4. It’s not mandatory to join the blogging conversation

Blogger wearing a t-shirt with logo "I blog", speech bubble says "no comment"

That’s right: it’s OK to blog without reading or commenting on other people’s blogs! There’s no law against it. It’s fine.

My last post was about the frequency and time spent by older bloggers on writing a blog vs. reading and commenting on blogs. As you saw, respondents had very different habits, and some never read other blogs or commented on them.

I hope this post will help if you struggle to read all the blogs you follow, if you feel anxious or overwhelmed or even guilty for not reading and sharing enough. You’re not alone: many people in our survey indicated that they feel this way.

I’m here to tell you that you can stop right now—stop feeling worried, I mean, not stop blogging. Do it your way.

If you are (like me) pretty committed to reading what others write in their blogs and comments —and it’s obvious that I find your comments fascinating—then it can be hard to understand why anybody would say firmly, “I don’t read blogs” or “I don’t comment.” After all, you understand the blessings of a dynamic online community, and the delight of discovering a kindred spirit or a “friend” out there in the blogosphere. For you, at least half the point of blogging is the social side. You feel puzzled and maybe even a bit indignant at the idea of just doing your own thing online.

Yet not commenting is extremely common. That is pure speculation on my part, but I state it boldly based on information from ManageWP.com:

Here’s an incredible fact: together, you published more than 660 million posts on WordPress.com in 2015, and made more than 655 million comments.

Surprise surprise: the ratio of posts to comments was virtually 50:50 in 2015, and I doubt this has changed very much. Now, it’s unusual for a blog post to have only one comment—it’s far more likely to have zero comments or several, don’t you think? This implies that the vast majority of blog posts have no comments at all; which in turn implies that the majority of bloggers don’t comment. I deduce that:

  • many people blog but don’t read other blogs
  • many people read but don’t blog
  • most bloggers don’t comment

Since I began researching this topic of older bloggers, I have become less and less and less judgemental. Sure, we have common guidelines such as don’t be mean, don’t tell lies, don’t promote your own blog on somebody else’s, and so forth. But apart from these basics, everyone finds their own niche, their own style, their own goals—and yours are rarely mine.

But why would any blogger deliberately avoid reading and commenting on blogs?

There are many reasons for deliberately deciding not to read or comment on other blogs. It’s not caused by a character flaw.  Let me gently suggest nine reasons, all of which are true of certain people I follow. They’re related to time available, other pressures, and the purpose of the blog. You can doubtless think of many others.

  1. A blog may consist of highly academic long articles by someone who has a full-time job and blogs in his own time.
  2. A blogger may be very ill or recovering from a serious illness.
  3. A blogger may have a disability that makes blogging extremely demanding.
  4. A blogger may spend 40 hours per week researching high quality information, gathered not from other blogs but from primary sources such as reputable medical or legal government reports. She is performing a public service already, without chatting online.
  5. A blogger may have thousands of followers and get hundreds of comments each week; if she began to answer those comments, the high quality of her blog would drop—and high quality content is exactly why she has thousands of followers.
  6. A blogger may be so chronically introverted that just to publish anything is a triumph; to engage with readers would be just too painful.
  7. A blogger may use her blog exclusively for creative self-expression: readers are genuinely irrelevant to the writer.
  8. Some bloggers have lives apart from blogging, so they tell me!
  9. Although you and I may relish online social interaction, no personal blogger needs to justify a choice like this.

Many thanks to the readers who raised this topic—you got me thinking!

WordPress posts and comments are in the millions: article by ManageWP

63 thoughts on “4. It’s not mandatory to join the blogging conversation

      1. Yes, it’s a bit of an eye opener isn’t it. Doing something you enjoy just for the hell of it, is surely what really matters. So many would be writers have found a platform for their art, even if they aren’t writing best sellers etc.

  1. I missed the survey on this topic yet I enjoyed coming in now to read up.
    I like the list and I also love how you reminded readers that blogging their own way is what counts!
    Sometimes I think there is a bigger difference between reading and commenting and maybe cannot be combined so easily.
    I find that many readers read (or skim) but actually choose to not comment – and for good reasons:
    1. They are in read mode and good material will leave them chewing or pondering and isn’t it a different gear to switch from reading to feedback giving?
    2. They just don’t want to leave a comment for reasons like not intimate with blogger – not their style to chime in – or just don’t want to comment
    3 they don’t want to log in and maybe read signed out
    4 They do not comment because they feel as if “nice” or “enjoyed this post” would be an insult (and again – not everyone can switch the gest from reading to giving feedback)
    5 They do not comment because they know how permanent and wide open the blogosphere is and things can come back later to haunt them – and the most benign comment might later be part of a digital trail that gets attached to their name – and maybe it is better to remain silent
    6 they don’t comment because they want anonymity and it is a private matter that they even follow that blogger –


