Looking back and looking forward: BCM240 reflection

ac27f15279b713929d887456a8a2431d
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/188166090657459928/

To reflect on my blogging experience over the past few months, I want to return to my introduction post for my university subject #BCM240. In that post, I referred to a quote by Nelson Mandela that I think of at least weekly: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” This quote makes me stop and think every single time I read it, without fail. Even though I only wrote that initial post at the start of August, a short two months later I can look back at that initial post and realise how I myself have changed as a person, and also how I have changed as a blogger. Whilst the content of that post remains unchanged, the blog that it finds itself a part of has completely transformed. WordPress can be a bit of a maze (I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent trying to get my widgets to work properly), and so Google became my best friend in terms of refining all the little details, but this post definitely helped in terms of layout. From a boring, impersonal and hard to navigate blog, I think I have now created a blog that represents me and helps me to interact with the rest of the blogosphere. All thanks to the knowledge of BCM240.

Again in that initial post, I spoke of standing at the top of a mountain at night and looking out over a city or the like, and only being able to see thousands of tiny orange dots. I used this to describe my place in the media space: I am a tiny orange dot. My place is small, insignificant, surrounded, yet bright. And this hasn’t changed much. I still don’t have the desire to own a large, successful blog. But my reasons for blogging have definitely altered. I now feel that I deserve to, and I am capable of, speaking and sharing my opinions on certain topics. I am proud to have my face on my blog and I am happy with how rounded and complete it feels.

When starting afresh with my blog this session, I made a real decision to actually read other people’s blogs, to comment on other posts, to use my blogging opportunities to leverage other university opportunities; this session I am working on a project called UOW Wanderlust in partnership with UOW Goes Global and it has been great to be able to leverage that project with my established blog and vice versa. But by far the best thing about blogging this session has been the content.
The most enjoyable and most enlightening aspect of this subject was definitely the collaboration aspect. I had the opportunity to talk to my mum and family about things that we had never really had an in-depth conversation about. I learnt things about her childhood that just don’t come up in everyday conversation – hearing about her experiences with the television and cinema and being able to compare that to my upbringing was actually incredible, and it was really nice to set out that time almost every week. As well as the enjoyment it brought my mum and myself, I think it also produced some of my most engaging content – the family stories and personal insights are the posts that I don’t cringe at every time I read them over, they are much more entertaining to read. These experiences also taught me a lot about the power and importance of collaborative research and how often I engage in it without even appreciating or acknowledging it.

Something that acted as a bit of a barrier for my blogging experience was readership and growth. Whilst I have never blogged for the purpose of gaining a wide readership, receiving views and feedback is something that greatly advantages my writing and my blog and so I worked to grow my blog this session. One of the main ways I did this was by reading, liking and commenting on other people’s blogs. From there, people responded to my comments and would often end up viewing or liking one of my posts. I used other platforms such as Twitter to share my posts for all my university subjects and followed a lot more accounts on Twitter, hoping that they would see my tweets and go on to read my blog. I found this article to be a massive help in terms of growth – and it comes directly from the pro’s who know how to blog like a boss. Whilst my readership was not hugely widespread, it has definitely grown throughout the past session, reaching to a total of 24 countries – something I am hugely proud of.

My biggest challenge when it comes to blogging is finding the motivation to do it. Whilst I do enjoy writing once I start, I really struggle with the starting part. There is a quote by the author Anne Tyler that states, “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” And this describes me perfectly – I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people that decides they feel like blogging, and I’m starting to think that that’s okay, because it is simply not one of my passions, even though I by no means don’t enjoy it. One thing I found hugely helpful is to find things that inspire me. Before I would write each post, I would set up a music playlist that gives me that goose bump, inspired feeling and I would look at incredible photos from around the world (Chris Burkard, thank you for making me blog). I found that once I was inspired, the words sort of fell out, and I could just go along and clean them up later on. So that is what I have learnt and that is what works for me. I’m sure that every public writer has some other method of madness, and that’s awesome, because it is this diversity of opinions, personalities and styles that makes up our incredible blogosphere.

A buffet of distractions to feed our short attention spans

I think it’s pretty safe to say, based off personal experiences and the flood of research on the topic, that our attention spans are getting shorter. There are too many distractions nowadays to keep the same level of attention that was most likely experienced 10 years ago. When our attention wavers, we reach for our mobiles. So when we are tempted with a buffet of devices to feed our short attention span, can we really be blamed for getting a little bit distracted? If I’m being completely honest, I’ve reached for or looked at my phone after finishing each sentence in this introduction. It’s a serious issue.

To delve a tiny bit into this concept of attention spans, I asked a friend of mine who I attend most of my lectures with to count how many times I check my phone during one of our weekly lectures. I asked her to not tell me which lecture out of the 3 we attend together she would be watching me in and I also asked her to not make it obvious that she is watching or counting. Whilst a very small and relatively unreliable experiment, I just wanted to get a rough understanding of how often I get distracted when I should be concentrating. Correspondingly, there has been quite a bit of conjecture recently around the effectiveness of lectures and whether they deserve a place in university education. Perhaps the design of this experiment is evidence enough of how little attention is given to lectures: my friend could literally spend an entire lecture watching me get distracted and it didn’t bother her at all.
Moving on, the biggest flaw in this experiment I thought would be the fact that I was aware I was being watched. But surprisingly, after half an hour of a marketing lecture that makes no sense to you, you forget about everything and only focus on the world of Facebook, which is good because that happened to be the lecture she decided to watch me in. Embarrassingly, and worryingly for that matter, I looked at my phone approximately 56 times over a 2 hour period, whether that meant just clicking a button to see if I had any new notifications, or picking up my phone for a longer amount of time. After my friend told me that number, I had a think about what I would be touching my phone for. Since my friend was somewhat trying to pay attention and also not make it obvious that she was watching, she rarely saw what I was actually doing on my phone, so it was up to my conscious mind to remember what subconscious zombie ash does on her phone during lectures. Most of my time I think was spent responding to messages or emails, followed closely by Facebook and Instagram scrolling, endlessly refreshing trying to find something new, like looking in the fridge for a second time even though you know there’s nothing good in there. But after looking at my phone Internet history, I actually spend time doing things that I need to do (yes, I need to shop), but shouldn’t be doing in a lecture – things like submitting my work timesheets, shopping, researching holiday details and looking for things to do this weekend.

Even though this was just a small experiment, it is undoubtedly clear that we are surrounded by distractions and perhaps before the time of personal devices we had much longer attention spans – however I’m sure people found ways to get distracted during school long before iPhones.