A lot of people emailing me need to change their attitudes

The most frequent emails I get from atheists are the ones asking how to get more hits for their web site.  Those emails infuriate me.  Stop sending them.

“But JT, don’t you worry about blog hits?”

No.  No I don’t.  I’m aware of how many I get.  It’s flattering.  It’s nice to have people read my ramblings.  But this is the first year in eight years of blogging that I have the first clue how many people visit my blog, and that’s only because FtB makes it easy.  Up until this year I had no idea and didn’t care…because I was out doing shit.

I was refining my debate style and going out to engage religious people on my campus, not on a stage.

I was helping start a college secular group.

I was working with our college group to oppose evangelists and raise money for charity and, in doing so, developing my own unique style of activism.

I was starting and running an atheist conference.

You get the picture.  My priority was getting shit done, not how many people saw me doing it.

Yesterday I wrote

There are some prominent people in this movement who are good a gussying up to the famous atheists in the hopes of getting promoted, but who treat anybody who cannot directly benefit them with indifference.  Those people piss me off.

There’s a lot more not prominent people doing the same thing.  That’s because fame-seeking seems to be a lousy way to achieve fame.

Take Greta Christina for example.  If Greta had to write under a pseudonym for her entire life, she’d still do it because the fame isn’t the reason, the writing is the reason.  If you write to be well-read, you’ll burn out.  It takes a long time of writing and refining your style with nobody giving the first shit before you pick up a readership.  If you write because it helps you organize thoughts or because you feel personally moved to do it, that’s what makes a happy writer – and it has zero to do with how many people are reading.

And what do you think made PZ, Greta, or Hemant famous?  Do you think it was because they went around sucking up to everybody who could promote them?  Hell no.  They did shit and people noticed!  They didn’t have to ask people to promote them because they were out doing things that people naturally want to promote.

“But JT, isn’t it nice to give talks and have people applaud?”

Yes, it is.  I enjoy it.  Is that what you’re in it for, so you can feel nice?  Well, that’s not what I’m in it for (nor what most of your atheist heroes are in it for, I’d wager).  I’m a public speaker because that’s my niche – it’s where my skill set lies.  And if you’ve ever encountered somebody who has seen me speak, they will tell you a few things:

1.  I never go to a green room.  I’m not there for the “famous” people (though some famous people are just fun folks, and I enjoy them for that…looking at you, Matt Dillahunty).

2.  If there are seats designated for speakers and/or people who paid extra, I don’t go sit there.  I feel more at home with the portion of the crowd with which I have spent most of my life as an activist.

3.  I use my platform to empower others.  I don’t see other atheists doing great things as a threat to my popularity, because popularity isn’t the damn point.  I want to see more people doing great work.

4.  If people compliment me, I generally thank them and quickly get right back into activism or talking about what they are doing in this movement.

If you envy a public speaker because of the accolades without first wondering if that’s the spot in this movement for which you are best suited, you need to rethink some things.  Activism is not about accolades, it’s about change.  If you are more worried about getting pictures on your group’s web site before your group has run a single event (I have seen this happen recently), you are going about it wrong.  Fix it.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be like someone you admire.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to emulate a PZ Myers or a Greta Christina or a Hemant Mehta.  But if the part you’re most concerned with emulating is their popularity, you’ve lost sight of what’s important.  If you really want to be like them, ditch the pursuit of fame, because that’s not why they’re where they’re at.  Adopt the best qualities of our best public atheists for the purpose of making yourself a better person and for making earth a better planet.

And being a great activist will probably not make you famous either.  You know who is a better activist than I will ever be?  David Burger, the contributor to this site.  The man is the most incredible activist/leader you’ve never heard of, and that’s ok.  My debate style was largely forged by watching Dave do it and mimicking his approach.  I learned a lot of how to debate from him.  Another example is Lyz Liddell, the director of organizing for the Secular Student Alliance.  This woman has done more for this movement than literally anybody I can think of, and she’s done it with all the stealth of a ninja.  That more people know my name than hers is a fucking crime.

