2019: Top 10 blogs

[ Part 1: The story in the stats]

I used so many words pondering archives, bonfires and identity in Part 1 that I didn’t have space to reveal the top ten blogs of 2019.

Here they are:

  1. Social anxiety on social media (FEBRUARY 18, 2019)
  2. Katie Hopkins’s #fatstory one year on (JANUARY 18, 2016)
  3. Designing story (3): Archetypes and aesthetics (MARCH 5, 2017)
  4. Katie Hopkins’s #myfatstory is a story of vulnerability (JANUARY 5, 2015)
  5. My top blogs of 2018 (DECEMBER 23, 2018)
  6. Semiotics: Finding meaning in storytelling (NOVEMBER 14, 2016)
  7. Storytelling: Narrative, Databases, and Big Data (APRIL 14, 2016)
  8. The inner life: Tarot and technology (APRIL 18, 2019)
  9. Social-psychology-the-social-animal-on-social-media (1) (JANUARY 20, 2016)
  10. Maslow’s hierarchy of social media (APRIL 14, 2015)

As I said in the big data blog, the stats Jetpack collected didn’t seem to match up with the rest of what was going on my website. Often, I get people wanting to pay me money to either buy links or publish their content, which seemed a bit strange since Jetpack said that on average 12 people a day visited my site. So, I went back to the raw data on my cpanel which said that I get 1.2m hits a year around 300,000 people which was a huge surprise.

But, looking at raw data can take some time so I installed WP Statistics for a brief overview, which was nice for a while, and it is where I drew the above list from. At first, I thought that given that the data was only collected over a few months that it would be really different. However, it wasn’t. I compared the above list with previous years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and yes, it’s really similar except for the new number one: Social anxiety on social media which was amazing really as I felt quite vulnerable writing it and didn’t want to feel that raw and naked and fretted a lot about it. However, I am glad I did as it seems to have helped other people which is so lovely and I did a follow up vlog about social anxiety and emotional resonance as I really think that they are linked.

Three of the blogs also appeared on the all time Top Eleven Blogs (JANUARY 27, 2018) which I wrote to celebrate having blogged here for 11 years. Though the actual stats were from Jetpack which I installed in 2012 so instead of all time it should be of all six years which is not quite as dramatic, alas, I do like a definitive answer, we all do, we desire certainty.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself gazing again at my stats instead of blogging and this was around the same time I realised that there’s no real point sharing my blogs on Twitter and Facebook it doesn’t really affect the stats, unless it is something like the Comfort blog which is about grief and my mum and family resemblances. I got some click throughs from Facebook because I keep in touch with friends and family who knew my mum though I felt a bit shy talking openly about my feelings in front of people who have known me all my life, which is a bit odd when I think about it, as I say I always think I am blogging in a void and I am free to say whatever I think here. There was nothing at all on Twitter because that’s a different group of people and no one cares about my grief or feelings on there.

This is interesting (I laugh when I write this because my PhD supervisor used to say that it was not for me to say) because I read some research ages ago about being a different person on different social media platforms using the honeycomb model and I was not certain, especially when you use something like Jetpack as you can use its Publicize which just publishes every blog on every platform, and many businesses do the same. They will post the same content on every channel. But, since I had deleted Jetpack, I had to make the decision each time whether to share a blog or not, and then I found that I was getting navel gaze-y about it and didn’t feel that I wanted to share a post because no one cared, and so I was showing up differently on different channels, even though I didn’t believe it as I want to believe that I am consistent – what the heck? Why do I want to think that? Why is consistency so important to me? Apart from in HCI of course! I am allowed to change my mind. We are all allowed to change our minds. It’s how we grow. I’ve been blogging here so long now that I have expressed opposite opinions on the same topic quite a few times as I’ve learnt more or thought more. It’s all progress, and we say different things to different groups of people all the time, back to emotional resonance again, why waste your breath explaining your feelings to people, as my troll put it (hey babe), who just don’t give a shit!

The interesting thing (see again) was that WP Statistics showed me that regardless of whether I publicised my blogs on Twitter or Facebook or not at all my stats remained the same. So, that felt good, I don’t need to rush about on social media when all I want to do is blog, blog, blog. With that realisation, I deleted WP Statistics as I didn’t quite understand some of the interface and I couldn’t be bothered to learn how it should work, and also I had begun to create content specifically tailored to an audience, which would have – as you can see from the list – eventually led to more Katie Hopkins blogs and I just don’t want to do that. Two was more than enough. That woman came in (2) and (4). She is endlessly fascinating to some people but thankfully she has fallen off my radar and I intend to keep it that way.

