My experiment

I don’t know if any of you noticed, but I haven’t been posting about any controversial topics, or the pagan community, or any of that since the big blow-up last summer. I just got completely burned out on arguing on the internet, since it never really leads anywhere. Since then, I’ve been quietly posting here and there about things I’m interested in (like mumming), about some developments in my own spiritual life and the broader issues they bring up, sharing photos and descriptions of a few of my ritual activities, etc. And during this period, I have received much fewer hits, hardly any comments (even though I have over 450 followers, according to WordPress), and – it seemed – very little interest.

When I posted about the struggle of ceasing cultus for a deity – something I have never seen addressed in modern polytheism to my recollection – there were crickets. When I shared photos of the many offerings and rites I was doing, nothing. When I broke my usual privacy about my personal life and mentioned the end of an 8-year relationship and related drastic changes I was experiencing, one comment.

So yesterday when I happened across a couple blog posts that really resonated with me, but whose potential for controversy and the usual pagan/polytheist drama would normally make me avoid posting them, I decided to do a little experiment and post them anyway along with my thoughts. And look! More comments on that post than I have received in the past six months on anything else, and 393 hits yesterday, higher than I can remember in ages.

What does this tell us about the online pagan/polytheist community(ies)? Maybe it’s just a fluke, just about me or the sorts of people who read me or whatever, but I suspect it’s more than that. People love to argue on the internet, it’s become a serious pastime, everywhere from Youtube to religious communities. People love controversy, they love to be offended, they love to form factions. But having deeper discussions about serious theological and practical religious issues, sharing our actual religious lives and inspiring each other to do more for our gods…. eh, not so much. That’s not nearly as exciting.

We can hardly be surprised, then, that we are failing in large part to form long-term, healthy religious groups amongst the various polytheist strains. We can hardly blame those serious about their devotion when they leave the internet to focus on real-life worship, when this is all we have to offer here. I’m not pointing fingers here, I’ve been plenty guilty of this myself. But I simply wanted to draw attention to it for those who might be ready to notice, and even to change. And this will also serve as an explanation for why my online presence in the pagan/polytheist world continues to dwindle, and why I find myself not really disappointed at all when the projects my gods and spirits are giving me now look to be taking me outside the “communities” altogether.

~ by Dver on December 20, 2013.

39 Responses to “My experiment”

  1. I do agree with you regarding that we love arguing (and I’ve made the same mention as well), but if you ARE curious, some others may be like myself. I read your blog and your posts, but I was also severely busy for several months (so much so that my practice suffered a little because I couldn’t spend the amount of time I preferred with my fulltruar). I usually read your posts on the bus on the way to work, or at lunch break. I just can’t easily (and quickly) comment on things when I use my phone’s email. I know some people like me: they read but don’t like/comment. (And in my case, I also don’t always know what to say, so I don’t comment a tall half the time. I know others like that too.)

    So in other words: I think you’re certainly right about the drama, but also don’t be disheartened, people read and listen, too.

    • Oh, I do realize that, and I myself often don’t comment even on posts that actually affect me, for a variety of reasons. Still, sadly, when it comes down to it, people seem to find the time and energy to discuss things when it’s a big brouhaha.

      • Understandable!

        To note, I also don’t think it a purely polytheist/pagan thing, either. One of the larger things I took from studying journalism was that it’s at -least- an American thing (if not a general human thing). I personally consider it a sort of addiction. We get a rush of adrenaline and it’s “fun.” I’ve known a few people who simply love fighting (in general) because of the adrenaline they get (and it’s the same reason why my friends love horror films). Sometimes it’s benign, like with the film-love, but other times it’s harmful, like with the fighting. It doesn’t help that we get likes and comments and stars when we make these posts. We’re getting positive feedback (and the only way to “combat” that is to not give feedback period–“negative” feedback is still technically positive because it gives attention). I think, largely, as a society (like right now, my FB is flooded with the Phil Robertson thing), we’ve really sucked into these bursts of drama/gossip-related adrenaline rushes. (In news, the trend tends to run roughly one to two weeks, depending. In one of our classes, the professor would sarcastically ask what was the flavor this time every Monday.) I have yet to really record the survival time for our dramas, but unlike the news, our community is sometimes a little slower (and sometimes not). I’d roughly give it a two week turnover. (I think a large contributing factor to the survivability of drama, too, is how easy it is to hold grudges. I know I sometimes forget that people I’m arguing with are -people-, but after going to Etin Moot, it became so much easier to care less about drama, particularly when it involves two people who have never met each other in person.) Likewise, I think there’s an issue with not understanding “don’t air your dirty laundry.” I had some wicked “drama” personally, but I never really openly discussed it on my blog. Maybe it’s the fault of paparazzi and our gross invasion of private lives these days, but: some business isn’t public business. (I recently lost a friend to that. Someone thought it right to butt into my finances and in the end, it cost us our friendship.)

