Habits, Good and Bad

One of my daily habits of late has been to write about the election in this space. It’s a way of rationalizing the irrational and putting voice to my greatest fears about what’s around the corner, in part to be a warning to people, but mostly to self soothe. I feel a little bit better each day when I’ve expressed my worries instead of bottling them up.

But today, I’m going to give myself a break from this because it’s my birthday and I’m instead going to look ahead to what I might write about next if this looming disaster doesn’t happen and we end up with a fairly normal transfer of power on January 20, 2021. I’m thinking of turning next to the subject of habits.

I feel a bit like I’m being pushed in this direction because there’s an odd phenomenon in this website’s traffic — the 71st essay I wrote in my original Montaigne series entitled “Habits: How Our Mind Tangles Itself Up” receives an inordinate share of the traffic, and it seems to be growing as the year progresses. Even though there are now roughly 250 pages and posts on the site, this one essay now receives about 10 percent of my web traffic. I first noticed the increased traffic for this essay in July and re-posted the essay in a blog. Since then, the growth continues, with readership roughly tripling each month. Over the last several days, this essay has taken up the majority of my web traffic.

There are other oddities to this traffic. Over the past month, readers from 32 different countries have visited the blog, but only U.S. readers have linked to the Habits essay. And while more than half of my blog’s readership lives in Illinois or Wisconsin, none of these readers have linked to the Habits story. These are unique readers from Texas, New Mexico, California, Washington, New York, and Michigan, all of whom have arrived at the page via Google searches. And the really weird part is the length of reader engagement with these pages. One recent reader spent more than an hour glued to the essay. What was he doing, memorizing it?

Anyway, the fact that I know this kind of information about my readers alerts me to something I need to be aware of about myself — I’ve developed a bad habit of looking at Google Analytics too regularly. The danger of looking at this data isn’t knowing specific things about my readers — because it’s really doing little more than giving me states and pages read — it’s in trying to interpret the weird data, then creating puzzles in my head about what the weird data might mean. Is someone using a VPN to purposefully geolocate to these states? Is this person reading my Habits story in three different New Mexico cities on the same day one and the same, and if so, what’s up with that? Is that also a VPN thing or maybe a virtual machine or someone reading their phone on a road trip or … I just have to stop, it’s pointless.

So you see my dilemma here … my mind is being tangled up by strange data tied to an essay about habits and how they can tangle your mind up. If someone is trying to gaslight me with my own blog, he or she is succeeding! I’m taking the bait! Unless I’m not going as deep as the reader intends … maybe there’s some kind of puzzle underneath, where the first letter of the city names over 10 weeks form an anagram … oh, I really need to stop. If I want to work out puzzles, I should save it for my movie annotation site.

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