My Own Private Blog Movement
BlogHer 10 Years Later
Ten years ago, after the first-ever Blog Her conference, I came home and started blogging.
“Don’t you just want to go to sleep?” my husband — then boyfriend — asked me.
He had a point. BlogHer had been this side-project that I had taken on that had monopolized every waking hour. In just a few short months after the conference, I would drop all of the other consulting projects I had, including a book deal, to dedicate all of my time to it. It had conquered some hard-won territory in my diversified-project-oriented mind. It became THE project. It became everything,
This year, post-acquisition of BlogHer by SheKnows Media, I found myself in a position to actually enjoy the conference like an attendee. I had some speaking bits, but unlike in previous years — when I had a speaking bit, then had to run to handle a sponsor fire, then had to run and make a housekeeping announcement, then had to run for a press opp — I could just take it in.
There are so many observations. Some are relevant only to me; some may or may not be indicative of our industry.
The honest truth is that most of the women I encountered over the weekend I have not read, at least for a while. I’ve seen their Facebook posts, their Tweets, their Pins and now their Instagrams (I finally just said “F*^k it” and stopped holding out on Instagram, despite my having little to no visual mojo).
I felt a bit better about no longer reading blogs when I bumped into a blogger in the exhibitor hall that I used to read frequently.
“What are you blogging these days?” I asked her.
“Sweetie, I quit blogging over a year ago,” she told me. A personal blogger who had inspired many about her years overcoming addiction, she told me her blog had impeded her from getting any corporate work. Now, working for people other than herself, her chosen platform was Medium.
I have similarly abandoned my own private platform. If it does re-emerge it will be part of something much more supportive of a business platform. At some point along my journey of building BlogHer I abandoned the hours of tweaking my templates, learning side hacks, and formatting images. As liberating as it was to have a personal printing press, I had over the years abandoned the product — content — for the mechanisms of distribution of that content — namely Facebook and Twitter. Eventually my distribution mechanisms became my product, and even those were inconsistent.
After a few years I lost the impetus for writing. In the few moments I found to write I felt overwhelmed — what could be important enough to make up for the time lost? And what hasn’t already been said by this community of content creators? I of all people knew the numbers of the breakout talents — how much time they spent on their platform, how much traffic they generated — and thought that any attempt I made would be wasted words in the ether of online content.
As an expert in the intricacies of how to monetize social content I’ve spent the bulk of my time speaking to other companies about how “we” developed content and about the origins of “our” space. But it stopped being my content a long time ago. I’m inextricably a part of this community, but not breathing with in real time. I’m more a distant relative — that grandma you have to hug at the family reunion, but who you look at and say to yourself, “how much longer do you think she’s going to hold on?”
This year’s BlogHer conference was an opportunity to re-infuse myself with that feeling of excitement I had in 2005, when I just had to document the people I met and the process of fostering a growing community. Only now it’s built, and I no longer need to promote these women — they are their own press outlets and long-established printing presses. I watched them this past weekend sharing updates on the movements they built.
· Veronica Arreola, Founder of the 365FeministSelfie Project.
· Majora Carter, seeking — and obtaining at BlogHer — funding and a media grant for her social business, StartUp Box, empowering people in underserved communities to have careers in tech.
· The #BlackLivesMatter Founders: three women who came together as serendipitously and passionately as Elisa Camahort Page, Lisa Stone, and I did in 2005. I was in awe over how deliberate they were; unquestioning of their decision to dedicate themselves to something that would become unstoppable. We joined then in a chant about not being silent, and I took a photo in my mind — it was an image of history being made.
I did feel like I was a part of this world again. Not writing about it, per se, but breathing, and expanding with it.
At the end of the conference we hold a party — a big party — usually sponsored by a brand (thank you, McDonalds!). I devoured a Happy Meal — my first in decades — drank something fruity with vodka, and drifted into this sea of women, dancing to DJ music. I caught a woman, likely in her 20s, watching me. And when our eyes met, she smiled and looked away. And then I caught her looking at me again. Then again.
A minute later, she was dancing next to me. I said hello to her with my eyes.
My conference badge was flipped over so no one could read it; not usually an issue for me at BlogHer, as many people know who I am. She flipped my badge over and read it.
“Oh I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you were someone else,” and she drifted back into the group.
I kept swaying to whatever song it was that was playing — something from the nineties that reminded me of the bars where I went to college. Taken back to some other time before my kids, before Twitter, before BlogHer.