        I guess it really is just sad, though, at the end. There’s so much more to do, as worshipers of the spirits and gods, but we get sidetracked so easily. It concerns me.

  2. I greatly value your posts, even (maybe especially) when they have little to do with my own practice or experience. Oftentimes, I do not comment because either I do not feel I have anything of value to add to the discuss, or I need time to digest what you have written before adding my own voice.
    I read your post on the discontinuation of devotional practices to Apollon several times. I was fascinated, but again, I had to have time to think about it because it was so far outside my own experience, or as you pointed out – nothing that had been mentioned before.
    Keep writing, please. I’ll do my best to join in more.

  3. For the record, I love your blog – been following for years – and everything you do here (and cause of this I finally purchased Dwelling on the Threshold when you were like…if you’ve been thinking about buying my books do it already!) I’m just bad with commenting. That and I think ‘oh that’s nice’ makes for a bland comment.

    Regarding the ‘dramas’ I think that, unless these people show up on the news or something, they should be ignored. Thing is people feed into the phenomena of social media which begs for shit to be smeared all over the place. It’s a vicious cycle, really.

    Blessings.

    • I know, as I said I’m guilty of these things myself, and one is not commenting even when something affects me. I just often don’t know what to say. Thank you for commenting!

  4. I’m so offended by this post, I have to comment ;-) (please note this entire comment is satirical)

  5. I suspect some of it might have to do with how easy it is to come up with a response about whatever controversy or argument is the flavor of the week, but how it can be more difficult or awkward to respond to a personal expression or experience one is having.

    • That is probably true. I just hope we can start taking all the time we put into the first thing, and instead put it into more thoughtful, and even difficult, discussions.

  6. Several things:
    1. I have enjoyed your blog for several years (heck, I enjoyed your LJ when I was reading it) and I will miss your presence if you continue posting less. Have you considered going to a subscription model of postings (see Del’s post here: http://sexgodsrockstars.wordpress.com/spirit-work-101-subscription-service-for-awesome-essays-and-lessons/ )? That might be a way of lessening the impact of people starting fights…
    2. I agree with theinfinitebattle that this phenomenon is bigger than the pagan and polytheist communities. I don’t have the immediate evidence to back this up but my instinct is that it is about the different energies (or chemicals) that posts appeal to. Learning conversations where the people involved in them grow are far far more difficult to create online compared to “fighting” conversations give us those delicious little squirts of adrenaline.
    3. More and more I feel like it’s also about the medium. Facebook especially but other platforms as well seem to be designed to encourage somewhat addictive behaviors. All these companies have invested millions of dollars in ways that people will keep coming back, keep commenting, keep being involved and I think a (hopefully unintended) consequence of that is that it changes the range of possible interactions that take place on the web. I’m not saying these companies are “evil” or anything, just acknowledging that the internet has changed dramatically in the past few years and I would be shocked if that DIDN’T effect the types of interactions. (although I’m not saying the communities haven’t changed).
    4. Something I’ve been increasingly looking for is other ways to have conversations. I mentioned the subscription model above but I feel that there are certainly other ways to have the kind of conversations we want.

    • 1. That’s an interesting idea, as are the more formal classes a few polytheists are teaching. I kind of wish I had thought of doing that back when I was writing more on these topics and feeling more call to guide people. At this point in my life, my public-project priorities are shifting to things outside the polytheist communities.

      2. Oh yes, it’s definitely bigger than us. Just look at the comments on pretty much *anything* online.

      3. I agree, they encourage not only addictive behaviors, but very shallow interactions. Blogging is a bit better than Facebook or Tumblr, but it has its limits too.

      4. I do hope some people more socially capable than me start working on alternatives. I really want these communities to thrive and deepen in the long run.

  7. I read. I listen. I appreciate when people avoid the drama. I typically just feel like I don’t have anything to contribute. I’ll try harder.

  8. I’ve been on WordPress, writing about the exploits of my Druid Grove for about two years now; and its only been this year I have started following other people’s blogs and even made my own.
    I was witness to what happened during the summer and I honestly don’t get the whole ‘Pagan/Polytheist’ thing. In my line of thinking there are some pagan paths that are polytheistic as well as animistic, pantheist etc, hell- even some that are atheistic. I certainly don’t mean to bring up any bad feeling or start a debate. So what if people don’t comment on what you want to write about, are you writing for us or for you? Either way I’d say stepping out of the brouhaha is a mature, respectable choice.
    You inspired me to create a little ritual I do to give thanks or just offer worship to my gods, it might even be tame compared to what you do, but thank you for showing me that the Gods are indeed worthy of respect and honour.

    • “are you writing for us or for you”

      That’s a good question. It’s complicated. On the one hand, I primarily do this blog in order to potentially help people along their paths by writing about my own experiences and lessons. On the other hand, I do want to get *something* out of it.

