Upon scrolling and reading through some recent blogging advice articles on Medium, and recalling some advice I had come across back in 2015, I decided to write this to offer a different perspective on blogging for anyone interested in it. However, I feel it is important to note that by the measures of conventional blogging, I’m very much a complete failure. I don’t have thousands of people on email lists, I don’t offer exclusive content like an online gated community that you must pay to read, I don’t offer professional advice, and I’m not running any sort of successful business model. When I do try to delve into those things over the years (such as posts on free ebook sales), the effect has been mostly abysmal. So, if nothing else, if you think my advice here is no good, then at least you’re learning on what to avoid from my own failures in blogging.
Why I don’t Limit my Blog to Specific Subject Matter
Some of you may find it bizarre, idiotic, or wacky that I spend just as much time doing thematic analyses of anime, visual novel, or video game content as I do in spending time analyzing whatever political science material tickles my fancy. Blogging How-to websites generally teach that you should limit your blog to one subject and keep at it with persistence. Truthfully, I had tried to keep the blog grounded on more “serious” material, feeling ashamed at the idea of talking about anime / manga as I feared it would diminish the “seriousness” of the blog, but then I quickly found myself unable to write about anything at all during my first year and found myself unable to write much of anything on politics too. Gradually over the years, I realized that to keep at blogging, it should just be about sharing what I’m interested in, my insights, and my views on topics that I want to engage with. It should not be about appealing to some anonymous, hypothetical people that I think will look down on me for having content of subjects I enjoy due to their own ignorance. So, I dropped the ego surrounding my misgivings about it, and quickly began blogging about whatever I wanted instead of strictly politics.
A focal reason for this early change was that focusing only on politics was agonizing. Discussing near-constant bad news takes its toll on people. The Trump years of 2017 – 2018 only vindicated my decision further. It was bad news atop bad news atop bad news in a never-ending cycle of stupidity. The incoherence of US politics these past few years made it difficult to expend much time and effort to care about whatever Orange-in-Chief was tweeting every day. That was less interesting and far less relevant to me than writing about Shin Megami Tensei themes. I had no intention of expending so much time and effort on angry responses to the tweets of President Donald Trump. Not worth my time or effort. I’d go as far as to say that anyone who did was doing a disservice to themselves. What was the point of waking up everyday to get angry about tweets? So, for most of the past few years, I tried to expend more effort in sharing content regarding anime, video games, and so forth that I liked. Whenever I delved into politics, it usually became rage-filled or incoherent and even well-established and respected websites like Politico, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and many more had constant negative news pertaining to Trump that I couldn’t be bothered to expend much interest with due to the toxicity. I used “What The Fuck Just Happened Today?” website so I could read negative and most importantly relevant Trump-related news for the past 4 years in my preferred dispassionate manner without falling into angry Social Media circlejerks that I had no interest in being part of. I’m embarrassed to admit I fell into it in 2017 on Facebook and I felt I learned my lesson after most of that year passed. I was wrong though, because I fell into the same trap with Twitter in 2018 and my original account was “suspended indefinitely” for criticizing Nancy Pelosi’s New Green Deal. It wasn’t until reading Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova that I realized believing I was “above being able to be deceived” was fallacious reasoning on my part. It wasn’t until reading Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets that I realized I had fallen into in-group / out-group traps that I had foolishly thought could be avoided. There is no avoiding the biology of our own human brains. I had fallen into the in-group / out-group thinking of social identity instantaneously without being fully aware of it. It was just as the research by Henri Tajfel, which I had read from in Alexa Ispas’s Social Identity book, indicated. Since then, I’ve tried to push forward the argument, based on the evidence of modern psychology that I understand, that we humans shouldn’t think of ways to “overcome” our animal instincts (which is impossible) but rather how to use our own biology and human bias effectively. Even choosing a neutral or middle-ground approach runs amok of the middle-ground fallacy, for example. There’s simply no way to avoid being biased; it is an innate part of being human. As such, delving into different topics from politics, to book reviews on books I enjoy reading, to video games, and so on has helped greatly. If there’s something afoul going on such as the increasing failures of the video game industry to release a quality finished product or something awful happening in politics and I can’t stand listening to it, I can shift focus to something more interesting to me personally without getting caught-up in social media melodrama. I want to write about subjects that I like, that I find engaging, or that I personally find important instead of getting swept up in a flurry of constant negativity throughout social media. Doing the opposite would have killed my own interest in maintaining a blog for so many years.
