Friday, March 27, 2009

The Wrong Kind of Attention

As a teacher there are times when I am forced to work at home in the evening or on the weekend. When I can arrange it, I make those times when my daughter Isabel is not around. Sadly, I can’t always arrange it that way. In fact, far more frequently than I would like I find myself sitting at the dining room table with my computer open, working on report card comments or letters of reference or long-term assignments for my students.
Often these tasks require sharp focus and complete concentration. And almost as often Isabel resents the fact that my focus and attention are not directed, laser-like, on her. In these cases she will try to tempt me away from my work. But if she can’t get my attention with offers of art projects or stories or a movie, she will try Plan B. The specifics of Plan B vary from day to day, but the specifics are not really that important.
Whether it comes out as a persistent tap on the shoulder, a repeated request to watch a movie, a loud and insistent snippet of GarageBand electronica, or, (as actually happened once), a series of grapes hurled at my forehead, the underlying strategy is one of “Annoy and Conquer.” It becomes clear in these instances that any attention from me, even attention earned through annoyance, is better than no attention.

I see the same strategy employed by my students sometimes. Grabbing someone’s pencil, kicking another student’s chair, repeating a phrase that is a known irritant, and telling on each other for minor infractions are all commonly used tactics designed to get attention. I guess it is like the old Hollywood axiom—there is no such thing as bad publicity.

What brings this line of thought to mind for me is a puzzling and, (to my way of thinking), not at-all-positive trend I have seen in the readership of my blog. If you look to the left you will see a counter designed to keep track of the number of visitors to cdawson. Below the actual number there is an active link that says “VIEW SITE STATS”. I click on this link sometimes because it gives me interesting information. For example, I can look at a map of where in the world the ten most recent visitors are from. I can also see the page from which visitors came most recently on their way to my blog.
It is this particular datum that has me thinking about the idea of “bad attention.” Some people come to my site via their e-mail accounts because I have mailed them a link. But far more frequently people stumble across my site by searching Google for particular terms and then having a link to my blog pop up as one of their results. They then click on the link and read whichever of my blog postings their search has singled out as somehow relevant.

Sometimes people will type in “may I mambo dogface in the banana patch” and my blog posting about families’ private languages will come up. Other times they search “indulgences reinstituted” and they are offered a link to my musings on the Catholic Church and their recent decision to offer indulgences again. One time some poor unknown soul somewhere in the world went to Google and typed in “fear of buying underwear” and up popped a link to one of my posts.

Who in the world Googles “fear of buying underwear”?

Saddest of all for me is the fact—by now undeniable—that the number one route people around the world take to get to my blog is via a Google search involving the words “armpit” “hair” and “fungus”. I have begun to compile a list of Google searches that have led people to my site and here is a mere sampling:

• fungus in the armpit

• armpits of my shirt orange why

• fungus under armpit

• armpit hair fungus

• orange armpit fungus

• orange armpit hair fungus

• I have fungus on my armpits

• What is armpit fungus

Go ahead—try it yourself. You’ll see that my blog shows up on the first page of results.

So, aside from the obvious question, (Exactly why are so many people from all around the world using valuable bandwidth searching for information about orange fungus growing in their armpits?), I am left with the knowledge that my pride in having several thousand hits must now be tempered with a large dose of sheepishness. I feel a lot like my daughter must feel when one grape too many has hit me in the head and I turn my angry focus to her and say “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” She has my attention, but for all the wrong reasons.


  1. Well appears as if you have left your mark on "internet" society. (LOL)

    P.S. - Have you checked your Facebook Inbox messages lately? I sent you a message a few weeks ago.


  2. Don't know about fungus and armpits, but I love Isabel's grape shots. Sounds like a great time to take a play break.

  3. Now that you have written about it, Google will undoubtedly index it. Hence, for all future searches with those keywords, your site will probably pop up first, if it hasn't already!