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People Read This?

7 min read

This is a story about audience...


There was a time when I had so few readers, I could make an educated guess as to who each of them was. I have a loyal reader who lives in Milan. I have a loyal reader who lives in Worcester. I have a lot of loyal readers in various locations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand. For larger cities, like London, it was a lot harder, but for smaller cities like my home city of Cardiff, I could still figure out roughly who was who, amongst my regular loyal readers.

Over the years - five and a half years to be precise - I have had visitors who were former or current work colleagues. That shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, given that I have this public document, which intimately and candidly records my stream of consciousness, warts and all.

I say "warts and all" but we obviously behave differently in private than we do in public.

When I had only a few readers, they were people who I had regular conversations with; there was a personal connection between what I was writing, and them: I considered how my writing would be received by them. I thought to myself "I wonder what they will think when they read this?".

Then, a strange thing happened.

Little by little, the number of people who were reading my stuff started growing, quite substantially. Within a fairly short period of time, it was almost impossible for me to keep track of my regular readers, in amongst all the strangers, who were reading my stuff for the very first time; people who I'd never met or had a conversation with.

Because so many people were reading, a lot of them decided to email me, or otherwise contact me directly via Twitter or Facebook. As you can see from the graph above, my writing was being read by a substantial number of people, and I was being contacted many times during the day.

Then, another strange thing happened.

I decided to cull a lot of spammy/fake comments. Google didn't like that very much, so they harshly penalised me: my website dropped from the first page of Google, way down in the search results. The number of people reading every day dropped back to almost the same level it was before the unusual spike; almost to the point where I could pick out people who I know - regular readers who are friends - from in amongst the sea of strangers.

But, I never really re-adjusted: I no longer think, automatically, about who might be reading what I write.

I often think "it doesn't matter what I write, because I am going to kill myself quite soon". However, I do have some friends and other people, who I don't want to upset or offend. I'm not so sociopathic, that I have no empathy for other people's feelings. I am genuinely remorseful, when I learn that I have hurt somebody.

I wrote yesterday about a friend - a work colleague - who's one of the few work colleagues who's contacted me to tell me that they're a reader. That friend is probably the only person in the world of whom I regularly think to myself "what would they think, if they read this?". In fact, that friend has posed that question to me: what would our colleagues think, if they read this? I tend to assume that they do not read this.

Generally speaking, I tend to assume that nobody reads this, in the very small circle of people who I interact with in "normal civilised society". That is to say, I assume that my neighbours don't read this, nor does my doctor, nor does my accountant, nor does my landlord, nor anybody else who has some kind of interest in me, financially or professionally. That extends, naturally, to work colleagues: I would assume that they would connect on LinkedIn, send me a friend request on Facebook or ask to connect on Instagram, or some other popular social media site, if they wanted to be "virtual" friends. In fact, in a professional context, I assume that nobody wants to be my real friend, except the friend who contacted me to say that they read what I write, here, on this website.

Which is the reasonable thing to assume? That nobody reads this - except those few who I know about, who read occasionally - because I'm not that interesting or likeable; also why would anybody I meet think that I would have written and published 1.4 million words on a website, which they could easily find with Google? Or, is it more reasonable to assume that people are curious, and given that I work with a lot of people, a handful of them might have been bored enough one day to put my name into a search engine.

Also, of course, my profile picture does have a cunning disguise... so how would anybody know for certain that they'd found the Nick Grant they were looking for?

In conclusion, I suppose what I've written takes on a very different complexion if it's being read by work colleagues. There have been plenty of times when I've been gripped by the delusions of grandeur which accompany bipolar manic episodes, and I have expressed my irritability, frustrations, and low opinion of some of what I've witnessed during my working hours; also I have loudly broadcast my arrogance, aloofness, smugness, and given the general impression that I have single-handedly delivered all the work involved in a very big budget project, in spite of the lesser mortals who've tried to thwart me.

As stated, I'm not sure who's reading this, but on the assumption that every single one of my colleagues is reading: I'm really sorry for being a dick. I'm not always right. My productive contribution is negligible. The upset I have caused has been inexcusable. I have vastly over-estimated the value of what I have delivered. I'm the guy who ruins people's working day, and makes the working environment unpleasant; unbearable. I'm really sorry.

I know that I don't offer nothing and I know that I don't create only problems, but it seems like the balance is wrong. My brain tells me that what I do is important, although I am acutely aware that I am very far from being indispensible (which is quite deliberate, I assure you: I hate key-person dependencies) my brain tells me that I am useful to have around, and that when required, I can do stuff which is really helpful. However, my brain often converts that into: "I am Jesus Christ re-incarnated; there is no greater living human being than I; I am the son of god" based on very little evidence, and it's only counter-balanced by the continuous thought "existence is nothing but unbearable suffering; existence is futile". In the middle, my brain then tells me "in order to give life some meaning in this godless universe, you should build some really fucking nice software which will impress people".

The net result of all of the above, is that, it turns out, I'm a real arsehole to people, sometimes. Sorry about that. I don't actually have an excuse. There's probably a simple solution, which would stop me being an arsehole. Most people's solution is probably just to decide "I'm not going to be an arsehole"... it's that simple.

I would just ramble more if I kept writing, but the final thought is this: I'm really sorry. I really do want people to enjoy my company. I really do want to make people's day better. I do think about it, when I've been a dick. I do feel guilty. I am sorry.