But that’s how great movements work.  The most ideal atheist movement is not full of a ton of people seeking recognition, it’s full of people doing shit who will give credit where credit is due if fame happens to glance their way.  This is precisely what most of the high profile atheists do.  It’s not about them, it’s about all of us.  And in most cases, that’s why they are so loved by the people in this movement.

So, send me emails asking how to be a better activist.  Ask me how to improve your abilities with debate.  Ask me how to express yourself better as a writer.  Ask me how to run an event.  Do not, under any circumstances, send me one more god damn email asking how to get hits on your blog/youtube channel.  Contributing to changing the world is awesome.  Fame-seeking with the secondary goal of changing the world is shallow, self-interested bullshit.  Don’t do it.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • fastlane

    And here I thought you just in it for the godless chicks. =P

    Oh, and the free xian baby bbq…that’s gotta be a perk!

    • Raul

      I hate to say it, but a lot of the
      Godless Chicks are fat and homely.

      • Timid Atheist

        Well I’m glad to see that there are still people who are happy to bring up looks when they have nothing what so ever to do with anything being discussed.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

        IP address puts him in the same area as Moe and other people from their group.

        This person is undoubtedly a Christian, which I think is all I need to say here.

        • clarissa

          JT’s own prejudice is showing.

          He just can’t stand the fact that some atheists might think he is a putz! Tehehehe…

          Blame the Christians, I don’t give a fuck.

      • N. Nescio

        I don’t hate saying this: you’re a jerk.

  • Melody

    I would like to remind you that most prominent activists in our movement are not “famous” outside of our community.

    “There are some prominent people in this movement who are good a gussying up to the famous atheists in the hopes of getting promoted, but who treat anybody who cannot directly benefit them with indifference. Those people piss me off.”

    I am seeing more and more of this and when I do, I immediately lose respect for those “prominent people.” I find it utterly pathetic and transparent.

    • Raul

      You said it.

      JT is a LEGEND, though!

      (In his own mind! snicker)

    • N. Nescio

      Who are these people doing the gussying, anyway?

      What’s the point of calling people out on a behavior if you’re just going to be passive-aggressive about it?

      • N. Nescio

        Just want to clarify that the above is not intended as a shot at JT. I respect what he does, and enjoy his writing.

  • doctorburger

    2am activism is the FINEST kind of activism.

  • Pteryxx

    Hear hear!

    my 2 cents though: some of us helpy folks don’t WANT recognition. Some are ninjas by preference or need. I know that tends to contradict Damon’s speech about standing up for what’s right no matter the cost; but seriously, recognition itself isn’t an unalloyed good thing. It gets you lots more hate mail, just to start. If folks enjoy fame when it happens, or can handle it, or put up with it, wonderful; but those who can’t can still be useful. (And those who prioritize it can find some other calling than civil activism. Sheesh.)

    • https://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole

      Exactly. I am a quiet introverted person. I don’t like being the center of attention. In addition if I got hate mail, my personality type is one in which I would cry all day about it.

      That is why it is awesome to have so many different personalities in our movement. We have to all work together, using the different strengths in our group to get shit done.

  • https://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole

    Psssst… remember that time a couple weeks ago where I asked you (or any FTB bloggers) to mention some of the secular organizations they are involved with? This would be a good time to mention those!

    In the interim I did go ahead and join the Freedom From Religion Foundation because from the organizations I did resarch they seemed to resonate with me the most. That was my one thing new I was supposed to do after Reason Rally. Thanks to the homework Greta assigned us all.

  • http://www.sbsoapbox.blogspot.com/ Susi

    ♥ well said! your blog never disappoints. :)

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    RIGHT ON. This post was A-rate awesome.

    If you write to be well-read, you’ll burn out. It takes a long time of writing and refining your style with nobody giving the first shit before you pick up a readership. If you write because it helps you organize thoughts or because you feel personally moved to do it, that’s what makes a happy writer – and it has zero to do with how many people are reading.

    Spoken as only a true scribe could speak it.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    I have a feeling you might appreciate this:

    if you’re in the game to get chicks or money or notoriety, you’re in the wrong game.
    —bukowski, hollywood

  • RhubarbTheBear

    I see a similarity here with the field of music. Far, FAR too many people try to start careers by putting up YouTube videos instead of playing actual gigs.

