I have learned many fabulous things about the business of blogging, but a topic that is not often talked about is the emotional impact blogging can have on a person, positive and adverse.
When I started blogging, I was excited by the unlimited potential to make money writing about things I love. I was thrilled to be my own boss, and most importantly, I was ecstatic about creating a voice online. Gandhi told us to be the change we want to see in the world, and to me blogging is the perfect venue for me to be that change I so eagerly desire to see.
The change I want to see in the world is…
…more authenticity. I want to see individuals, groups, companies, and nations be more authentic and real. Those of you, who have been long time readers, have seen some of my own growth to live a more authentic life which I even made a New Year’s resolution theme in 2006.
Blogs give emotional authenticity a stage
I am naturally attracted to blogging because blogs are about authenticity and transparency. To me, the best blogs are the ones who open our eyes to truths both good and bad. They are the voices who inspire us to become better humans and live more prosperous lives. They are the voices who give us hope, laughter, and knowledge.
I believe that many problems in life can be resolved or avoided if we simply live as authentically as possible. Granted, I know those are lofty ideals and indeed much easier in theory than in practice which leads to a key reason I blog. A big theme on Back in Skinny Jeans is how can we live in this every day world filled with chaos, pain, and manipulation as well as love, abundance, and beauty, and live thriving lives as healthy, happy, peaceful humans in a real way versus a “what the media and advertising brainwashes us to believe” way.
Let's hear it for the idealists
I am an idealist, obviously, and to be honest, to continue to blog day after day, year after year a part of you must stay slightly delusional and tied to idealistic fantasy. I believe that bloggers who are in it for the long haul and want to create meaning in the world are all idealists at heart. You have to be because blogging especially professionally is tough work, and there has to be something deeper than money or fame to keep you posting and engaged day after day, year after year.
The reason blogs are fascinating is because of the expression of emotions, feelings, and human drama. We enjoy seeing what our “neighbors” are doing, and we love to hear opinions and different points of view. Commenting also lets us have reciprocal conversations with each other, and like many, I find reading the comments some of the best meat on that post, tasty and yucky.
What's the hardest part about blogging?
When asked what the hardest part about blogging is, I say, for me, it is dealing with the emotional aftermath of personally attacking comments and the invasion of my privacy. When I first started blogging, I would get into an emotional tug-of-war when I’d work my ass off yet see my traffic flat line and see that no one is commenting. Over time, I’ve learned that you must emotionally distance yourself from the numbers because traffic is cyclical, and it is not your self worth as Darren Rowse at ProBlogger shares about himself:
"...the reality is that my worth as a human being goes beyond my RSS counter, comment numbers, number of appearances on Digg, Technorati ranking, number of links from A-listers etc. For me my personal worth comes from a much deeper place (something that is tied to my spirituality)."
Darren is so right on. This goes for the same thing in trying to achieve a jeans size or a number on a scale as a means to be fulfilled and happy in life.Your self worth is not determined by numbers.
Back to blogging, on the upside, I’ve come to see the slumps as blessings in that my audience is showing me that the content is getting old, boring, or “Hey Steph, we’re up for something new.” Or “Steph, what happened? You’re veering off the track we love.” When I view the slumps that way, and start getting creative, the traffic and comments come back and go up.
Remember you're commenting to a human not a bot
In terms of personally attacking comments, as a blog grows and gains notoriety, I think people start to forget that the blogger is a real person with feelings and not an automated web bot pouring out content. And vice versa, the blogger can start to get out of touch, arrogant, or inflammatory just to get attention. I’ve watched many blogs grow from small to millions of visitors a day, and what I have noticed is that the negative comments get progressively mean, hurtful, and personally attacking as the blog grows especially if the blogger does not manage the tone of their content. Weeding out jerks in comments can be a full time job in itself.
As an example, recently, I wrote, “Running shoes don’t go with skirts” where I shared my opinion about the running skirt which turns out many did not appreciate my point of view. This post generated lots of comments, and a good portion of it was personally attacking which honestly surprised me. It wasn’t just Steph I disagree with what you said and here’s why. It had stuff like, “I’m disappointed in you…How can you be judgmental… (And the worst) I’m ashamed of you.”
I don’t expect people to agree with or like everything I give my opinion on, but I do expect people to respectfully disagree, and I do expect them to go after my opinion not me personally. When I read those comments, I felt physical pain in my heart because of the attacking energy that radiated from the comments. It wasn't necessarily the words, but the energy behind the words. Not all were harsh, and there was constructive criticism, but there was enough personal stuff to make me feel deep hurt.
A blogger has every right to delete the unsavory
I deleted the running skirt post because I just did not want that dark energy on my blog, and I did not want to get into any more discussion about that topic. I can pick my battles. The reason, I bring this example up is to share the human side of the blogger. Before you feel the need to write something venomous or attacking on someone’s blog, remember that there is a human being you are speaking to. Say only what you would be okay hearing if the commentary was directed at you. You most certainly can be authentic in your expression but there is always a way to communicate without destroying or humiliating.