    There are likely more reasons – but when I sometimes have 200 views and 12 comments – it does not always means folks read all – but let’s assume half did – that ratio suggests reading and not commenting –
    Hm

    In closing – it can be socially exhausting to interact in the blogosphere and it can also be richly rewarding and a huge support system (as you noted) and just fun fun fun!
    And what has worked for me has been fasting from the sphere – even when not in the mood to pause!
    It has kept me fresh
    And only a
    Couple
    Of times I have had someone keep showing up who annoyed me –
    Only twice out of a couple thousand followers / now that is a sweet ratio!
    But the breaks sometimes lead to
    Returning with little interaction and then eventually some nice flow and convo exchanges /
    But pauses are key!

    Thanks for this great topic

  2. So true! I love the comments I get, and commenting on other people’s blogs – but I don’t always comment, or even “like” every post I read. It’s nothing personal – it just depends on what’s going on around me at the time.

    Now here’s a little piece of info I’ve learnt along the way: it’s not necessary to blog in order to comment! I know of a couple of people who’ve signed up with WordPress (and got themselves Gravatars) in order to join the conversations.

  3. This is so interesting. I am definitely in the read and comment camp. I used to follow a blog that rarely received any comments. When I commented, as I do, she never replied, nor did she ever comment on my blog. After awhile, I stopped commenting, then I unfollowed. I wasn’t interested in a one-way connection. That being said, I follow a few over-50 fashion blogs that I seldom comment on and, when I do, I don’t necessarily expect a response (unless I ask a question). For that type of blog that’s just fine. It took me awhile to develop a good following and loyal readers/commenters and I did it by activity seeking out bloggers I like, following them, and leaving relevant, thoughtful comments. I love these updates, Rachel!

  4. Hi Rachel – I’ve always wanted to get some interaction going … and love having my commenters ‘as friends’ … I’ll always reply and will always go across to comment on their blog. The main benefit for me is that I’ve educated myself so much since I started blogging … in so many areas of life – it’s just wonderful and I feel so enriched. Thanks for setting out on this quest about the blogging community – cheers hilary

  5. I think that we cause ourselves much unnecessary stress by worrying about what other people do when it has no effect on us. I don’t care if people blog all day long and never read any blogs! That has zero effect on my life. I also don’t keep score of who likes/comments back on my blog reciprocally when I visit theirs. I’m following around 200 more blogs than are following me… which ones? Idk! Does it matter? Nope!

  6. I have occasionally wished that, for writers of books (especially poems & novels) that moved me, I could say something to them about what it was that stayed with me, even causing me to want to reread.

    So It’s nice here to be able send off reactions immediately, and know that the writer will see them

    A danger for some may may be that once you leave a comment or two, you might feel either a kind of social obligation to keep up contact or, worse, an expectation that that person will comment on your comment and eventually comment on your own writing, if you do that online.

    (“You” is me, of course. I’m sort of talking to myself. Actually I do that a lot. Self-therapy. It helps, and it doesn’t cost.)

    1. I think you understand the delicate balancing act that you/we/ people/ one performs when reading has a social potential. It’s a little weird but we/you/I/whoever can make it work.

  7. A fascinating post and some really interesting comments. Yes, I do beat myself up about, when I am really busy with the rest of my life, not commenting on blogs I have been in the habit of commenting on. I feel particularly guilty if they read/ comment on mine. I publish a post every few weeks and do my research in between posts – as and when I have the time. Some blogs I follow, who are kind enough to comment on mine, publish daily or several times a week so I get really behind and start to fret about it! Your post will help to free me of that guilt. Blogging is fun and if I start to worry about any aspects of it then it’s not going to be as enjoyable.

  8. I read and comment on almost all the blogs the writers of which visit and comment on my blog posts. There are some however whose posts cannot be commented on by me for either being gender specific or country specific or just on topics about which I haven’t a clue. I don’t consider doing this as a chore and quite enjoy being part of the blogging community.

  9. That ratio is so surprising, an average of one comment per post seems crazy. But like you say i think it’s more likely to be several for a small proportion of posts then none for most. I try and read as many fellow bloggers posts as I can but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the time. Always reply to any comments posted on our blog though as it seems so rude not to.

    1. I wonder what Miss Manners would advise? I believe only about 2% of readers in general leave a comment, but I am still hunting for evidence. If that’s true, older bloggers are astonishingly engages and courteous
      !