      “You inspired me to create a little ritual I do to give thanks or just offer worship to my gods”

      That is the best thing I could possibly hear. Thank you!

      • You’re very welcome. Incidentally, I shall be playing St. George in a traditional English Mummers play today. Definitely one way of celebrating today’s Solstice. Midwinter blessings to you! :)

  9. Yep, I read everything that the people I follow post. (For the most part.) But when it comes to personal things, if I have nothing to relate them to in my personal life, then I have nothing to say. I’ll “like” the posts as a nod to the blogger.

    90% of the internet is comprised of things I disagree with or just find plain abhorrent. I don’t comment, statistically speaking, on any of it. But if it’s someone in my sphere, someone I respect, who says something I may feel inclined to disagree with and who may, in the off-chance respect me in return, then I might say something to expand awareness or get a discussion going.

    Yours is, in all honesty, about 5 “pagan” blogs I follow, and none of you really broadcast drama. If you do, then I actually disengage completely and come back later when things die down. I do not want drama in my religious life. I have no need for outside opinions on what I’m personally doing. I don’t do ritual with anyone (of a corporeal nature), I don’t offer spiritual services, I rarely even engage in theological discussion anymore.

    But you’re right, people love to fight in the hopes of winning.

  10. You have been a big influence and inspiration to me over the years. I comment rarely, sometimes out of shyness, or simply not having anything meaningful to add. Are the number of “likes” and comments really indicative of the value of something? I highly value reading about others’ personal experiences and gnosis — which by their nature don’t usually garner debate or controversy, but are incredibly valuable to me. There is something to be said, though, for trying harder to participate and bring attention to the quiet beauty, the small victory, the bit of inspiration shared by others, in the interest of community. I’ve been trying to get better at this. It’s easy to get discouraged by the arguments and negative “loud” people, but I suspect there’s a lot more who say little and listen much.

    I’d be sad to see you post less because of a perceived lack of interest. I get little to no hits on my own blog but my reasons for posting are mostly for my own benefit (although a part of me hopes others will get something out of it, now or later on down the road). I feel that at least I put it out there, to share with the world, and the world can take it from there. Or not!

    For the record, I get your blog posts in email and read them there, so I probably don’t even count as a “hit” most of the time.

    • It’s a tricky situation – I’m the first to admit I also don’t always comment even if something affects me deeply. OTOH, when the only comments one receives are from negative issues, it’s discouraging. Hence me calling attention to this situation – just hoping to get people thinking about how we could be interacting more productively.

  11. Literally, I’m just starting a post that is somewhat along these lines (only it takes a different direction), and I was going to say some of these same things that you did.

    You annoying-ass mind-reading polytheists offend me and get all up in my shit! ;)

    In any case, expect links and quotes shortly…

    Thank you for taking the lead on this!

  12. […] “hot topic” in the polytheist (and occasionally pagan) blogosphere; and, Dver then made this post detailing how it was an experiment to test the hypothesis that many people read and comment on blog […]

  13. Eh I won’t say anything sappy but I like your blog, its just 99.99% of anything I would post would just be: ‘how very interesting!’

  14. […] Dver was recently musing, I’m again amazed and rather dismayed, but likewise not at all surprised, that I wrote one of […]

  15. This and the related discussions online are *completely* amazing to me.

    I didn’t even know there WAS this online Polytheist community until I stumbled across you all quite by accident when I put up my own blog. Then WordPress started showing me links to those with similar interests. Before now, I had no time or energy to blog or follow blogs. Only recently did I decide I wanted to share what I learned about the Gods so actively worked to carve out a little bit of time.

    Ironically, witnessing these arguments on Pagan and Polytheist sites has been rather helpful and healing to me. You see, I actually left, about a year ago, a well established Pagan community for the very issues which are being argued here. “Hey!” I thought, “I’m not alone!”

    I had run into virtually all of these issues in one form or another (e.g.s Polytheist vs Pagan, racism vs cultural appropriation, sacrifice and offerings, the reasons for the “month of silence,” etc.). As a “leader” of one of the organization’s online groups (only because no one else would do it), I found the constant bickering to be completely exhausting. The insane arguing took so much time away from actually researching, practicing, and devoting what little time and energy I had left to worship (after actual survival: working, running errands, doing paperwork, preparing food, etc.).

    So I finally gave up and left the organization after almost six years and quite a bit of work. Even more astonishing was that, as far as I have been able to tell, no one in that organization even now understands why I left and how very discouraged and frustrated I felt each day that I was a member.

    Recently, a close friend and leader of the organization asked how I felt now that I had left. I sighed and blissfully said, “relieved.” She reacted with astonishment. I expect she thought I would say I was sad or something like that. But I wasn’t. I wanted to dance! I was so happy that I didn’t have to deal with all the ridiculous drama anymore.

