A few years back, my friend Dan called me up on the phone, “John, I read your blog. I don’t usually. It’s mostly teacher stuff. But I read it. And you’ve got to get rid of the badge.”
“The Edublog one?”
“John, it’s a blog not a Cub Scout uniform,” he said.
“But it’s nice to be recognized,” I said.
“But it looks trashy next to a post on why you don’t agree with awards assemblies and passing out fried dough to kids who read books.”
November is my quiet time on Blogger and Twitter. It’s when I usually work on a novel or start an obscure blog that has nothing to do with education. It’s the time when the light dies while the education recognition system flips into hyper-drive (when the “best of” lists start coming out and when the Edublog Awards transforms Twitter into an American Idol contest). Last year, I fell for it. I wanted to win. I wanted to hear that I mattered – not in a quiet voice of a friend but through the corporate megaphone of “followers” who cared enough about me to click on my name in the competition. I used the branding metaphor to describe how I could own my influence and spread my ideas of a humble revolution.
I had grown obsessive and arrogant and all the while claiming to want a humble revolution. I counted my Twitter followers. Would I pass two thousand? I added up my Klout score. Would it reach the forties? I counted my subscriber numbers. They were trending in a real positive way. But most of all, I wanted to win the Edublog Awards. To me, that would be the ultimate catalyst toward really putting me on top.
I’m not Jesus. I don’t need followers. I don’t need a metric to tell me that I have clout with someone. I don’t need to sound like the wisest badass in an #echochamber to matter. I get it. I really do. These are great marketing tools that can really help you with branding. But here’s the deal: I am not a brand. I am not a commodity. I am not a scannable item that someone can pick up at bargain basement prices. Any metric that isn’t human is a metric that isn’t worth following.
What I need instead are engaging questions challenging my presuppositions. I need to listen well to the voice of other writers. I need to be fully present as I play with my kids or share a meal with a neighbor or have coffee with a friend who will be bold enough to tell me that I look like a Cub Scout. I need to remember that blogging is about identity and expression, not RT’s and Klout scores.