Have you noticed that the combination of global news, social media, and information and communication overload have dumbed down our senses? They've shifted the focus of our communication, whether that communication occurs at home, at work, at a party or networking event, or even on a blog with our readers.
Instead of talking one-on-one, we have meetings, conference calls, chat rooms, blogs, podcasts, and newsletters. We're forced to communicate with an ever growing audience. We try to communicate with everybody and as a result we genuinely speak to no one.
Communication is becoming de-humanized
Joseph Stalin said, "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." Unfortunately, these days the same is true for communication: Interaction with one person is a conversation, interaction with ten million is a broadcast.
The most obvious place to look for this dehumanizing effect is in modern forms of mass communication. Sadly, however, the inherently impersonal nature of the Internet is also affecting our interpersonal skills.
When was the last time you had rich, thoughtful, and lively conversation with someone? When was the last time you felt artistically moved by the words that came from another persons' mouth?
The next time you chat with a family member, a friend, or a co-worker, spend a little extra time thinking about what you want to say. Add more life to your conversation.
Bloggers and writers are most affected
Do you write for a blog or newsletter that has hundreds or even thousands of subscribers? Do you publish content on a website that receives tens of thousands of page view's per month, or perhaps only fifty?
If you're writing to those numbers, you're not reaching anyone. Your content becomes as much of a statistic as the audience you're writing for.
The beauty of the Internet is that we can publish content at a global level. However, that doesn't change the nature of our readers, listeners, and viewers: they're still human. They still enjoy being communicated with as humans.
Think about this for a moment: Whether we're sending an idea or specific message to one person or a group of ten million, the way in which the communication occurs essentially remains the same: if it's a blog, they read text; if it's a podcast, they listen to audio; if it's a video, they watch it; if it's you speaking in person, they hear your voice.
Whatever medium you're using, it's exactly the same method of communication regardless of the number of people receiving the message.
Now here's where things get messy.
If we have a thought provoking conversation with a friend, our messages and thoughts are freely passed between one another, right? Now lets say we want to have that same thought provoking conversation with ten million people. Do we change the message? Do we generalize and try to simplify it a little so everyone can understand? We have to, right?
By paying attention to those numbers and modifying the message (and this subconsciously happens more often than you may think!), you're essentially removing the human aspect of communication. You're no longer speaking to a human.
The more you can remove yourself from the numbers and just produce and release content on your medium of choice with a tiny number of people in mind (perhaps even just one), the more you will connect with each reader on an individual level.
Humans are people too, so become interested and care
If you become genuinely interested in the new person you met at a party or networking event -- if you ask him or her human questions -- you'll immediately discover the conversation becomes more lively and interesting.
If I write on this blog for my one hundred or so subscribers (
as of April 2010 over one thousand as of April 2011), who exactly am I writing for? Is "one hundred subscribers" a human being that I can interact and communicate with? Could I even realistically hold a conversation with one hundred people?
DavidT, Bart, Ali, Sid, and Earl, you are the reason I write.
Alexandria, Aditi, Aadi, Anthony, Amar, Andi, Chris, Cody, Donna, Derek, DavidA, Dario, dwalters, Dan, Eddie, Eva, Josiah, Jefferis, Jai, James, Jesse, John, Johan, Jessica, Jeannette, Kevin, Lisa, Linda, Matt, Martin, Miller, Nirmal, Nimit, Neon, Neal, Pedro, Priya, Pemela, Raf, Roth, Sharon, Srey, Scott, Simeon, Sydney, Sarith, Thea, Vinay, Walter, and every single other individual that takes time out of their life to read what I produce, you're the reason I write.
Not the statistics. Not my subscriber count. Not my visitor count.
You. The person reading this text right now.
If my subscriber count magically shot up to one million tomorrow, I'd still be right here, writing for you. I would still be thinking one. Not one million.
When this realization really started to sink in, the urge to check the statistics for my blog essentially disappeared. For the first time since I started tracking them nearly a decade ago, they didn't beg for my attention. Their short term usefulness suddenly seemed unimportant.
A public commitment, a challenge, and a question for you
I'd like to make a public commitment: I will not login to Google Analytics or FeedBurner to check my traffic or subscriber count for the next three months. And to ensure that I can't accidentally peek, I've removed the stats widget from my WordPress dashboard and the subscriber count from my blog.
If you also have a blog or website, big or small, I invite you to follow along with me for the next three months. Remember, we don't create for numbers. We create for humans.
And since I'm creating for you, please let me know if there's something you'd like me to write more about. If I could read minds this wouldn't be necessary, but I haven't acquired that skill (yet).
However, I am human. If we were standing next to each other, what would you ask me?
Update: As I promised, I held out for three full months. When I finally checked my statistics at the end of July 2010, the results were this: everything basically doubled.
I'm now committed to only checking my statistics once a month and I invite you to do the same. There really isn't any need to check them any more frequently. If you like the message behind this post, please consider sharing it with your network of friends.