(edited below for clarification on 8/10/08)
As I was packing for San Francisco to attend the BlogHer 2008 blog conference, I was confident of two things about myself: I write a decent blog with one hand and change dirty diapers with the other. I know who I am and I know right where I belong.
If anything, attending BlogHer would have one of two results for me:
1) I would discover that more people read this blog than I realize.
2) I would be put in my place as an anonymous face in a sea of anonymous faces.
I was pretty good with either of those outcomes because the real reason I was heading to BlogHer for the first time was to meet other bloggers, not promote my own blog. I can talk about me any day, but I can only meet you on the very rare occasion.
What I discovered is that most of the friends I have made online are my friends in the flesh, as well. I also discovered that I have far more friends than I realized.
The first time someone came up to me and asked, "Are you the Velveteen Mind?" I thought I was going to pass out from excitement. How cool is that? After sessions, during which I had to pipe up and hog the mic (being sure to say, "Hey, I'm Megan from Velveteen Mind" and hope someone would look me up on their laptop), there would sometimes be people lined up at my table to meet me. Me. How crazy is that?
It's bat-shit crazy, is what it is.
Then, somewhere around the 12th time someone approached me in the hall while I was talking to my elusive roommates and shared with me that they read my blog or follow me on twitter, it started to feel a little embarrassing. It never embarrassed me if I was alone, but it kept happening in front of the same people and, honestly, I started to feel like a bit of a whore.
Like, "Gah, how much does she pimp herself on twitter, anyway?" Yeah, pretty much just like that. I could feel eyes rolling around me (not my roommates') and I felt like I should defend myself or explain away how these people knew me.
Because God forbid I have a popular blog or a heavily-followed twitter account.
Think this sounds self-congratulatory? Worse, rife with false modesty? Hardly. My feeling of bewilderment at meeting the people I read and the people that read me was mirrored in hundreds of bloggers, known, unknown, and blissfully in between. This post and it's tongue-in-cheek use of the word "fame" is about us as an online community and my own ridicule of idolatry and adjacent insecurities.
Why does success feel so dirty in a platform like personal blogging? It feels downright pornographic if you are a mom-blogger.
And before your eyes roll right out of your own head, let me clarify what I mean by "success." On one floor, of one hotel, in one city, in one country, in all of the world, for one weekend... a handful of people knew who I was and were excited to meet me. Go up or down one level, step outside of our bubble, and it was all gone.
Internet celebrity is a farce. It is meaningless. It is fleeting. And it is rampantly revered... by people reading the Internet.
Ask your dad who Dooce is. Then get back to me.
BlogHer was a schizophrenic's EEG. Intoxicating high's (the recognition) and feet-to-ground lows (the blank stares in response to "I'm Megan from Velveteen Mind"). Trust me, my feet were solidly planted on the ground most of the time. Half the time I wanted to say, "Yeah, I know, I totally made up that blog name. I don't even own a computer." and the rest of the time I felt sure someone would ask for my autograph.
And that was all on that one floor of the hotel. Step outside and I went right back to feeling foolish for admitting that I was at a blogging conference. Surely someone would wonder where my Spock ears were.
The point of all of this is to reiterate that the deference given to big-name bloggers is laughable at best and damagingly naive at worst. I thought I could let all of the post-BlogHer drama posts slide, but it finally came to a head for me today and I just have to beg you to stop.
These are real people. They probably won't be "famous" next year. Don't hesitate to reach out to them. Don't hesitate to talk to them. And don't be afraid to cross them if you disagree with something that they have said.
Engage them in a conversation. Chances are, they are starving for real discussion. No one respects a fangirl, but everyone loves knowing that their work is appreciated. Get beyond that hurdle and you might be surprised at the human you find behind the blog.
I swear, I feel foolish even writing this because my in-real-life friends are going to be saying to themselves, "Is she serious? These are just blogs." Yeah, I am. There were people who were too intimidated to approach me at BlogHer.
That, my friends, is pterodactyl-shit crazy.
All of this is sort of ridiculous. Yet, blogging has true value. I learned that definitively at BlogHer. And no matter your vitriol (I think it's a law that all bloggers use that word at least once), you can't change that for me.
By the way, I'm writing this on my couch, I haven't had a shower today, my sink is full of dishes, my boys may not have clean clothes for school tomorrow (working on that), and one of the highlights of my day is yet to come: putting my sons down to bed, which includes reading a couple of books, rocking the two year old and singing "All You Need is Love," and then all three of us cuddling in bed for a minute while we talk about the stars projected on their ceiling.
I know right where I belong.
Because in two little hearts, in one home, on one street, in one city, I am the most famous person in all the world. And there is infinite value in that.
(edited to add: I was going to have a bunch of fun photos, but before I could upload them, I was flooded with emails telling me that a gracious yet very pointed comment I left on a big-name blogger's recent post was deleted. I have never been censored in my life, so I'm sort of floored. You know me. Can you imagine what I would have had to write to get deleted?
Ah, the irony. This post suddenly looks very naive to me.
That being said, unless the natives settle down considerably, my post on Monday will be called either "Inciting the Queen & King" or "Utah is the new China.")
***Final edit added 10:30pm 8/10/08: The comment deleted was my final comment made on a blog written by a Utah blogger named Jon Armstrong. He is dooce's husband. I do not care that Jon deleted my comment (one of 4 that I left as the conversation progressed), but rather that Jon evidently deleted the vast majority of all dissenting comments submitted to his post, none of which appear to have been hateful or malicious, but rather just disagreeing with his presentation of a story that had long since been settled. His call, our opinions, his censorship.
Ultimately, his blog. Again, he has the right to hide my opinion from you, as well as dozens of others.
Silencing dissenting opinions has never been a good thing. As you will see in the comments of this post, I refuse to silence dissenting opinions as long as they do not attack my readers. Regardless. Transparency and humility are integral to this platform.
Here are the facts, for your consideration:
- Jon and Heather Armstrong live in Utah.
- China is infamous for viciously censoring all dissenting opinions.
Here is my opinion, for your entertainment:
Utah is the new China.
But it doesn't have to be.
Side note: If you are here looking for drama, you might want to move along (after leaving your requisite hateful comment) because I rarely enter these frays. If what you take away from the above post is that I actually think I am famous, then you probably won't "get" this blog. You'll be disappointed when I start writing about "community" and "morals" and my kids again. Good Lord, half the time I talk about the Discovery channel and Matt Lauer. Move along. Or don't. That's your call. You might want to consult my "comment policy" at the bottom of the page, though.