Why the Christian Blog Survey is Freaking Me Out

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.

Holy CRAP.

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.

Duly noted.

 

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Rebell Red

    Enjoyed the read! looking forward to reading your other works. I had no
    idea this site existed but I’m happy to find it. I followed Johns
    Ramblings today and he retweeted this, I feel like I just hit the christian lottery God is certainly smiling down upon me it seems. Thanks !

  • Guest

    There’s been some pretty heavy-duty campaigning going on behind the scenes over this list, you know. Honestly, I don’t think it’s really about competitive drive or anything like that (although it probably is for a few people). I think the intense attention and concern is driven by how incredibly hard it is for people who aren’t part of the “in crowd” to get attention. And I know several bloggers (admittedly myself included) who feel strongly that God has entrusted them with a particular message and perspective to share with the world.

    Of course, if a person really has been given a message and perspective by God, then God can be trusted to provide the audience he intends it to reach. But we’re only human, so sometimes we end up deciding that it’s not enough to just faithfully carry the message. We must market and network and see if we can get on this list some big wig who doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground is putting together. Then this message that means so much to me might finally get the attention it deserves. And the church will be fixed and the world healed. I might even sell enough books to get my kids off the free lunch list this year! (OK, so you’re not the only one prone to a bit of narcissism!)

    Anyways, now you know that your list is a source of hope for people carrying a message from God . In case you weren’t already feeling the pressure. LOL ;)

  • Rebecca Trotter

    There’s been some pretty heavy-duty campaigning going on behind the scenes over this list, you know. Honestly, I don’t think it’s really about competitive drive or anything like that (although it probably is for a few people). I think the intense attention and concern is driven by how incredibly hard it is for people who aren’t part of the “in crowd” to get attention. And I know several bloggers (admittedly myself included) who feel strongly that God has entrusted them with a particular message and perspective to share with the world.

    Of course, if a person really has been given a message and perspective by God, then God can be trusted to provide the audience he intends it to reach. But we’re only human, so sometimes we end up deciding that it’s not enough to just faithfully carry the message. We must market and network and see if we can get on this list some big wig who doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground is putting together. Then this message that means so much to me might finally get the attention it deserves. And the church will be fixed and the world healed. I might even sell enough books to get my kids off the free lunch list this year! (OK, so you’re not the only one prone to a bit of narcissism!)

    Anyways, now you know that your list is a source of hope for people carrying a message from God . In case you weren’t already feeling the pressure. LOL ;)

    • http://bobcornwall.com/ Robert Cornwall

      Christian, I find myself in agreement with Rebecca. As a blogger — who posts every day (or most every day) and believes that I have something to offer — but without a large platform, any acknowledgment of my presence is helpful. So, yeah I’ve done a little jockeying for position. And if you decide that you need to put yourself out in the blogosphere, you have to have at least a little narcissism. So, please, pretty please, put me on your list!!

  • curtismpls

    Reminds me of the early days of the internet, when Yahoo! took it upon themselves to be the authoritative index of every website on the planet. Soon everyone realized how pointless that was, and how it really indicated a lack of understanding of what the internet is.

  • Nina Roesner

    Thanks for this – I seriously laughed out loud – we still all are a navel gazing lot, aren’t we? And YOU, sir, are stinkin’ hilarious! #worthyofnomination … :)

  • Hannah Heinzekehr

    I appreciate that you put this list out there. Frankly, it was just really a thrill to see that my small-ish blog made it on any list with folks like Rachel Held Evans, Homebrewed Christianity, etc. And also, by crowd-sourcing this list, I think you’ve been able to create a much more diverse list than we often see. Too often, these lists of bloggers end up being a litany of white males with Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Webber and maybe Sarah Bessey in there somewhere along the way (case in point: the list you linked to, where Nadia is, I believe, the first female mentioned and she comes in at #44). So, for what it’s worth, thanks for putting this out there.

  • CHRIS ROE

    Well mate, I found your blog through that first list and by extension Patheos and Homebrewed, all of which I have enjoyed immensely. So more power to ya! Be nice to see a few more Aussie Christians of a more progressive persuasion joining the blogging conversation.

  • Susan Daniel Barton

    I love this commentary and I appreciate your creating a list (because I trust you) and now I don’t have to do the work. Also, thanks to all the brave bloggers out there……I’m not brave enough to post my thoughts, so KUDOS to you all!