As a blogger, something you have to take into consideration is how much you can emotionally take because commenters will push you to emotional and mental limits you never imagined. However, all is not necessarily bad. Sometimes commenters can make you see sides of yourself that maybe you are not ready for or don’t want to look at. If you want to get some fast personal growth, start blogging and really put your opinions and feelings out there because you will quickly get responses and be faced with learning lessons almost immediately, like pronto!
"You're too sensitive"
Now some will say, “Steph, you’re just too sensitive. You need to grow thicker skin.” Yes, I am a sensitive type and, yes, I agree that one must grow a thicker skin, to some degree. In my work reviews back in my corporate days, the common “needs to improve” item was my sensitivity levels. For many years, I worked on being less emotional.
Then, things changed. Once again when I was told that I needed to be less emotional and sensitive I said to my boss, who by the way was the epitome of Dilbert bosses, “Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps one reason I am emotional and sensitive is because you treat me like crap and with disrespect? Has it occurred to you that perhaps sensitive is good because as you can see on your Excel spreadsheet I have brought in xyz millions of dollars in marketing deals? And what the hell is wrong with emotional. You tell us every day to be passionate about the company and the products because customers love to see passion. What do you think passion is? It’s emotion.“
The sensitive types shall prosper the earth
After that day, I became prouder of my emotional sensitive sides because those qualities enable me to be highly creative, intuitive, perceptive, and empathetic. Sensitive people have high EQs (emotional quotients) which helps make the world a beautiful harmonic place which cannot be achieved through numbers or logic alone. Great art and design is about emotions. The artist, designer, writer, creator finds ways to capture and convey emotions that speaks through their works. Problem solving is all about creativity. Quantum healing is about emotions. The ability to bond and relate with all kinds of people is about sensitivity.
Exceptional bloggers are also highly creative and sensitive people, and those qualities help make them extraordinary. I know that one of the reasons Back in Skinny Jeans stands out is because I include my personal life experiences, the “messy middle,” along with the how-tos, opinions and reviews. There is a part of my heart and soul that goes into every post even on the bad days or the days where it looks like I don’t have much to say. I do this because that is authentic Steph, the change I want to see in the world. Yes, I take things to heart because I put my heart, the source of my creativity, in it. You can't get the best of my content without a piece of my heart. That's how I'm wired, and I embrace that.
Deciding if the emotional toll is worth it
Is this easy? Hell no. Is it rewarding? Absolutely. Is it worth it? So far when it comes to Back in Skinny Jeans it has been, but as I look into the future I can see the possibility where it may no longer be worth it because as much as I love helping others, I will have to decide if the emotional toll on my personal life is worth dealing with personally attacking comments and invasion of privacy. I have a deeper understanding of why blogs and sites get more vanilla as they grow, the critics and attacks get louder and bigger, and it gets emotionally, mentally, and even legally tougher to deal with.
Can BISJ still be as interesting or thought provoking without Stephanie’s personal life in it? Can I take that trait back? On one hand this is what makes my blog exceptional, and on the other hand, it is the thing that can send me straight to my therapist’s office. Yes, I can turn off comments, but then I turn off a valuable stream of insight from my readers. Also, it doesn’t stop people from emailing me to share their thoughts first hand.
Now with Noshtopia, my food blog, it is much easier to have some emotional peace because I don’t have to talk about my personal life. I can talk about my personal experiences and feelings about food, and no one is going to attack me about my opinion on arugula over spinach, or tell me I’m “stupid” because I like rice milk. Okay, some might, but you get my point. For Noshtopia to be interesting, I don’t have to reveal my challenges with highly personal and emotional type issues like eating disorders, perfectionism, motherhood, illness, depression, and body image.
How do the big girls handle the emotional pressure?
At BlogHer 08, Dooce spoke about a bit about the emotional impact of negative comments she gets on a regular basis like how she’s a bad mother, and how people will call child services and have her daughter taken away. This woman gets over 4 million page views a month, so you can imagine the level of emotionally challenging things she experiences.
I think about Oprah, and if you notice her weight goes up whenever she is embroiled in something where the world is attacking her like recently, the scandal with her school in Africa and the New Earth web class where she presented another way to view spirituality. Even though Oprah makes massive amounts of money, can you imagine the emotional challenges she has to face on a worldwide media scale?
I think about any of my blogs growing to the scale of Dooce or higher, and indeed I wonder if I can emotionally handle it. As a single person, if I'm straight up honest with myself given the information I have today, I have doubts. If you notice, people who make an impact on the world most often have a significant other by their side because sometimes to keep you going, you just need someone to cuddle with you in bed after a hard tasking day and say, “It’s going to be alright sweetheart. I love you and I’m proud of you.”
So, how about you? What experiences have you had to face dealing with the emotional side of blogging?