Why Be Current When I Can Be Interesting?
Constantly chasing after current trends in politics, social media, anime, books, video games, or movies could potentially net me more viewers in the short-term, but should I really expect viewers based on the current Star Wars film to stick around when that film stops being relevant? Should I expect them to like and value my content beyond that one review of a film? Should I be happy for 2 or 3 new subscribers that’ll probably last all of 3 whole days at best unless I keep chasing after the next angry, whiny social media trend? Am I to be like a horse going after the dangling carrot stuck in front of me for all the years that I’m blogging? Is that how I want to spend my life? Is that how I should tell others to spend their lives?
I’d much prefer to do my own research, analyze information to see if I think there is credibility to the argument I wish to put forth, and then post it with either sources or lengthy explanations such as my Steins;Gate thematic analysis this year. If I think something is somewhat possible, then I can always frame it into a question to leave open to viewers. What matters to me is the value that reading an article or another blog brings, which is why I link to only those website pages that I personally felt had significant value to readers interested in any particular topic.
Doing research, analyzing information, forming my own interpretations and arguments, and providing value doesn’t come with constantly running after a dangling carrot in the hopes other people won’t reach the carrot first. Providing the same empty information as any other website while chasing after trends would dilute my blog into becoming something generic that people would have no compelling interest to return to compared to any other website with the same information. Perhaps I do lose out on the most views, but so what? Click-bait is something that personally infuriates me and I want no part of it. I don’t want to be what I detest. I’ll give honest reviews and perspectives for current movies that I personally take an interest in after watching them in theaters and whatnot, but I have no compelling interest to be in a rat race of spewing out reviews before other people or sharing in their sentiments about films if I have a difference of opinion. I don’t say this to sound charming, this is just my view on it. Creating click-bait, chasing after trends, and offering the same empty words as everyone else is not in my interest.
My blog has not had the most eyeballs on it, my email list has not gone past 50 subscribers in 5 years, and by all rights I am a total failure at this. Yet, somehow, my views have indeed been disseminated in various social media communities, people have mentioned reading my blog when I engage in casual conversation, and – while many hate the design – they nevertheless found the contents of my blog interesting, informative, or convincing. When I’m not wasting my own time ranting about Discord in blog posts and instead focusing on either politics, reviews of various stories, or thematic analyses; people take an interest and hear what I have to say about it. I couldn’t ask for more. Even if it is not in the thousands, having hundreds of people from across the world come each week to read my blog can feel fulfilling in and of itself. Moreover, I know that they’re getting the quality content I offer or they agree with certain blog posts even if they disagree with others. That is all fine by me. I don’t want a cult; I want people to take an interest and find value in my work. After learning that most blogs had tens of thousands of views, but less than 500 words per post with most of them being quotes by famous people, I decided that if this approach I’ve used is a “failed” approach to blogging, then I still prefer it over the “successful” blogging approaches. It is more satisfying to me and the people interested in reading my work hopefully agree that they get more value from it.
A crucial aspect that I find to be left out of most of these “follow the trends” advice from bloggers is that trends often re-emerge and they’re more recurrent than people realize. I think people should really begin to step away from short-term thinking and look at the bigger picture. So, for example, if I miss out on the trending of Dragonball’s latest film because I watched and reviewed it late, I’ll begin noticing a spike in viewership of the review of the previous film whenever people get hyped for the next new film. Thus, if I may use a crop analogy, my approach has not been to plant the seeds in fertile soil used by everybody else with a dwindling share of the harvest, but rather to plant the seeds in a desert and wait for the next monsoon to bring a downpour to fertilize the soil for the new harvest. I no longer feel like I need to jump after the next big thing, but quietly chisel and perfect my next work into what I precisely wish to convey, so that the next time there is a recurrent trend, then eyeballs will inevitably find my blog to read it. After all, blogging should be more pleasurable than exhausting.