Yesterday I was missing gazing at stats, so since then I have been playing with Slimstat which is linked to Infosniper which is an IP lookup but shows you it on a map, and that is pretty cool. I’ve had so much fun. It’s one thing to see hits and unique visits, but quite another to see that visit on a map and imagine someone sitting in their home or in a cafe in Shanghai or Jakarta looking at my website on their phone. Wow! How amazing is that? So far all the bots and crawlers live in NYC. Why is that? It’s so exciting!

At one point though, I was looking at my stats, and I thought oooh, that looks like my IP address, is something hacking me? So, I rushed into my husband and asked him if he had checked out my homepage on my website for three seconds. He had. He roared with laughter and called me a stalker! Nice. I now understand what the little clock thing means on the interface and how that gets hit – if you reopen your browser and my site is open then I will get a little clock it’s not just a very short or long time the human may have just left the browser open and isn’t looking at all.

But back to my top blogs which were measured between April and October 2019, apart from Katie Hopkins and social anxiety, the other six blogs are about storytelling and making sense of the world, or data, or life experiences, or other people, which we do because we all want to feel better and we all want to feel heard (the conclusions I come to in every blog, it’s ultimately what motivates us):

This is blog number 200 and though I don’t write here all the time, when I do, I use it as a tool to manage my feelings and thoughts. Ah yes, I do it to feel heard and I do it to feel better. So, the fact that people stay and read and occasionally comment is just so lovely, all over the world too. Amazing. I am heard all over the world. That is magic. So, thank you to everyone who spends even three seconds on my site, it is lovely to think that my words may touch other people and that they come back to read more, even if when I write them I think that I am all alone.

2019: Top 10 blogs or the story in the stats

I have a big box under my desk which is full of planners and journals and notebooks that I have dragged around forever and I am wondering, should I make a big bonfire out of them? I never look in them. I keep them, just in case.

I think my motivation is the same as Muriel Spark’s. I talk about it here in the Privacy blog (one of my personal favourites, just lately anyway), as Spark kept an archive as irrefutable proof of who she was and the experiences which had shaped her. She could use that archive to know the truth about herself. No one could tell her who she was.

I feel that. I want me to tell me who I am. It has always been my greatest fear to not know myself. Deepak Chopra says that the fear of death is just really the fear of not knowing who you are and once you know who you are, you are no longer afraid of death.

Having watched my mother withdraw from life, from herself, and from all the things which give life meaning, including who she was, I saw that not knowing who you are was quite different from the frightening thing I imagined it to be, to the point, that in some respects, it might be nice to not hold on so tight to everything, all those social labels, those constructed identities, the need to please, the desire to be seen as successful. That said, throughout my mother’s long journey on home, as it were, though she was my home, I wanted her so desperately to stay the same, be the her I had always known, and to still be here with me, so that I wouldn’t feel so lost and homeless.

After she died, I decided that I would use the money from her Estate to do something nice for me, so I applied to do a Creative Writing MA at my local university. At interview, I had to discuss one of the last five books I had read. I chose Elizabeth is missing (oh they are going making it into a BBC drama starring Glenda Jackson. Great joy).

The main protagonist has Alzheimer’s but she is never afraid of not knowing who she is or if someone is annoyed, perhaps even at her – it is what it is. She just carries on with her detective work, and the reader finds out what is going on from the other characters, which made me laugh out loud. I read it not long after my mum died and I was so comforted because I often worried about my mum’s distress and pain about not remembering even though she never seemed that bothered. One time I said to her: Oh there’s another Jean in here. And she nodded and then looked at me for a bit and nodded: Jean, Is that me? Am I Jean? Is that my name?

So, there I was in the interview, part way through explaining the book and comfort and experience and resonance (oooh no link, my fingers are itching to write a blog on resonance) and all the stuff ( good stuff) I blog about. And, I began to cry. I couldn’t speak so I cried for a good few minutes. The interviewer – white male middle class (patriarchal but thinks he’s not, bless him) – just looked at me expressionless and then offered me a tissue, and I cried into that until I finished off what I was saying and we carried on with the interview. It was very British. The only thing that was missing was a teapot. One lump or two? (I wish I hadn’t written that as it reminds me of discovering breast cancer.)

Sometimes, I think that it might be nice to retreat from the world, to choose to shave my head and go sit in a cave somewhere, with just a knotted hankie of my possessions and no social labels, just to connect with the divine. Although, I have just put a lovely blue rinse – wash in/wash out Pixie Lott promises me – on my fabulous long grey locks which have taken ages to grow, so no, not right now, perhaps I could take a mirror and a job lot of blue rinses: You look gorgeous.

