I Didn’t Check My Stats In September — And Enjoyed Writing Much More
I have a confession to make — up until the end of August, I was a Medium stats junkie. Since I started on this platform in June 2021, I’ve checked my stats at least once daily, generally more often. On a day I published, or a day one of my posts was doing well, I’d head into my stats multiple times per day — sometimes multiple times per hour.
The allure of social media for many of us is the big dopamine hit when someone likes or comments on your posts. It doesn’t matter how confident or secure I’m feeling, that jolt of validation gives me a palpable rush.
There were days when I was like one of those rats in science experiments, endlessly pushing the stats button in an effort to get more treats. When I was home I’d check my stats and when I was out, I’d think about my stats. It became obtrusive, and affected my state of mind.
Never mind that my stats don’t change at a rate that justifies nearly that much attention. I’d still check them.
Over the course of the Summer, I noticed myself enjoying the platform far less than before. Yes, some of that can be attributed to the loss of the much-mourned entity bar, which makes me feel distanced from my community. But the endless, pointless stats checking also had a lot to do with it.
In late August, Jenny Lane mentioned she was considering not checking her stats during September, and I was immediately drawn to the idea. No-stats September. Imagine the freedom of releasing that concern over who was reading and when. Imagine just focusing on reading, and writing.
On August 31st, I logged into my stats one last time. Given my previous behavior, I doubted I’d be able to make it through the month without checking again. Like they teach you in addiction groups, I decided to focus on one day at a time.
“Just don’t check them today,” I told myself on September 1st. It made me fidgety a couple of times, but I managed.
“Okay, yesterday was good. Let’s do one more day,” I self-coached on September 2nd. Before I knew it, the day was over.
What surprised me for the first three weeks is that it was much easier to abstain from stats checking than I’d originally figured it would be. Not only did I stop craving that hit after a day or two, I felt a sense of peace around this platform I’d never had before.
I just enjoyed myself.
With my attention diverted from my stats, I was able to spend more time reading than I had in the last few months and re-connected with some digital friends old and new. I realized one of the reasons I was feeling ambivalent about the platform was that I’d forgotten how much joy I took in learning and connecting here.
I’d become so busy checking my stats and lamenting how this or that story was performing that I neglected to get outside of myself and focus on others.
Over time I realized that I have a pretty good sense from my notifications how an article is doing, anyway. Not everyone that reads claps or comments, but a good proportion do, so I knew stories getting a lot of love were probably receiving more reads.
Not checking stats meant I wasn’t compulsively analyzing read rates, which is good, since they don’t update in real-time. When someone clapped or commented I took it at face value that they read the piece, which gave me joy. The majority of the time I was right.
For whatever reason, the last week of September was the hardest. Maybe I knew the day was coming when I could check again, so I was getting antsy. But I managed to refrain and just re-focused on reading.
I finally checked my stats this morning, September 30th. When the moment finally came I wasn’t all that eager to do it. I’ve enjoyed the peace this month has brought me, as well as the renewed focus on the more rewarding aspects of the platform.
As it turns out, my stats were pretty much what I expected. It wasn’t my best month and it wasn’t my worst. I’m pleased to say a few of my stories earned some of my highest read rates yet.
I’ve yet to determine how often I’ll look at stats in the future, but I think once a week seems like a good compromise. If I start going back to mindless stats checking, I’ll know it’s time to repeat this experiment. And if you’re finding you’re frustrated with this platform, I recommend giving this experiment a try.
Write from love, read with interest. There’s a whole lot more than numbers to this place.