Why I Slowly Stopped Caring about Email Lists
Please don’t misunderstand, it’d be nice if I had a large email list, but over the years I’ve begun to recognize that it isn’t terribly important. A large email list implies a large audience and many old and current blog 101 guides encourage people to have it pop-up as the first thing in front of new prospective users. Many blog 101 sites fail to question the likelihood that people will even stick around to read the contents of the blog to determine its quality, if the first thing that the prospective reader sees when clicking is a personalized advertisement by the website owner. How is that suppose to make me care about your website, if my first encounter is feeling annoyed by a pop-up? It’ll surely have the opposite effect for the majority of the demographic that you’re trying to appeal to and normalizing it throughout multiple bloggers doesn’t decrease the irritation over it.
When I was new to blogging, I read-up on “social media hook” books so that my old Twitter account would have 3000 or so followers from organizations suggested in the books I was reading and I connected it to my blog widget with the thought that this was the “correct” and “appropriate” way to increase traffic. Surprise, surprise, nothing of value ever materialized from this approach of following the “trends” and anonymous “social media experts” who gave out suggestions of quick ways to increase traffic to my blog while having so many glowing reviews for their books and huge Twitter followings. I had wrongfully thought increasing my social media followers would mean increased traffic to my blog. Yet, the amount of people actually reading my blog was abysmal. My first year only netted me 870 visitors despite a voluminous number of posts that year. The next year when I began separating from this “get viewers fast” social media approach that was recommended, I gained slightly over 2500 visitors. The biggest surprise for me was when I posted my second Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse and found that it alone had doubled my views within the year of 2017. However, it wasn’t until late 2018 to early 2019 that I realized the true depth of how this approach to “get fast with social media” – especially Twitter – had been deeply flawed and useless. I had began suspecting that Twitter was just a mindless echo-chamber of no consequence after foolishly expending time and energy over it in 2018. The angry Twitter hashtags never translated to legitimate political activism in the US from what I could see. I learned it was even more of an echo-chamber than I realized when Pew Research shared its findings. I realized I’d fallen into the fallacy of false-consensus effect. It had the incidental impact of making me think even less of Ex-Muslim activism when my opinion of their approach to activism was already in a nosedive. The data was in; Twitter was little more than an angry echo-chamber where the perceived views would make you feel as if you were accomplishing and reaching more followers than you actually were. Essentially, when running the statistics, it was just big enough to make people think they were having a huge influence and small enough for it to not matter at all in terms of creating political change. Grassroots activism would do far better than the cesspool of Twitter rants. I felt ashamed for not knowing sooner or knowing better than when I did, but that’s what happens when you believe in and follow trends. I had been miffed that Twitter had deleted my old account full of 3000 followers due to my negative comments and criticisms over Nancy Pelosi’s Green Deal, but even before the pandemic making that irrelevant, I realized I’d been fooling myself into thinking losing out on followers actually mattered. Twitter had never really brought many clicks to my blog to begin with. Judging from my analysis software of viewers coming into my website, it seems that people often search what they’re looking for, find my blog, and begin reading whatever specific interests they have. So, if they want a book review for a specific book, they may read my review of that book, if they want a review of an anime then same thing, if they’re curious about a deeper analysis of a specific game or visual novel then they’ll read my analysis of it, and so on. Thus, there was no reason to ever even care about the email list concept to begin with. Of course, I am still very happy to see the email list grow and I would be disappointed if it shrank, but most people aren’t interested in email lists when searching my blog. They’re probably most happy with the fact I added a search function for their use and that’s probably all that most people who are curious about my content could want from me. To my own chagrin, even if I had a blog that I liked following, I must admit that I wouldn’t even care to subscribe to its email list as I’d just bookmark or search it online to skim through it. I appreciate the email subscribers I have very much, but I must acknowledge that it is certainly an antiquated process that most people don’t have an interest in judging from my own anecdotal experience, my analytics data of my blog, and my own understanding of the social behaviors of the internet itself.