    2. The issue of courtesy keeps on arising. You’re right, there’s a difference between comments on your own blog and those of others. It’s as if people have entered your territory, and in real life you would not ignore them… unless… Oops, this could balloon into another post. As in, is your blog territory a home, an office, a public park…?

      1. Ah I think your blog territory is almost like your home. If others enter you want to engage with them and make them feel welcome and ultimately come back again.

  10. There is another thing (for me). If I read a quality blog post and immediately desire to comment my two cents, and I see there are already 50 or more comments (that’s just a random number) I may suddenly choose not to comment after all. Why? Because I am primarily blogging for the community aspect, the dialogue, the ‘friendship’. Like this post….I see 24 people ahead of me have already commented. I hesitated briefly…will the author even see my comment? Will any other commentor care about my buried deep comment on this post? (I realize approximately half the comments are from the owner of the blog but not all of them respond to all comments.). It’s not realistic to expect a response for every comment if you have hundreds of them, right? It’s a catch-22.

    1. You’ve hit the nail (well one of the nails) on the head. In such a case, when I read the comments I often find one that throws fresh light on the topic, or says roughly what I might have said, and I like that comment instead of joining in. It’s like nodding in a large, eloquent group.

  11. Well said! I am very engaged as a reader and commentator but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to be. And it is wrong to judge and condemn – your excellent article will help those who were perhaps a little quick to the harsh pedal to understand that we are not all made equal and that whatever we choose in this place is just fine so long as we are not unkind 🙂

    1. I appreciate your understanding. At first encounter with not-me behaviour my initial impulse is to pass judgement, but among my favourite words are “interesting!” And “but why?

      1. Ha! I am always suspicious if someone responds to something I say with “interesting” …. I always fear what is behind the word!

      2. I know it’s a killer as in “ I don’t like this but I want to be polite” or as in “interesting times”. I should say, I’m interested, because I really am.

      3. When I first lived in France I had to listen very intensely to understand the local rasping accent and would find myself murmuring ‘intéressant(e) over and over again and then worried if the person thought they were boring me. I have never found out if the word has the same effect in French and I think I might be best to leave it undiscovered – I get anxious enough as it is!!!

  12. After reading about “ interesting” I had to add my two cents. When my daughter was young and we ate at friends’ homes she was too blunt In her critique of the food. I asked her just to say the food was “interesting.”😂🤣😂

  13. When I first started blogging nearly four years ago I felt very shy and uncertain about commenting on other people’s blogs (who could possibly want to know what I think…?). It didn’t take long to get over that and realize that the community of bloggers is kind, welcoming, and inspiring. This community has helped me to become a better writer, to hone my ideas, and to explore new avenues. I have a book coming out in one month and it never would have happened if I had kept my writing to myself or resisted interacting with this community. I think one element of blogging is exercising courage.

  14. I think it’s funny that I am catching up on the blogs I didn’t have time to read, as I read this. I can’t imagine not reading others, especially those who comment on my blog. I learn so much, facts, near-facts, good opinions and writing styles I never would have considered, by reading others. I don’t always comment, but when I think I have something to say, I say it.

  15. Very interesting. When I came to blogging it was basically to put down my travel memoirs. Thankfully I took part in the WordPress Blogging 101 course and they stressed the importance of commenting. It was hard at first but boy did that open up a whole new world.

  16. The idea that most bloggers don’t comment elsewhere goes against all that blogging is about. Occasionally I stumble across a blogger who will gladly take my comments, but doesn’t reciprocate with comments on my blog. I find that rude, so I just stop reading/following them, making no big deal about it. I’ve always attributed that selfish behavior to poor socialization and low self-esteem. 😑

      1. I believe in blogging as a community, not as a stage on which other people can watch me. Therein may be the reason I comment liberally while other people don’t. But, you know, whatever…

  17. I like this article, people are too busy to comment on others people blogs because they had to many followers and/or follow too many people. So, they don’t have the time to respond to everyone. I understand that, and it doesn’t bother me when someone read my blog and don’t leave a message. In my case, I have a few followers and follow a couple of blogs because of that I have the time to read and comment on the post I read.

  18. I like how this was put and how it made me feel like it’s okay to not reciprocate any new comer coming and commenting on one of my posts. I often feel like ever since I started blogging, receiving comments make me feel obliged to return them back. More often i find myself not liking the idea of reading really long articles, even tho i sometimes go that route, but i do it because i was of the opinion that it’s a give and take. But I’m glad there is an understanding that sometimes, it’s hard to connect to everyone of my followers. I’m not quite sure if i put what i feel in the right words but this piece was amazing! Truly was.

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