    So, like you, I kind of figured out they must actually LIKE the fighting. And they didn’t understand that I found it all such a waste of time and energy. Whenever I complained about the online fighting I was answered with this: “If you can only *meet* them in real life. They are not at all like what you are seeing online.”

    But we *are* our words and our deeds. If all we know of each other is how we conduct ourselves online, then I think we all bear a great responsibility to be just as gracious online as we are in real life.

    That said, I am personally completely thrilled, Dver, to find your blog and the other Polytheist blogs online. You have no idea! And I can *hardly wait* to go into the archives and read all your posts about your spiritual interests! YAY!

    • Many years ago I also left the leadership of a group, and felt mostly relief. I know what you mean, and it’s too bad it keeps happening. All we can do is try to focus on our actual worship. Hope you can get something positive out of this blog and others!

      • “All we can do is try to focus on our actual worship. ”

        Yes, I agree!

        “Hope you can get something positive out of this blog and others!”

        I have, and thank you so much for creating this blog!

  16. […] postures. Regardless, if you put the gods first, if you would welcome the opportunities that allow you to opt out of community, you really have no place telling people who are concerned about their communities how to make […]

  17. Your blog is pretty much the only blog I read fairly regularly. It’s rational, sincere and well informed. I Like It. All those geekorama polemicists can type as much trash as their little fingers can churn out; though I can’t say I’ve ever read any of it, I’m sure in the end it’s irrelevant to one’s practice. It’s nothing. My three-hour ski through some pretty wild big woods today can serve as confirmation of this. It supports my choice of priorities. The Spirits of Earth and Air are there, not here. I’ll always look there for the real answers…and the answers, I guess, I’ll keep pretty much to myself. Peace to you on your path, Dver.

  18. Okay, I admit up front I skimmed much of the comments, so I apologize if any of this is redundant.

    1. Yes, part of the reason I decided to start the subscription service was so I could provide quality content on a regular (but also do-able with a chronic illness) schedule to an audience I know is actively interested in what I have to say. I also was able to clarify who my intended audience was (people who would find essays on the basics of spirit work interesting/enlightening), and hope that instead of things going ShitStorm, they will turn to polite conversation about different points of view. I will still be writing for the general public on both of my blogs, but this way I can delve a little deeper into some of the things I love to write about (and for longer, also avoiding TL:DR responses!) without the fear that someone is going to take it the wrong way.

    2. I would also like to posit that hit counts on “controversial” topics are or can be falsely inflated due to reblogging and links. I get a fairly predictable number of unique hits on run-of-the-mill posts, but stuff that sparks wider-reaching interest (and sometimes disdain) gets linked, added to lists and “round-ups”, posted to online forums and other non-blog sources (social media, for instance), and so on. The controversial post gets added to the canon of the original post and the resultant outcry, which sees repeated mentions as the SS HolyCrap gets more wind in its sails.

    3. Sadly, many WordPress co-bloggers read other people’s WP blogs from the Reader, which does not register as a unique hit unless you post a “read more” link in the entry (forcing the reader to go to your URL rather than read the entirety on the Reader aggregate). So I would hazard that possibly half or more of your 400+ fans (myself included) don’t add our little clicks to your counter, regardless of what you post.

    4. This may just be me, but I find it sometimes difficult to know what to say when a blogger I usually read for content, posts something personal. I have never met you, and all I know of you is what you post on the blog. I did comment about your breakup (somewhere, maybe on Sannion’s blog?), but I only did that because I know Galina personally. I also find that when I write personal posts, I mostly get comments from people who know me IRL, whereas when I post more instructional or educational essays I mostly get comments from people I don’t know.

    Just some random thoughts. Also, I have read most of what you have written in the last six months. :)

    • You’re definitely right about #2 and #3 and it’s something I keep in mind. It’s too bad, however, that only the controversial posts tend to get reblogged everywhere. It gives a very skewed perspective to those “outside” of these blogs – I mean, we DO have other things to say too!

      I know, I feel the same way about personal posts, which is why I don’t tend to write them. Probably the issue here is that I don’t actually know many people IRL, so there’s no one reading me who knows me or the situation enough to feel comfortable commenting. I’m just going to dispense with such posts in the future, and keep this blog focused on religious issues.

      Thanks for reading, and good luck with your subscription service, it’s a really great idea!

  19. […] I leave anything out?)   And then I read an interesting recent post by Dver, where she observes that “deeper discussions about serious theological and practical […]

  20. It seems that many, including yourself, have already said what I would say on this matter, so I won’t bother with redundancy. Simply, I would not follow your blog if I did not value your voice and experiences, so I am here in the shadows observing as ever. It may take me a month or so to get to a point where I can catch up on posts (this much-delayed comment point-in-case), but I’m here nonetheless.

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