Our survey asked older bloggers whether their blogs reflected one of three theories of ageing, how important their blog was in their lives, and how they measured their blog’s success. To generalise and paraphrase, they replied “Bad question!” to the first, “Moderately important” to the second, and “I measure the success of my blog by the pleasure and the interaction with people that it brings.”
An impossible question: three psychosocial theories of ageing
I’m interested in the different ways that people regard their own ageing, and used a blunt instrument to test this with our older bloggers. Out of only three statements, they were asked to choose the one that was most true for themselves.
- Blogging is a way to continue doing certain things that I have always done.
- Blogging is a way to keep myself active.
- Blogging is a way of withdrawing from the life that I used to be involved in.
Yes, a clear pattern emerged, with more than half choosing the first theory (continuity), more than a third choosing the second (keeping active), and a mere handful choosing the third (withdrawal).
But what does that mean? This pattern may have nothing to do with blogging, and may just be a norm among people in old age. None of these are bad ways of ageing, but individuals may be more inclined to one. Are older bloggers less ready to disengage from their previous activities than others of the same age? We’ll never know.
Personal anecdote: When three friends, all retired, asked ourselves this question, we instantly identified as one for continuity (me, the only blogger), one for activity (a teacher-dancer-mother-grandmother), and one who was relishing withdrawal into her garden and the luxury of reading.
Significantly, 14 people skipped this question, an unusually large number. Moreover, 10 people commented on the inappropriateness of the question.
- “Bad question. Not enough choices. I don’t think any of these statements is true for me.”
- “None of these. Blogging is a way of connecting to the world in new ways.”
- “Actually none fit…and don’t what statement would…”
- “Blogging satisfies all three of these statements.”
Relative importance of blogging in older bloggers’ lives
Considering the satisfaction participants gained from their blogs, I was surprised to discover that only 6% would call it “one of my most important activities.” Far more considered that blogging took only a small part of life, and a substantial majority are busy with other things.
Question 20. Consider the time that you spend reading and writing and commenting on blogs. How significant is it in your life?
- Blogging occupies only a small part of my life: 21%
- Blogging is important to me, but I’m also busy with other activities: 73%
- Blogging is one of my most important activities: 6%
Comments show that the place of blogging in one’s life can ebb and flow,
- “It has grown to become important.”
“In the early months, blogging played a bigger role than it does now. It was a time of introspection and regrouping.”v
“Work, son in college, I like to balance it all out.”
Two participants explain a paradox: blogging itself has changed their lives to the point where they have less time for blogging:
- “But a few months ago it was one of my only activities, but it has changed me to the point where I now have other things emerging.”
“I chose the last response because blogging causes me to stay busy doing other things. I set a goal when I retired to stay active and keep challenging myself. Blogging was the mechanism I chose to keep myself honest with that goal. Ironically, I often find myself too busy now to blog. but I fear that if I stopped blogging now, eventually I would lose that catalyst to stay engaged.”
Blogs come and go, so it’s not surprising if some participants are downgrading the importance of their blogs:
- “I have lost the excitement of it though for I haven’t attracted followers.”
- “I would like it to once again occupy a larger part of my life, but I have become a bit disenchanted with it as of late.”
What makes a personal blog a “success”?
Most blogging surveys seem to focus on blogs that exist for commercial, professional, or corporate purposes. For such blogs, the conventions for measuring success are fairly well established. For example, the ConvertKit State of the Blogging Industry, 2017 found that the top factor contributing to bloggers’ sense of success was money, with 73% of their participants (850+ professional bloggers) choosing this.
But how do older, independent bloggers perceive success—and do they even care?
Question 21. The success of business blogs is measured by various means. How would you measure the success of a personal blog? Please check any criteria that you agree with.
The responses are listed in order of popularity, and percentages are rounded.
- Personal enjoyment is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 77%
- Online friendships are a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 59%
- The number of visitors is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 44%
- The number of comments is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 41%
- The number of followers is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 28%
- “Success” is an inappropriate thing to measure with personal blogs: 21%
- Direct or indirect income from a personal blog is a good measure of its success: 5%
- The awards won are a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 4%
Some older bloggers commented on the role of visitors, comments, and followers as measures of success.
- “It is not just the number of visitors, it is the quality of the visitors and whether they have influence.”
- “I have made some new friends through blogging. That is valuable to me.”
- “When doing something out in the community and someone who has read my blog, tells me they read my blog — I find this thrilling. Not a huge number, but always a delight and a surprise when someone mentions it.”
“Although I chose these 2 responses, there is also what a blogger experiences in the ‘real’ world. Certainly the online conversations that occur in the comments section is my favourite part of blogging, but I’m always surprised and humbled by people in my ‘real’ world who will email me or comment verbally on a blog post … people I didn’t even know were reading my posts.”
- “Some people don’t care about comments, but I feel that the conversations generated by blog postings is where the fun begins. In order to generate followers and comments, you must be an active follower and commenter yourself (I think a lot of bloggers don’t realize this).”
The survey asked about other ways to measure the success of a personal blog, which brought some inspiring comments:
- “Recognising and achieving your personal goals with blogging.”
- “How it moves me onward in my life is a huge measure of success for me. Stats are fun but the friendships and sense of community has been far more important.”
- “The main reward is feeling good about serving humanity.”
- “For me, getting just one person to think differently about something they’ve long taken for granted is important.”
Please share if you wish: images and text by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0