like in the Blogline view, and also so I can see how many subscribers I have! I don’t think I take pride in it, but I do get disappointed when I lose subscribers – but I think of it more like a friend who stopped calling, or a neighbor who just doesn’t wave hello anymore. I wish when people unsubbed I knew the reason!

    Mama Says

  4. Sarahndipity

    I’ll admit it: I want a lot of readers. My blog is pretty new, and I don’t have a lot of readers yet, which is fine, because I have a lot of other things going on and I haven’t put a whole lot of effort into my blog yet. But yeah, someday, I hope to have a lot of readers. I agree that one could fall into the sin of pride by caring excessively about their stats. I admit I envy people who have very successful blogs – how do they do it?! It’s like the readers just materialize out of nowhere. LOL.

  5. William Eunice

    I have anywhere from 10 to 20 readers per day and almost all of them are from Google searches. I am happy with it. Twice I have made someone raving mad and thus my readership for short time frames increased to as much as a couple of hundred a day. I also have an increase to about 50 readers a day around Easter because of a static link in a Wikipedia article (I didn’t add it mind you) … Easter weekend nets closer to 200-300 a day … I don’t care about readership at all though. I actually relax when it goes back down.

    You do a great job. That is why people read your blog. Read your SiteMeter because it is interesting information and it helps you to understand what you can do to better serve your readership. Turnover pride to God. To me the fact that you identified it as a possible source of pride leads me to believe you are a substantial portion of the way towards defeating it if it becomes a problem.

    I like looking at Google search term rankings as well. I was Top 10 for “excuses to avoid the in-laws” at one point … I am not a blip on the radar for that topic today though 🙂

  6. newhousenewjob

    I’m quite new to blogging, and when I started I thought I was doing it for myself and wouldn’t care if nobody ever read it. Now, I admit to being an avid reader of the stats – and you’re right, it can be a real occasion of pride. When I’ve written a post that I’m proud of, I get disappointed if nobody comments on it, so I check sitemeter to see if anyone has actually read it. And I do searches quite regularly to see if anyone has linked to me – I’ve even been known to get cross if someone has written on the same topic as me and not linked to my post!

    I realised at one stage that I was writing things in a certain way not necessarily because that’s the way I thought, but to please a certain expected audience. I do at least try now to be more true to myself, but there are definitely all sorts of temptations attached to the ability to see how many readers you have and what they seem to like reading.

  7. Barb

    I have a blog on Xanga (I cane to you from the Darwins). My sitemeter counts are lower this past 6 months (I only have 65 subscribers now), but I think it’s because more people keep leaving Xanga to come to blogspot or are simply bored with blogging.
    I do have a problem with the blogging awards…I’ve always hated what seems to be popularity contests. What really annoys me is when people ask you to vote for them on their blog.
    I do admit that it bothered me at first that my numbers dropped, but I’ve told myself that I’m blogging for me, for my children and hopefully, to be a quiet evangelizer. I try not to worry about how many people are reading. I have other moms who read my blog who aren’t Catholic and even if the numbers are low, I hope that somehow I am a witness to my faith.
    I love having a record of my life journey these last two years. I’ve printed many of the pages out and think that it will be great for my kids to have someday. They don’t always appreciate what I write now, but someday they may be able to read my posts and know me even better.
    I’m trustful that the dear Lord will send people to read when He wants them to. I have had people tell me that they’ve stumbled on my site and have read something that has touched them. Some have kept reading, others have not. But I try to keep in mind that even if it only helps me, my children someday, or even just one other person to grow in their faith, then it is all worth it.
    I have enjoyed reading your posts these last few weeks and have gone back and read some of your older posts. I love reading about other people’s faith journeys.
    You have definitely made me glad that I don’t live where there are scorpions! I have a whole new appreciation for winter….hehe..somehow the ants in my kitchen don’t seem so bad any more.
    May our dear Lord bless you and your family abundantly!

  8. Patrick

    So far pride is the least of my problems because my readership is very low! Sometimes I wonder if the tracking software is working right.

    If you are truly writing with the goal of helping people, then added readership is a good thing. It means more people are finding your words to be helpful. Just don’t let it go to your head and I think it’s fine to look at the stats.

  9. majellamom

    Well, I have to admit, that I didn’t tell anyone (any friends or family) about my blog for over a year…and I pretty much have no readers! (Okay, a cousin and her husband do read and comment occasionally!) But, my blog was meant as a place for me to vent off some steam and generally ramble for my own amusement, so I doubt I’ll ever have many readers.

    If I wrote about something more important, I probably would struggle with the pride issue, though.

  10. Adoro te Devote

    A friend sent me the link to sitemeter, and I downloaded it on my last computer, an old laptop. But I didn’t really do much with it either because I didn’t understand it and didn’t care to figure it out, and/or the stats weren’t matching up with comments. For example, it would say “0” even though I had 5 comments on a post.

    So I figured it was useless and didn’t even bother to read the weekly updates.

    Since I’ve gotten my new computer, I haven’t bothered to get a site meter. I have no idea what my stats are, I hate numbers, they mean nothing to me, never will, and I wish numbers were not part of God’s creation. In fact, I do believe numbers were invented in Hell for the purpose of torturing human beings through various means.

    Get rid of the statcounters. They don’t matter. Are you writing for God…or for some diety called “statistics”?

    🙂

    Sorry, I just never “got” that obsession so many write about.

  11. Renee

    I don’t use site meter or even allow comments on my blog, but I do feel good when I get an email from someone. I also do take in consideration a negative one also, it reminds of who is reading my blog and what content I would like to share with them.

  12. Peter

    Good comments on an important topic!

    I came across your blog some months back and added it immediately because I was challenged by the depth and humilty of your comments.

    I too am tempted by the stats thing. In fact you’ve inspired me to post on the matter! 🙂

    Thanks again for a great thought starter, and some good spiritual insights.

    Pete

  13. Theocoid

    I can’t say I’ve had to grapple with that problem much. I just like to see WHO’S reading.

  14. Darwin

    I guess I just tend to see it as a performance metric (marketing persona intruding here…)

    I tend to see the blog as a small circulation magazine I’ve committed to publish, so I figure when the traffic picks up that means I’m writing good content and putting enough up, while if it falls off a lot it means I’m slacking or not being very interesting.

    So while I don’t think I see it as a pride thing, I certainly check it often.

  15. Margaret in Minnesota

    Dear Jen,

    No, you are definitely not alone in this area. Satan knows the chinks in our armor, that’s for sure.

    I find myself wondering, what would St. Maximillian Kolbe have done? Because you just know that he would have used the internet!

    Have a blessed weekend, friend.

  16. Ann V.@HolyExperience

    You’ve encapsulated my own sin, and why I’ve blogged for the last three years without comments… Your experience mirrors my own: freeing, opening, peeling back the layers to honesty.

    Writing simply for an audience of One. The only audience that matters.

    (As for site meters, I often wonder if checking them is much like David doing a census–checking out his own strength, instead of relying on God’s. I want Him to lead whomever He chooses to read… and not me “taking a census”… And as to blog awards– yes, me too. Father, decrease us so that You may increase…)

    Every blessing to you…
    All’s grace,
    Ann

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