  • http://www.identityrenewed.com/ Teryn O’Brien

    When I saw you were collecting blogs for a list, I was just excited to see the list for professional reasons. I work in publishing and online marketing, so I’m always scouring the internet for what’s trending and hot topics in Christianity, etc. I love reading people’s stories and voices. I LOVE the blogging world. Everyone has so much to say.

    However, to my shock I saw that someone had nominated my blog. I wasn’t even expecting it! So it has been fun and affirming for me to see that people are reading it–even if I don’t get on the top 25 list or anything. I can definitely see that traffic to my blog has increased, I’ve made some connections with other bloggers, and I’ve found some good blogs to read I wouldn’t have otherwise found. So I think this whole experiment has indeed been a success!

    Do I still wish I’d made top 25? YES, of course. But I also know that there are much better bloggers out there with much bigger audiences, and so it shouldn’t surprise me in the least. I’m just happy I got nominated at all!! Thanks for doing this.

  • Mich Barry

    You mean I don’t get some nice gifts for voting? That’s unbelievable! :-)

  • Charles

    I didn’t see anywhere to vote on your site, but I would recommend and vote for a blog called “Revolutionary Faith: Taking Back Christianity.”
    Something tells me that this enormous list you are accumulating is hugely bad news for Christian fundamentalism.

    • Paul Clutterbuck

      “hugely bad news for Christian fundamentalism.” Yes, in many ways it does appear that way. We must remember, though, that Patheos’s blogging platform mostly serves those bloggers and readers who are relatively progressive, as well as those of other faiths and none. The Gospel Coalition, which represents neo-Reformed fundamentalists, most likely runs parallel lists that would have very different outputs.

  • http://lisadelay.com/blog Lisa Colon DeLay

    I’ve limited my reading of blogs over the summer. Apparently I was missing a lot of drama. :)

    Perspective. A good dose of perspective! I think this was really amusing (I followed Alise Wright here). Thanks for capturing the madness in this snapshot.

    Sometime in 2012 I turned a corner. I stopped looking at my blog stats except a few times per month, and I did something else: tried to concentrate on doing what was most life-giving. I stopped reading some of the most popular bloggers and with that time I tried to start and complete my own projects away from the fray-which to me was made up of popular Christian bloggers and zealots from political extremes…sort of what 24 hour cable news is to blogging.

    Steven Pressfield talks a lot about the habits that change when you “turn pro” and I realize now that, despite any ranking or even success I have or don’t have, I “went pro” and decide to “make good art” as Neil Goodman puts it.

    Funny thing was I let go of something (trying to run with the big dogs–as if I could) and I gained so much more: freedom and a big boost in well-being and creativity. Joy even.

    It was a “heck with the buzz feed ” mentality. I’m going rouge and climbing out of the smog for a better view. All of a sudden blogging became a joy again. Having tasted this flavor I won’t go back!

    So, finally, I thank you for your list, Christian, but I will only rarely use it (or anyone else’s). :)

    All the best to you.
    I’m going back to my work now. :)
    -L

  • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

    LOL loved your closing paragraph! ;{) And @rebeccatrotter:disqus is right about the campaigning … reminds me of the time some years ago that Kathie Lee Gifford got a whole lot of fans of her show to vote her the prettiest on some “poll” or other.

  • Jesus Was NOT a Liberal

    I honestly find much of what blogs “in the name of Christ” today to be far to liberal and far less “c”hristian (small c) than it ought to be. Give me Dr John MacArthur and a STRAIGHT-FORWARD reading of Scripture over the opinionated clap-trap that passes as modern “Emergent” Fak-i-anity.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I did not make it…again.

    Is there a list of the worst Christian blog sites? I think I would have a shot at that one.

  • directmail4churches.com

    You need to get serious at your work mate. Where is the list at?

    • Christian Piatt

      Seriously? The voting just closed Sunday night.

  • triopticaonline

    Thanks, are very important these blog Catarata

  • Serena

    The problem is with ranking, I think. Perhaps Christians should stop ranking things and having top 10s and awards ceremonies? How about putting together lists of blogs on topics instead? That way, you can find the sort of information you like without giving someone a mark out of 10 (this is fellowship, not come dine with me).

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    My comment actually has nothing to do with the substance of the post:

    “I’ve decided to divide the proverbial baby down the middle…” – the story of Solomon and the baby is from Kings, not Proverbs. Shouldn’t we be using a different adjective than “proverbial”? (“Kingly” has a different implication, so maybe “kingsian”?)

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    We do indeed like lists. Here’s Vi Hart with 5 reasons why people like “5 reasons” videos.

    TRiG.

  • Lauren DeMoss

    Thefulltimegirl.com :]


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