It amazes me how much time bloggers waste online engaging in all the “social media drama” that flutters about. I don’t think most people realize how incredibly tiny this entire space is, and how silly it is to bicker over things that don’t really matter. This post is going to put it all into perspective.
To give you a visual illustration of how small our blog world is, we’ll turn to Randall Munroe, the writer of xkcd, a fantastic web comic. He’s created a geographical map to represent our online communities, with the relative sizes of each community proportionate to the amount of sharing, interacting, etc that is going on. In short, the bigger something is on the map, the more communication happens in and around it.
(If you want to see this map in its complete gargantuan glory, you can check it out here.)
(If you love it as much as I do, it’s available for purchase as a huge poster here.)
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest players in just the core region of the blogosphere:
Go ahead, click on it and blow it up. How many individual bloggers do you see in there? Any of the big names, the influencers, the rock stars? The people with hundreds of thousands of fans or followers or friends or whatever you’d like to call it? (To all those I just named, I’m not hatin’ on you – I’m just illustrating the true scale, rather than the perceived scale.) I see just a few of those guys and gals in there. Individual writers are just too small to stand out in terms of the core region of the blogosphere.
Let’s zoom out a little bit.
Now that we can see the entire blogosphere, it looks like the Huffington Post is the only one big enough to even get a name attached to its tiny spot on the map. Remember, though, that the HuffPo is not a blogger, but a collection of hundreds (thousands?) of bloggers.
Time to zoom out to see the blogosphere in relation to the rest of the web.
Check out all the communication happening on the web, and note how much of it takes place on blogs (in the lower-left corner). Blogs make up just a small percentage.
Now let’s look at the entire web in relation to the rest of our digital communication channels.
Whoops. There’s the whole web, dwarfed by email and text messaging. It would seem that when most people communicate digitally, it’s one-to-one with people that they know pretty well.
One last expansion:
Game, set, match, folks. There’s the whole of the internet, and every single piece of one-to-many digital communication, all fitting nicely into a box that’s even smaller than people talking on the phone. And beyond that, an entire world of people simply speaking to one another . . . face-to-face, in person. Occupying the same physical location. Being human.
Let me clarify that I am not at all against blogs – I am totally for them. In fact, I’ve used blogs as a springboard to help many thousands of people make a difference for others both in terms of time and money.
But a blog is not an end unto itself. A blog is a tool – a tool used to plant the seed of an idea in someone’s mind. If that seed takes root and grows, it will lead that person to talk to someone else about it, and if the idea truly blossoms, it will lead to action of some kind. And before you start talking about all the “action” people take on your blog, in the form of leaving comments or “liking” your content, take a look at the map again, and realize that all of that, every last piece of it, is an infinitesimal little speck that you can’t even see. It’s not what matters.
How many people will sit down to lunch with a friend and actually talk to them about the idea you presented online? And following that, how many of those few people will physically act on it? Those are the numbers that matter. That’s how things are done in the real world, and precious few bloggers ever get their content to that point.
So if your writing is fortunate enough to make it that far, please do the world a favor: Skip the drama, and say something that matters. Give us ideas that we can use to improve our own lives and the lives of others.
Hold the image of the map in mind, and remember to keep your perspective.
Don’t waste your time . . . or ours.