While I can’t be entirely sure of what effect my blog has had, I’ve noticed that my criticisms seem to lead to some measure of influence in cancelling out any uniformity of opinion in any specific demographic that I’d hope would read my articles whether on my blog or reshared on Medium. Despite the initial blowback from various groups, my criticism surprisingly concludes in devastating any in-group herd mentality. For instance, my analysis of SMT’s philosophical themes seems to have helped create a greater awareness and appreciation of them (particularly Nietzsche) within the community. My criticism of Pieter J. Friedrich’s credibility with verified sources, and his reaction to my criticism by blocking me, seems to have resulted in politicians and academics to wane in using him as a source from what I’ve observed; this was despite fellow Hindus telling me that it was useless and nobody would ever listen to our criticisms of him because of a pervasive anti-Hindu bigotry in US culture. Well, any anti-Hindu bigotry there is in the US hasn’t prevented credible criticisms from causing a shift in perception and behavior from what it seems to me so far. That could change in the future, but insofar as people like Peter J. Friedrich, it doesn’t seem as if he had nearly as much significance as many Hindus assumed. My criticism of Ex-MNA and their related affiliates may have had an impact, but in all honesty, it seems pretty small compared to their pervasive efforts to self-sabotage their own political activism. So, while I may not have a primary effect (and I can’t really be sure if I do or not), I may at the very least be a compounding effect from a litany of other activities happening in any given community. For example, my criticism of Islam probably seemed like bigotry for most of my fellow Westerners, but with the beheading of Samuel Paty and the three killings in Nice, France by Islamist terrorists; it has brought greater awareness of what people now call “Political Islam” by the majority of people online. People who are curious can read my criticisms of Islamic theology due to the attacks bringing a greater awareness of the challenges of adapting people from Islamic communities from the Middle East and Western parts of South Asia due to puritanical teachings in Islam. I couldn’t help but notice criticizing WashingtonPost journalist Max Fisher’s article which didn’t provide the data he claimed on India’s supposed racism seems to have resulted in Fisher having his Twitter profile listing WashingtonPost to NYTimes. I have no way of knowing if anything I did had an effect, it is entirely possible that he got a better job at NYTimes, but it follows the general trend that I’ve noticed for what it is worth. All that said, while I don’t have the large Twitter followers, the gated online article format of WashingtonPost where you must pay-to-read, the resources of a non-profit organization, or any editing staff; nevertheless, from the best of what I can tell. . . it seems I don’t need any of those things for my blog to have an influence beyond just me and to meet the ongoing interests that I have. At best, I provide a pause button and reality check for those who grow too wily in mixing half-truths with utter lies. To my own surprise, that is perhaps all I need for my blog to be in the end. Thus, while I don’t have the Twitter followers, massive clickbait data increasing the search for my blog, nor any SEOs to maximize the search for my blog, or any pop-ups requesting an email list; I can happily say that my blog has indeed served my needs so far and sharing my own perspective on various subjects has been fulfilling for me.
Lastly, I want to state that I honestly think talking about just one subject – no matter how much you love it – will inevitably lead to burnout and so I think it is mentally healthy to engage in more than one topic for a blog despite the advantage of judgment heuristics causing your viewership to automatically go to your blog whenever a specific topic of interest comes-up because it is all that your blog talks about. Despite the drawbacks, that has helped me the most to continue blogging unimpeded for five years. My own observations have shown me that people usually stop anywhere from 2, to 3, and sometimes to 4 years before they seem to just drop out of existence and I’d speculate that it is because they got sick of the topic that they deeply loved. From my own experience, at a certain point you just can’t continue to commit and it has taken its toll. Going on relaxation events doesn’t help after a certain point either. Having more than one topic is thus crucial for the longevity of a blog. Oh, and I’m happy with WordPress because their Free Speech policy allows me to talk about any controversial topic that I please, which I am very prone to do, and I couldn’t be happier with it at the moment.
One thought on “How I kept up with Blogging for 5 Years”
Happy new year Jarin! I first found out your blog when Kushal Mehra shared an article of yours about the Ex Muslim movement sometime in September 2019.Been a fan of your political posts ever since. In my humble opinion, please write for platforms like Swarajya and OpIndia, you will get the audience you deserve. You are a good writer.