    When I first discovered the world of online skepticism 5 years ago (actually 5 years ago yesterday, precisely), I noticed that it was populated by people who were trying to parlay it into a career of sorts. To my knowledge, none of that particular cadre did so. I’m pretty sure it was because they were unable to grow their own individual cults (if you’ll pardon the term) of personality. I don’t actually think it would be any more fun to be “internet famous” than “actually famous”; for that matter, I don’t think being “famous” just for fame’s sake could possibly be all that satisfying. I doubt the Kardashians are happier people than the rest of us.

  • tynk

    Yea, I think I will just stay my invisible self. I have had too many run-ins with the stalker ilk to have any desire for recognition. I stay quite, help when and where I can, and stay as invisible to the world as possible. It’s just better that way.

  • Elizabeth

    OK. How can I better a better activist as a person who does not feel comfortable confronting or debating others? I’m more introverted but still want to help. I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Elizabeth @ # 11 – Join a group, help with their projects.

    Donate money to your local white hats.

    Stay after events to help clean up; go to the after-event parties to find out what the more-visible doers need in terms of support.

    No leaders ever accomplished anything without a crew to do the behind-the-scenes work: see, f’rinstance, Martin Luther King, Jr, & Bayard Rustin.

    • Pteryxx

      Seconding this. Volunteer groups always, always need help with the grunt work of organizing things: finding out information such as what speakers are available or who can print up cheap posters, helping with websites or email lists, stuffing envelopes, designing T-shirts, making emergency office supply runs or whatever.

      Also, coming up with ideas in the first place. Every healthy group that’s thrown a successful event, fairly soon, has to ask “What should we do next?”

      • Elizabeth

        Thank you to everyone for the feedback and suggetions. I’ve taken it all to heart and just need to start doing the work :)

      • Pteryxx

        Another helpful, silent thing volunteers can do – transcribe and/or caption atheist talks and interviews. It’s time-consuming, lonely, mostly thankless work, but makes videos and podcasts easily accessible to those of us with worse hearing or net connections. Plus, text transcripts are easy to skim, search, and excerpt for further discussion. Translation into other languages can be helpful too.

  • Bruce S. Springsteen

    Elizabeth – You can engage others candidly and in a challenging way without it being a confrontation. Just tell them, in a friendly way, what you think and why you think it. Listen to what they have to say, help them say it in the best, clearest form they can, then critique it honestly. There are plenty of opportunities to do this in everyday life, if you look for them and practice these conversational habits. If your introversion is such that even this seems daunting, find a group of similarly introverted would-be activists, online or, better, in “meat space,” and buck each other up.

    Any way you find to improve the quality of ideas in circulation is “activism” of the best kind. You don’t have to do it the flashy, brash way. Some of us just like to make more noise than others, to better or worse effect. One problem in the movement is too many people trying to play the iconoclast firebrand who have neither the talent or discretion to do it well. You dan’t have to feel inferior to those people, so long as you are thinking well, and and engaging others successfully where, when and how you can. It all ads to the shift in Zeitgeist we are working for, where the habits of constructve, informed skepticism are widely appreciated and applied.

  • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    I absolutely see what’s being said here, but I have one question: what is the difference between blatant self-promotion in the interest of gaining readership and pride in your work? Is it just a mental thing that manifests in choices designed to enhance a person rather than the movement, or are there actions that can be pointed to?

    For example, I love reading your stuff. You should be very proud of what you write (and I suspect you are, just not in proportion to your actual talent). When you were just starting out, would you ever mention your blog in comments or to other people without a vested interest in you? Would you say, “Hey, I wrote something about that, too! You should check it out”, not necessarily because you were looking for traffic but because you wanted to share your ideas and potentially run into others who could help you refine them? I know there have been times when I’ve wanted to email any number of bloggers about things I’ve written that they inspired (including you) on the off chance they may have the time and inclination to read and enjoy (or show me where I might be wrong).

    Basically, is it ok to want to share your writing because you’re proud of your writing and looking for people to challenge you, or is there always a presumption that you’re looking for fame?

