Last year, I posted an article listing 25 Christian Blogs people should be reading. It actually was a repost from Matthew Paul Turner, which I put on my blog without edits for two reasons:
1. I’m lazy and the list was good, and;
2. I’m a narcissist and I was on his list
Since then, I have gotten THOUSANDS of hits on that piece, with many folks grateful for the resource. Never mind that I didn’t really do anything. So this year I decided to curate my own list. But rather than simply listing my own favorite blogs, I would crowd-source a list from folks who actually read these blogs more than I do. So I set up a list and made it a blog post on my own blog.
Less than 48 hours later, the list has received more than 13,000 hits, thousands of votes and more than 250 nominated blogs. Honestly, I thought I’d be doing well if I filled out my list of 25 and got a total of 1,000 or 2,000 views. Who knew?
Of course, as a blogger myself, I’m thrilled with the traffic. But I’ve also heard a couple of things that have troubled me. One well known blogger mentioned that such lists inevitably bring out the worst in people, like playground bullies who hold up a choice few friends, while pushing others to the side. I also heard from a handful of other bloggers, a little lower on the list at the moment, that they were more than a little anxious about their ranking, and whether or not they’d make the cut.
Ranking? Cut? This isn’t the Christian blogger equivalent of American Idol. There’s no prize, no glory, save for getting a mention in a subsequent post as a blog of note. Clearly, I underestimated the weight of the whole exercise.
Then I started noticing some lingering anxiety in myself. I had originally said that I’d use this survey as a guide, but that I was going to ultimately curate my own list of 25 blogs. But now, with all of the attention, the likelihood of pissing people off who get bumped because I added my preferred bloggers was really high. And of course, there already are folks complaining that X-Y-Z blogger tragically isn’t even on the list (hint: add them yourself, doy), which freaks me out even more.
As for my own stress, I’ve decided to divide the proverbial baby down the middle. I’ll post one list, which is entirely “readers’ choice,” as indicated by the votes on the survey. Then I’ll do my own “editor’s picks” list which can include anyone I want. See, I missed a potential career in politics, right?
As for the stress others have around their own validation or marginalization, depending on where they rank, I’d say this. There are amazing, brilliant writes out there (I could name a dozen right now) who I think should be on that list but aren’t. Meanwhile, there are some blogs on the list that hardly even have any substantive content on them. So the fact that someone outranks you on this particular list doesn’t really mean much, in the grander scheme of things.
Oh, and if you want a much more rigorous analysis of “top Christian bloggers,” ignore my list and go visit Kent Shaffer and Craig Van Korlaar’s “Church Relevance” Blogger list. And thank you Tony Jones for reminding me of this great resource…even if you do outrank me on that particular list. On second thought, DAMN YOU TONY!!!
Someone else asked me what we can take away from all of this. Well, for one, we love lists. But we know this. Just look at Buzzfeed, Cracked or any number of other websites who have carved out a genuine niche making lists. I think this is because we crave order and simplicity in an otherwise overwhelming, chaotic existence. Although we say we love freedom to choose, sometimes the choices are so many that it’s paralyzing. Having someone offer a digest version of information we want is a welcome relief sometimes.
We also love to see how we stack up against one another, and further, we like to align ourselves with winners. Sounds lame, I know, but it’s true. Just look at how many jerseys are sold for athletic superstars, especially when they’re on a winning team. We want to feel closely tied to the alpha in the pack, even if in this case the pack is a bunch of geeked out theology bloggers, hammering away on soda-stained keyboards in their mom’s basement.
Yes, I count myself among this rare but hardly noble breed. We are what we are; we can’t help it.
I had planned to do a few other curated lists like this, such as the best Christian records, best progressive Christian websites, etc. And I might still, though this has afforded me an opportunity to reflect. Do I want people to feel like they’re in competition with one another? Do I want feelings to be hurt if someone is left off the final list? Of course not. But I also concede that, pretty much every time I click the “publish” button on my blog, I’m setting myself up for hate mail from someone. It’s part of the gig.
My hope is that, in the midst of all the drama about who’s bigger or badder, some readers are stumbling across new blogs they never knew existed before. And I hope that, in being include even just on the survey itself, some less visible bloggers are getting a little bump in traffic. A guy can hope anyway.
I’ll leave you with one final confession. As the list grew, there actually was a little voice in the back of my head that whimpered, “Hey! No one added MY blog to the list? What about me?”
But then another (much bigger and more sensible) voice cleared it all up for me:
Hey dumbass – the whole thing is on your blog. Get over yourself.