As 4,000 bloggers unpack their suitcases and settle into the laundry/write/prepare dinner routine across the country, the proverbial Internet river has suddenly swelled with “Post BlogHer Recap” posts. I’ve spent a few days on my little lifeboat, floating down the Twitter stream, comparing and contrasting my own BlogHer re-entry with that of other bloggers.
What have I found?
Well, it looks like the water has gotten rough around here. The whitecaps are knocking against the side of a couple thousand boats, all clamoring for their little space on this swollen river. Each boat is overflowing with people, all struggling to steer through the rapids. And the boats are sinking. Professional, well-established tour guides are blaming the commotion on the current in the water/the sudden influx of professional whitewater rafters/faulty steering/bad maps….people are frustrated with this ride.
BlogHer12 was bigger this year. And when something stretches and unfurls it’s wings to the tune of a few thousand people, the end result is often unexpected. Lunch lines were long and women started elbowing each other as they pushed their way off of the escalator. A handful of workshops were so popular (thanks to the “Internet-famous” bloggers who were leading them) that they were filled to maximum capacity and many of us had to wait in the hallway before being allowed to sit on the floor in the back of the room. People were tweeting furious messages to the Hilton about their staff and the bathtubs and the slow elevators. And apparently some a-hole punched the SparkleCorn cake in the face.
According to some folks, the sudden influx of “everyone else” had made BlogHer unrecognizable. Where there was once room to breathe, there was now an influx of “newbies” dying for a gasp of that fresh BlogHer air. The conference organizers were aware of this. At this year’s Newbie Breakfast, they shared with us that over 50% of conference attendees were there for the first time. They told us that meant that BlogHer was incredibly successful, and it is, BUT doesn’t it also mean that the old-timers (the Original Bloggers, the Old Guard, The Pros) aren’t attending like they used to? Well, why not?
Turns out, it’s because BlogHer’s growth was frowned upon by those who felt that it wasn’t an exclusive adventure trip anymore. I didn’t realize that the Original Bloggers were sitting back and laughing at us Newbies, until I came home. On Monday morning I jumped head first into that Twitter Stream, and I was shocked by how cold and unwelcoming the waters were.
Turns out, some of the Original Bloggers were pissed that the Newbies couldn’t swim as well as they could. There weren’t enough lifeboats, and swim lessons should have been taught by skill level. I happen to agree with some of this. I’m sad that people skipped Voices Of The Year. I’m discouraged that bloggers found time to go to parties, but not to go to the Geek Bar. But I also know that when workshops have to appeal to large audiences, there tends to be a dumbing down of information. Golden nuggets of genius have to be filtered out from the Blogging 101 that other folks might need. But BlogHer will take a close look at these growing pains, I’m sure, and they’ll try to balance out their amazing growth spurt with finding clothes that actually fit their new shape. In the meantime, I think we all have a responsibility to remind each other of why we paid so much money to catapult ourselves into this rushing river for four days straight.
Perhaps some of the Newbies were learning to navigate these waters because whitewater rafting is the latest trend. But not me. And I’m angry (and ok, a little hurt) that the Old Guard feels so strongly that we’re muddying these waters.
I blog because I’ve written since I was 13. I blog because writing is the only thing that stands between me and the dark space that is depression and anxiety. I blog because it’s tangible. When I can write my truth, I can’t run from it. I blog to honor my son, and to leave him a story that belongs only to him. I blog because it’s mine. Because I feel safe here. I, like many of the “Old Guard”, wrote before it was popular, and even before it was public. I had a locked LiveJournal. I keep a dozen paper journals, scrawled on with looping cursive letters, on the very top shelf of my closet. Blogging lets my spirit live in the light. I don’t blog for money (and I don’t judge you if you do). I don’t blog for the community or the comments (though I’ve been sucked down that hole, and I won’t lie, it feels kinda snuggly and nice). I don’t blog to be cool (in fact, I realize with every post how much courage it takes to be unpopular…and this post will probably seal the deal).
I blog for the same reasons that many of you do, which means that I was “new” to the BlogHer conference, but not “new” to blogging. I came to learn (more). I came to experience (more). I came to test the waters and see if the SparkleCorn/Expo/”Holy Crap The Fearless Formula Feeder AND The Feminist Breeder are speaking” hype could really live up to expectations. (The speakers did, the Expo…sorta, and the parties…not so much). Like many of you had warned me, I ended up taking what I needed and leaving the rest.
We’re not so different, you and I. The sorta-but-not-really-a-Newbie, and the Old Guard. You might not realize this, but those of us who you’d consider “new” to this ride? WE NEED YOU. We need to see CecilyK with her bright pink hair, walking through the crowds of people, sending knowing glances our way as if to say “Hello, friend” even though we’ve never met (seriously Cecily, every.single.day you had this fabulous kind smile on, and it helped me to breathe). We need to hear BabyRabies and FreakyPerfect whisper the secrets of their success to a room full of hopeful bloggers, bursting at the seams. We need to blend into the crowd while The Fearless Formula Feeder reads her beautiful truths at Voices Of The Year. We need to squash into an elevator and feel really small. We need to get lost in the Expo Hall and feel silly for eating an extra cupcake and not tweeting about it. We need to randomly sit down next to someone at breakfast and realize that they have 5,000 twitter followers and have been here 3 other times, but still like to have a side of eggs with their bacon, just like we do.
And this might not be popular for me to say, but I think the hundred or so “Old School Bloggers”, need us too. Even the ones who are complaining right now about how the newbies screwed up their BlogHer experience.
Because, ahem…..WE READ YOUR BLOGS.
As we learn from you, we’re also driving your traffic. As we comment on your posts, we’re giving you the feedback that you need to draft your next essay. When we come up to you in the halls and ask you one more question, we’re reminding you just how much you matter to us, and just how delicate this community can be. We are the audience for the book that you’re drafting. We overflow from conference rooms after we’ve voted your idea into a Room Of Your Own. We’re eager, we’re hopeful, we’re curious. We want to sit at your table, because we’re dying for a glimpse into the lives you’ve created for yourselves. And we’re not all bratty upstarts who are trying to steal the last glass of orange juice or make off with all of the Expo vibrators. Many of us are writers, who haven’t had the courage to grow yet. We’re finally coming out of our shells in this terrifying space called BlogHer, while trying desperately not to knock into you in a crowded restroom or trip over your laptop cord in the hallway. We are trying to be small and not call too much attention to ourselves as we learn, while still trying to be big enough to keep from drowning.
This is why I jumped into the rushing waters of the Twitter stream when I left NYC. I want to share this journey with you. I want to learn from you, and be inspired by you, and follow in your trail-blazing footsteps.
Adventure rafting blogging is so incredibly popular, because you’ve set the bar so high.
I’m no expert at whitewater rafting, but I’m smart enough to know that my love for the sport isn’t enough. I need some amazing guides to help me stay afloat. I sure hope that there’s room in this boat for all of us, because these waters are rougher than I expected.