    • F

      I think “farming blog hits” was the problem – not linking back to something you (or somebody you like) wrote.

      It’s all intent. Being visible to get your message out is one thing, if you don’t mind or enjoy being a public (for various values of “public”) person. Looking to get noticed as your primary goal, or close secondary goal, or to parlay your being noticed into a career (some faitheists are big on this) is just marketing and self-promotion. I’m almost certain you can tell the difference between a blog-whore or attention-hound and someone who has made a name for themselves (or not) via the quality of their work and thought. It isn’t often a terribly subtle distinction.

      • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

        I don’t know that it’s nearly that easy to tell, at least not when you’re doing it. Even in the above comment, I was hesitant to even mention that I had a blog, since I didn’t want to come off as fishing for traffic on a much better site. I think we can recognize it better when we’re looking at others, but if you worry about not being that person, it becomes difficult to know when you’re doing it yourself. It’s a very fine line.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

    I finally got up the gumption to start a blog of my own, and every spam comment so far has been “hey, do you want more blog hits?” Sheesh. One of the main reasons I started a blog is that in my other conversations online I get asked the same frikkin stupid questions by the godbots over and over again, and I wind up writing the same answers back, over and over again. So now I have one place where I can write really good careful answers to that stuff, and just point the godbots there. And I can just vent about the stuff that makes me crazy. (If I just wanted blog hits, I’d blog about porn. Interestingly, the day I got the most hits was the day I used the word “porn” in a post. Coincidence?)

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    I’ve gotten asked that question a lot too, how do I increase hits to my blog? I don’t really have a good answer to that because I never did it intentionally. I didn’t have a plan. In fact, I’m still kind of amazed that so many people read my blog. When I started it in November, 2003, I never expected anyone to read it other than a few friends. A lot of it is just plain luck. I was in the right place at the right time, got in on the blogging thing early and got involved in some controversies that brought attention. But none of that was intentional, I was just responding to things that caught my interest. Blogging has been great to me. It’s given me a whole new career where I get paid to do what I did for free for years, and I’m very lucky for that. But I don’t think you can plan it. It just has to happen. Do good work and the chances of it are increased dramatically; do bad work and it’s a lot less likely.

    • Raul

      Ed is being less than truthful…there are ways to increase blog hits, but he sure isn’t going to share them with you.

      Neither is JT…and the arrogant post of his does not cover it up.

      FU JT.

  • Mattir

    People who blog to earn money, which is what I’m assuming the “how do I increase my hits” question is really about, are suffering from some major delusional thinking. But here’s how I’d imagine one could increase one’s blog hits: get involved in an online community by doing something other than promoting one’s blog.* Have a real life with atheists. Go to events and do stuff. Read your friends’ blogs and comment there.

    Most importantly, stop sending emails about your utter lack of common sense to other bloggers. It lets said bloggers know that you’re really a wanker.

    *Do we have a consensus on “blog-whoring” or a non-sexist alternative with the same emotional whallop?

    • Mattir

      I meant that people who START a blog to earn money are delusional, since it’s a pretty tough market. I don’t think JT, Ed, PZ, Greta, or anyone else on FtB is delusional and I fully support them earning all the money they can from the wonderful FtB Christian advertisers.

    • Pteryxx

      Dunno from consensus, but I’ve been test-driving “blog-spamming” as an alternative.

    • Pierce R. Butler

      Do you think all whores are of the same sex?

  • F

    “How do I get more hits on my blog” simply translates to “Please link to my blog”. Because you’re a nice guy and would do that, right?

    As if there aren’t ten thousand sites about building blogs, SEO, etc. It’s like they (at least want you to think they) are new to the internet.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Blog hits?


    My blog is mainly for me to have a safe space to express my thoughts and feelings, however eloquently (or not) they may come out.

    If people read my thoughts, great. If not, whatever. I’m not sure I could (or even want to) handle moderating something like you have here.

  • amyc

    Speaking of emails, I can’t find yours JT. The only one I have is from your old site. Do you still check that one?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It’s in my bio on the right side. :)

      • amyc

        Ok, I just emailed you. It’s been a very long day and I accidentally fell asleep earlier while working on it.