The first time I had chemotherapy, I ended up in hospital with neutropenia. Lying in a hospital bed on a drip with the curtains closed feeling like death warmed up (as my mother used to say), which apparently I was, medically speaking, it wasn’t that bad. It really wasn’t that bad. I could barely remember my own name and couldn’t at all remember my date of birth, but that was ok, it was written on the tag on my wrist. I was detached from anything which had given me meaning and it wasn’t at all how I imagined it to be. It wasn’t frightening. It really was peaceful, nothing mattered, and if I had slipped away, it might, possibly, have been okay, selfishly, for me. Although, to be perfectly honest it has taken until now for me to come to terms with the reality that I had cancer.

Another time, in the chemotherapy room which made me nauseous – the stem cell treatment smelt like heated sweetcorn – a woman next to me was telling me that after a chemotherapy session she found it hard to care about anything including her beloved dogs, she said she literally threw food at them. I shared with her that it was the same with my babies, my longed for loved babies, the drugs were so strong as to disconnect us and life shrank down to the bed and the pains in my veins (she told me that she loved her central line and I was momentarily envious) from what had been injected in there. She looked better about it and I am glad we had that moment. I wonder how she is and I often think of her. I like to think of her walking her dogs, feeling happy, full of love.

Life is what it is in any given moment, and it’s easier, though nigh on, sometimes, impossible, to accept things as they are and remember even in the depths of despair, things change. Even when there is no hope, there’s always hope. At the very least, the hope that when the desperation passes there will be peace, even just briefly.

It’s odd to think that I got discharged so I can go about the world bombarded with adverts on every social media platform about shite that I have no interest in. It makes me want to look under the hood and tinker with the lazy algorithms, though the Match.com 30something handsome men who want a date with me ads aren’t so bad. You are as young as you feel ( I wouldn’t mind feeling me some 30, wink, wink – perverted old lady stereotype – nice, a new social label).

Offline, I have an immense amount of super boring transactional conversations about other people’s shite too. You know the type, when you have known people for years and seen them daily but still they never speak unless you make a big effort so that they notice you, they don’t reply to your email even though it’s about fun stuff our kids could do together, you have to go over and put your face in theirs and demand a yes or no because they are holding out on a better offer and don’t care if they hurt your kid’s feelings #wtf. They never remember your name, or your children’s until they find out that one of yours child goes to the school of their dreams and now they want to be your best friend and want information like you have some sort of insight. Oooh, perhaps they thought I tweaked an algorithm. An algorithm of life. A secret of life. Interesting. We often all think that, don’t we? That someone else knows something we don’t which is why they look like they are living on Easy St and we are stuck in the Five of Wands battling through life, our difficulties, our mental conflict.

Five of wands source: Tarotteachings

I love the Tarot, it has a card for every occasion.

So, I have deleted my stats plug-in, again, and today, I am thinking I might just write my own, as we can see, I like thinking about algorithms, and interpretations, I could do that. I have been pondering what to do and that I am done, stick a fork in me, I’m done. It might be nice to do something new within what I already know.

But, before I do, and before I deleted my stats counter- which reminds me of comedian Alan Carr’s very funny routine about his parents buying a shredder to prevent identity theft, if they carried on like that, they wouldn’t remember who they were themselves – I made a note of my ten top blogs of 2019 which now that this blog has gotten really long, I will analyse separately in: 2019 Top 10 Blogs the sequel.

In the meantime, I have to ask: Does it matter if we don’t remember who we are? Does it matter if I don’t drag around my past? Would I feel better if I made a lovely bonfire out of my journals and danced around it, naked as a new born, under the moonlight?

We are always changing, always experiencing new things. Perhaps, I could let go of the past, of the journals, of old ideas, old dreams, old goals, and with a big fire, I could create some space for dancing, dreaming, drumming and the odd quotation from ye auld Lao Tzu:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

– Lao Tzu

I have no idea what it means, I really don’t, but does it matter? It fills me up, it gives me hope.

Last winter I burnt all my old lecture notes and forgot I had and only remembered when I had turned the place upside-down looking for them. Turns out I got on just fine without them. I didn’t need them at all.

I’ve never needed my box of journals either but after I have emptied it, I may just leave it the box there as a den for the cats, and I will also leave a note, so that if I go looking for my journals and my past, I’ll find a cat and instructions:

Look inside your heart, Ruth, you’ll find everything you need.

– Is that me? Am I Ruth?

I used to be, my darling, I used to be.

[ Part 2: the list ]