I’m going to talk technical stuff for a split-sec, but keep reading because I think it’ll be pertinent to our overall discussion of happiness if we stitch a few things together today.
As a professional blogger, I have to keep a pretty firm grasp of what’s going on around here, and one of the things I keep a real close eye on is how often people share my posts with other people. For my blog to keep growing, I need to be writing things that people want to share. After all, almost 100% of the people who have found this blog found it because somebody else shared a link to something somewhere.
But blog growth isn’t the only reason I look at the share counts of my posts. I also keep tabs on them because they tell me whether or not something I write actually touches people the way I hope it will. They tell me if my readers and I are more or less on the same wave length. They tell me if my message is something many people are feeling or if I’m off in Never Never Land with the things that I’m writing.
There are definite patterns to be found, and much of what I post is fairly predictable in this regard. But something happened a couple weeks ago that I have been thinking about ever since. My post Whose Life is it Anyway got shared. A ton. Traffic was really high.
But the share counts were really low.
It didn’t make sense to me. In the 20 months I’ve been writing this blog, I’d never seen that happen to that degree before. Where was the high traffic coming from if it wasn’t coming from people posting links to it on their favorite social networks?
In the few days that followed posting it, I started to see an interesting picture develop. I received email after email from visitors to my blog who basically said the same thing this reader wrote:
“Hi Dan, I just wanted to thank you for writing the post Whose Life is it Anyway. You don’t know how many people there are in my life who really NEED to read this and I wish I could find a way to get them to read it, but I’m too scared to post it on my Facebook because of what people would think if I do. I still emailed it to a couple close friends who I know are struggling with these kinds of changes in their lives right now. Hopefully it will help them see that doing what they need to do for their happiness is a good thing.”
That was one email. The more emails I read, the more I started to piece together something profound…
“I emailed it to my brother who really needed it.”
“I messaged my group of girlfriends and shared the link. There’s no way I could post this on my wall even though there are probably a lot of people who could benefit from it.”
“A friend emailed me a link to your recent blog post…”
“I wish I could share this blog with some people I know but that ain’t gonna happen.”
“I can’t share this one because then people will know that I am having doubts…”
If I were to dig back further I could find more. A lot more. But you get the gist. You can see the picture that formed for me.
People were sharing the post. They were just sharing it in secret. They were sharing it with those they knew wouldn’t judge them or assume things about them for it. They were sharing it in love, but they were also sharing it in the shadow of fear.
Just to verify this theory, I logged into my analytics account and pulled up the “direct traffic” statistics. This statistic is the number of people who come to the blog from email links, directly typing in the URL, bookmarks, etc. In an average month, my direct traffic percentage is around 15%. When I looked at the direct traffic in the days directly after Whose Life is it Anyway, the percentage was around 70%.
That’s rather significant if you think about it. And I was right. People definitely were sharing it, but they were sharing it in emails, private messages, and chat rooms. Few people were sharing it publicly.
And while all of this is interesting, I’m far more fascinated by what this “Fearful Sharing” Phenomenon really means, especially with this particular message.
I can only speculate.