Enough with the bad news

You can subscribe to this blog using an RSS Feed (like Google Reader), or by signing up by email. I hope you do one or the other.

(NOTE: for those who find the phrase “RSS Feed” terrifying, it’s actually very simple. Google Reader, for example, is just a web page that puts all of your blog feeds into one place. It’s great.)

The email subscription for my blog is run by Feedburner. I don’t spend a lot of time on the Feedburner site. As long as it is easy for people to sign up for email updates I’m happy.

But Feedburner has one setting that has, slowly and persistently, been wearing me down. Feedburner’s default notification is that I receive an email every time someone unsubscribes from my blog, but I don’t get an email when someone subscribes.

Put another way: the default setting is to send me bad and discouraging news.

So, for the past few years, I’ve been occasionally getting emails like this:

Subject: so-and-so unsubscribed from Sasha Dichter’s Blog.

I almost wish the content were a little humorous. You know: “Sorry, we know you’ve been doing your best, but Sara decided to stop reading. It didn’t work out. Better luck next time.”

I let this continue for so long for two reasons. The first was inertia (finding the darn box to uncheck on the Feedburner site was difficult). But I also told myself that getting this feedback was important, because I could make some sort of connection between the unsubscribe rate and posts that I’ve written, and in so doing I’d improve as a blogger.

What I’ve figure out, though, is two things:

  1. The data are largely irrelevant. I have no idea if someone is unsubscribing because they have a new email address, because they started using an RSS reader, because they’d stopped reading months ago and finally got around to “blog housecleaning,” or because they actually didn’t like something I wrote. (plus it’s not even clear that creating strong reactions is itself a bad thing).
  2. My interest in getting the emails was a perverse form of rubbernecking. There’s a certain fascination with (and motivation) that comes from feedback that tells you you’re not doing a good enough job.

Enough already.  Yesterday I unchecked the box.

I finally figured out that this kind of negative feedback wasn’t helping me at all. It was feeding in to doubt, self-criticism and fear, and was making me more averse to taking risks. All bad stuff.

Are there places/people/things in your life that are set up ONLY to give you negative feedback? Have you been quietly telling yourself that it is useful or, worse, that you deserve it?

Any boxes in your life that you’ve been meaning to uncheck?

4 thoughts on “Enough with the bad news

  1. You’re spot on with your comments on the “helpfulness” of negative only feedback. Don Clifton shined a pretty clear spotlight on this in How Full in Your Bucket (http://amzn.com/1595620036) on the physiological effects of unrelenting negative reinforcement.

  2. I find your blog inspiring and your entries provide a fresh perspective with the right amount of words. I think if people stop reading it’s because they just don’t have time or have not made it a habit to read Sasha Dischter’s blog 🙂 Keep writing. Even one person stumbling on one entry can inspire someone…I signed up because I read one entry and won’t forget it.

  3. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I get unsubscribe notices for a weekly video series I do for nonprofits. When someone takes the time to write a comment when they unsubscribe, I get an email. I thought exactly as you did, i.e. that I’d get actionable info out these comments. But I haven’t and today’s made me realize I really, truly don’t. (It told me that the viewer couldn’t get the sound to work on his/her machine. Not much I can do about that.) So, THANK YOU for ending this excuse to rubberneck! I needed it.

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