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Lost in cyberspace: Bloggers cope with rejection


Some bloggers feel frustrated and lonely when no one reads their online journals. (Photo by Ana E. Azpurua/CNS)


For some, the blogosphere can be a very lonely place. Like throwing a party that no one attends... (Photo by Ana E. Azpurua/CNS)


Bloggers' lack of readership has inspired plenty of related merchandise, like this t-shirt. (Photo Courtesy of J! )

Blogging can be rewarding and therapeutic. It can foster new friendships, rekindle old ones and provide an outlet for self-expression.

But, it turns out, the blogosphere can also be a very lonely place. Consider Tami’s woes: “Hi Everyone,” she wrote in a post. “I'm very discouraged now. NO ONE READS MY BLOG! Only 1 person, Manuel, follows it. I feel horrible!”

When such silence happens, many bloggers feel neglected. Some question their motives. Others may get philosophical and wonder: If a post falls in cyberspace and no one reads it, does it exist?

Hopeful bloggers, take note: most Internet users in the U.S. don’t read blogs. In December 2008, only one-third, or 32 percent, of Americans interviewed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported reading other people’s blogs. That’s down from 2006, when 39 percent of the Internet users said they visited online journals.

Attention is a rare and unequally distributed commodity in the blogosphere. “One percent of the blogs accounts for 99 percent of the traffic,” said Michael Stefanone, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Communications who studies blogs. “There’s a few very popular blogs out there, but for the most part there’s very, very limited readership.”

With a potential audience of millions, getting no comments can be very frustrating, sort of like throwing a party that no one attends. “There is a group of people that I call disconnected bloggers,” said James Baker, a psychologist and researcher at the Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia, who is studying the phenomenon. “They were people that didn't have many comments, didn’t have many readers and weren’t satisfied."

The reasons no one reads a blog can be complicated. Perhaps surfers haven't found the site, or the writer's voice isn't distinct enough from others on the same subject. Or it could be that the blogger offers more personal information than readers want to know--a factor psychologists call disinhibition.

“People get very disinhibited, because they don't know who their audience is,” said Patricia Wallace, author of “The Psychology of the Internet” and senior director at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. That leads people to show more emotion when writing online—and to reveal more intimate details than they would normally offer.

Opening up online can lead some bloggers to feel rejected when they don’t get the response they want or expect. “When these bloggers are putting their souls out,” said Wallace, “it comes as quite a shock when people are not making any comments at all.”

Bloggers who don’t get comments or site visits may decide to give up. “Is it worth it?” wrote one blogger. “Should I keep updating it?” asked another. “If I blog about nothing and nobody reads my blog about nothing, have I been productive?” wondered an aspiring writer.

Frances Herndon, a 26-year-old mother of a 2-year-old, recently thought about closing her blog. “I’m just another ‘mommy’ blogger who spends time posting things that may never be read,” she wrote in a March 24 post. She blogs to update family and friends on her life, and to connect with other young parents.

Herndon's post generated a lot of sympathetic responses. “You know of my own blog struggles,” wrote one reader. “I understand your search for the ‘what’s the point?' answer. Ultimately, if you’re not doing it for you, then there will be no point.” Herndon plans to keep her online journal.

Angela Kopyn also felt blogging was taking up too much of her time, and she wondered if anyone would even notice, or care, if she stopped.

“You always publish something hoping that someone will read it and hopefully comment,” she said. “When it doesn't happen, it's a little disappointing. I try to remember that I'm doing this for myself.”

Sill, in the blogosphere, some people “live and die by comments,” she said.

In its State of the Blogosphere 2008 survey, Technorati asked bloggers how they measured their blogs’ success. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they measure it by personal satisfaction, 58 percent by how many comments they receive, 53 percent by unique visitors, 46 percent by links from other sites and 39 percent by RSS subscribers.

Expectations can affect a blogger's happiness, and many actually prefer small audiences. Perceptions about the audience also factor in, said psychologist Baker. “Some people are never satisfied,” he noted.

Others take a lighter approach from the beginning, seemingly expecting that they won’t have much of a following. They call their journals “Nobody Reads This” or “The Least Read Blog On The Web.”

Lack of readership inspired the band Sprites to write the song "I Started a Blog That Nobody Read," sort of an anthem for neglected online journals. It’s based on the “many failed and unread blogs” of one of its founders, Jason Korzen, according to the band’s Web site.

Neglected blogs have also spawned plenty of related merchandise. Among other things, CafePress sells a white teddy-bear with the message “nobody reads my blog.” And when the staff at J! told founder Sean “Jinx” Gailey that his blog was generating no traffic, the California entrepreneur created a T-shirt telling the world about it.

“Lots of bloggers out there seem to relate to that sentiment, and it actually sold quite well,” said Gailey. “I’ve seen my readership triple since that shirt was released in November of 2008.”

But for some blogs, the lack of readers can be fatal. One writer named Paul posted this touching farewell in February—though it likely had few readers: “I’m pretty sure nobody reads my blog anymore anyway, so I am going to shut it down. I don't have the time or energy it takes to make a blog fun, and I don't have any readers to keep me motivated. Thanks.”

A quick Technorati search indicated Paul kept his word: “Sorry,” it reported, “the blog you were looking for does not exist.”