Tuesday, 14 June 2011

from consumption to engagement

I'm still pretty new to this whole blogging world. Over the past several months, blogging has been a creative outlet that's helped me to pay attention, write, connect, and engage. And I really enjoy it - most days. The days that I enjoy it the most are days when I hear a little tidbit from you, my dear reader. That's what helps me to think I'm doing something other than just blabbing on to myself. It's what helps form a half-baked idea into one that is more fully baked. I treasure your responses.

As a teacher, I liked to engage the students - to look in their eyes and see a little spark that tells me that they've "got it." I enjoy doing public presentations too. But what if I was leading a discussion with a room full of wonderful people (like you), and I asked a question, and no one answered? I know that they're there - they're looking at me, and most likely some have heard what I've said. But there's no response. That would feel yucky to me.

Sometimes I wonder how I can make you, my audience, more engaged. Or perhaps you are engaged and I just don't know it.

How do you move from consumption to engagement? What does engagement really look like? What compels you to dive in?

It's a risk to engage. I remember the first time I posted a status line on facebook. I was so nervous! What would people think?

And this past fall, I was part of an online course called Unraveling, where for 2 months we posted photos to a private flickr group that related to weekly themes. This was huge for me too. Did I want to be so public with my life with 150 total strangers? Did I have anything worthy to share? And What Would People Think? (a recurring theme in my life)

We can't engage ALL the time. It would be a full-time job to daily go through my friends' facebook postings and comment or "like" each one. Sometimes we just consume.
consuming gelato
I think that my culture teaches me to consume, and I bring that to my internet use. We're taught to consume literature, music, text messages, e-mails, junk food, and material possessions.

So how do we get to that point where we are comfortable engaging instead of just consuming? I wonder about this in our churches too - how do you get people to engage, rather than coming with a consumption mindset?

I can easily just look at myself to know why people don't feel led to comment. Am I too Mennonite? Too Canadian? Too shy? Too busy? Or do I wonder whether I actually have anything of worth to say? Or do I worry about what people are going to think?

So here's my advice to you, silent readers out there: comment away. Join in the fun! It can take way less than one minute to make a comment. And the absolute worst that could happen is that you post a forgettable comment, but make my day brighter in the meantime.

Here are some options for when you can't think of a long, brilliant comment. Any of these will just make my day (and that's the point, isn't it?):
  • Beautiful!
  • Nice.
  • I hear you.
  • Yes.
  • I've been wondering the same thing.
  • I have a different perspective. Let's talk about this sometime - in person.
  • I'll think give this some thought.
  • You've given me something to think about.
  • love it.
  • :)
  • hmmmm...
And if you're not sure how to post a comment, here's an easy way: click on "anonymous" as your profile, and then add your first name at the end of your comment, or leave a code name for me to figure out, or don't write a name at all and leave me wondering who you are. That's perfectly fine too.

You are most welcome to engage. (you can do it, Mom!)

[a bit nervous to publish this whiny-needy post, but here goes...]


  1. I'll be first! Sometimes I leave myself just enough time to 'consume' - read some blog posts, emails and get going with my day. It's weird, right? Not responding right away, if at all. There's only a benefit to keep the conversation going - it's all about connection.

    A friend of mine recently left a comment on a blog that led her (the blog host/author) to join our book club by skype. If my friend decided not to reach out to connect, leave that comment, we wouldn't have had the amazing evening with the author joining us.

    I hear you Rebecca, read your words, think about your posts...wonderful! I will try to comment more :)

  2. Thanks, CeCe. I appreciate this. And I don't want this post to be something to make people feel guilty. I know all about time constraints and full lives. I guess I'm saying "I need YOU to keep going! So, if you like what you see/read, join in!" There. My neediness right out on the table, if it wasn't there already.

  3. Okay, then you come and read and comment on mine, too! I hear you. It's wonderful to feel engagement from readers.

  4. And here I was stopping myself from commenting too much! It didn't even occur to me that you probably enjoy hearing from your readers as much as we like to read your blog!

  5. Pam - comment away! I love to hear how ideas are percolating in your mind.

  6. No! Not sure what happened to it - disappeared? Can you try re-posting it?

  7. Saved from the moderation queue:
    I think the most engaging blogs are those where the author is both honest and sincere. When that's not happening the author has to evaluate why they are blogging in the first place. Taking a quick look at my RSS reader, below are the main groups of authors I see. Perhaps one of these applies to you Rebecca?

    1. The author is writing for the simple sake of writing. It's a creative or therapeutic outlet and the content doesn't really matter. Some posts will incite lots of discussion (if only by accident), others will be lost and forgotten. It doesn't matter either way as the point is to write, ideally every day.

    2. The author is writing to evangelize a point of view and is using the blog as a podium. This doesn't really lead to engagement except when there is a disagreement in points of view.

    3. The author is writing because they have stories they want to tell. In this case the act of publishing the post is telling the story and allows the readers to consume it. A high number of page views, increasing daily visitors or external links to your site from others indicates you're not shouting into the void, but actually connecting with people (even if it's just through the words). The readers are engaged even if not participating.

    4. The author wants to have a conversation. This one has never felt right for me online. Even if the conversation could be public, why not have a meat-space conversation face to face or in a group? So much is lost without tone and body language that conversing online seems wrong. I don't use facebook much as a result.

    5. The author simply wants to entertain. These are the humour, comic, cartoon, how-to and news blogs. These are usually commercial and hope to make money (some day) :).

    I've only just discovered your site Rebecca, I'm not sure why that is. However from what I've read you are following 1 & 3 most closely, with a little bit of 4 thrown in.

    Is that where you want to be? If so, just keep writing and making us think, laugh or cry. If not, perhaps figuring out what you want out of this is the next step :).

    I tried #5 and it wasn't any fun so I stopped. You have something special here. Don't force anything. Just let it grow naturally :).

  8. Thank you, Cam, for these thoughts. This was helpful to me - to see your distinctions and to look at my motivations for doing this. I think that a mix of 1,3,4 is exactly where I'd like to be, so that's encouraging to me that you see that. It's good also to hear that there is engagement even when there aren't comments made (like in #3).

    It's a bit dangerous to measure my "success" with the # of comments - and I should know better. I always preached to my students that it's about process, not product. And the process has been very successful for me - to put my words to keyboard and send them out to whoever is listening. An ongoing issue for me - looking for external validation. I want to do this just for the sake of doing it - to practice paying attention and writing about it. So that should be enough. In the future, I'll remind myself to quit whining and get on with the life I want to live.

  9. I'm not saying you're whining or that there is even a need to measure success at all. Just be honest about why you're writing is my point. When you are, more and more readers will arrive over the long haul.

    I could quibble about process versus product but I won't. I'm more of a deliverables kinda guy and process is just a means to an end. There are many roads... We must all chose one.

  10. As I was writing the process/product bit, I thought: well, the product DOES matter too.

    Yes - honesty and clarity of purpose. Important for whatever we're up to.

  11. Engagement vs Consumption!
    This is really what's on my mind today - I was in a very interesting workshop this morning on critical thinking and engagement. The speaker had created an "engagement taxonomy" where "doing the work" was at the bottom, followed by interested, caring... all the way to the top "transformative". All of this really resonated with me, as I think we all need to engage more and be on the consuming end less. The purpose of all of this engagement is to somehow transform, or morph, or become more than yesterday.
    As a teacher, I think about this ALL OF THE TIME. How can I help kids to engage rather than mindlessly consuming their education?
    What is stopping ME from engaging, or getting involved, or commenting, or dancing, or creating something for the world?

  12. I love your blog Rebecca! We are travelling out East in Newfoundland and I love checking in at the end of the day to see what you've come up with! You are a very creative writer and I am truly enjoying the site! Very thought provoking.
    Keep up the good work. (well it sounds more like a passion for you than a chore)! :)
    - Sharon Bauman

  13. Engagement is a worthy goal. I struggle with finding a balance in how much time I spend on the computer - related to your productivity posting. There is so much I could be getting done in the 'real' world that I limit my screen time. It is obviously much faster to just consume a blog and some email thinking that I'll get around to commenting at another time when I have more time to think through a response. Of course, that rarely happens... I'm terrible for reading my email and then forgetting to reply for a week or more.
    Just a thought.

  14. Rachel - I'd love to see that engagement taxonomy. I think it would be equally relevant at church. Can you send it to me?

    Sharon: thank you. Glad to hear you're enjoying it, even on holidays! It IS becoming a passion and a practice for me, you're right.

    Wendy - I do the same with emails and other blogs, so I totally get it. And limiting online time is a worthy goal too!

  15. Breakfast is your favourite meal to go out for. (I remember some things!) I look forward each day to breakfast with you. Thanks Bec.

  16. Yes, you're right! I'm honoured that you spend this time each morning here. Now we need to get together for a REAL breakfast and talk face to face!

  17. I love to just consume! So you REALLY do want comments! Hmmmmmmm.

  18. Yes! It lets me know that someone is out there and has heard.

  19. As a blogger, I have often struggled with how to invite comments. There is honestly nothing better than seeing that someone has taken the time to respond to an image or a story that I share. I appreciate that this is a difficult topic to put into words and I applaud your bravery for doing it. Many people just need that little push - it really isn't scary. Especially for our moms!

  20. I agree - I needed to push myself, and then it wasn't so scary. In fact, I need to push myself every time I publish a post to this blog - it's still a bit scary to put my words out there, but after I do it (and especially after I hear a echo from someone else out there) it's not so scary at all.