Prosaic Paradise

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BlogHer Comment Turned Post: Microfame & Jealousy

Filed under Meta by at 1:19 pm on Feb 22 2010

(I posted this comment over here at BlogHer in response to a post about being jealous of Big Famous Bloggers and it got long so I figured I might as well just store it here for posterity, also, probably most of you don’t read the BlogHer site.)

I had a bit of a reckoning when I attended BlogHer ’09, when I came to terms with how delicate and difficult the interaction part of blogging is. It is simply a fact that if you are a blogger who gets 50 or 60 comments that a) you are probably (probably, not guaranteed) saying something interesting and b) that means you are probably a pretty busy person and thoughtful, which takes up a lot of time and thus c) you probably don’t have time to interact with all of those people.

So while a blogger may be the nicest, most generous person in the world, they cannot reciprocate every kindness that is afforded them. That was why while I was at BlogHer I said that the definition of fame is basically when there are more people trying to interact with you than you can feasibly interact with. It doesn’t take a very large scale to get there, hence microfame.

That said, it’s interesting how the world of bloggers, which I always thought about as The Great Equalizer, handles this. Sometimes it seems to arrange itself into a social hierarchy, and that’s particularly painful when you find yourself – because the nature of the beast is so personal – caring personally for someone who doesn’t, or can’t, care about you. Sometimes it gets distributed, and there is a web of interaction where everyone is feeling on the same level.

It’s unfair, but I’ve sort of decided (because I don’t have the kind of following I can’t keep up with) that if someone can’t meaningfully interact with me (mutual commenting & blog visits) and my interest is only going one way, I don’t really want to invest in that relationship*. If you come to my blog, I will almost certainly come to yours. I don’t exactly expect or demand someone does the same for me, but if they don’t, I am less likely to follow their stuff.

*Unless they write about topics I am REALLY into, things that are right in my niche, then yes, I will enjoy the writing and the information as a one way street. But if it is just because a blogger seems like they would be a good friend or cool person, I can’t keep that up if they don’t treat me the same way.

And to be clear, that’s not saying “they are a jerk and I don’t want to talk to them” just that in friendships, in interpersonal relationships, which is what I want out of these bloggy interactions, the quality for me comes from mutual participation. I don’t take it personally; it’s just what it is. We all have limited time an have to be really wise about how we spend it whether we’re Dooce or just Kim over here at ProsaicParadise which is clearly too long to be a one-word name-drop blog anyways. :)

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to have a large readership. And there can be many reasons for that. And if that’s your aspiration, you have a tough road, and there’s probably going to be some jealousy. It’s hard to deal with. I definitely felt it at the convention – I wanted to know people, and not feel like an outsider. I had to really think about it after I got home, what it meant that I didn’t feel like a part of a great non-hierarchical co-op. (The only times I have felt this at large gatherings of people is at the absolutely most crunchiest of socialist, anarchist, activist gatherings.) (Note to self: maybe prioritize attendance at those kinds of gatherings in the future.)

What I came to is that there’s other options, like finding that person who really gets you and you really get them and it really works. It may take all year to find that one person. I am lucky enough to have some real life friends who read my blog and have come across one or two folks who I can blog-flirt with. Those people are my blog celebs. They deserve a little chunk of my love too. :)

If by some fluke I ever became famous, i.e. started to get more attention and interaction than I had time and energy to handle, I guess I might consider changing my policy? But since I think that the likeliness of that happening is nil, I won’t have to worry about having a double standard.

37 Responses to “BlogHer Comment Turned Post: Microfame & Jealousy”

  1. 1 Moiraon 22 Feb 2010 at 1:45 pm

    It’s funny to me that you’re framing this in terms of blogging, because I see this as a real life problem that I only came to grips with recently. I used to obsess about how to become friends with people who I thought would be really good friends if they would only get to know me. I had unrequited love on a shallower and broader level. Of course, my friend-dreams were rarely fulfilled, but now I wonder why I ever cared to be friends with people who didn’t naturally reciprocate my interest. I have friends who do reciprocate, and that’s awesome.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    The whole concept of thinking of someone as someone who “would be a really good friend” is a strange idea to me. I am not sure I frame it in those words but I’m sure the feelings are similar. Oh, actually, I can think of a time pretty recently when I felt that way. Hrm.

    In this contemporary weird world of 300 “friends” on FB I have to be careful with how I use that word. I guess it’s just the two things, action and communication.

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  2. 2 brion 22 Feb 2010 at 1:50 pm

    you have a good policy on it, and i hope you’ll remember i said that when you’re famous :-)

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    Kim Reply:

    hah! yes, i will try to remember when my infrequent posts about shoes and pens finally catch the whirlwind attention of the world.

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    bri Reply:

    if perez hilton can do it anyone can!

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  3. 3 mpomyon 22 Feb 2010 at 2:48 pm

    This is why I keep coming back for more Prosaic Paradise – that and the exceptional photography, superlative taste in music and celebrity friends. (Am I laying it on too thick? Probably)

    But social interaction on the internet (whether it be blogging, tweeting, facebooking or even chatroulette-ing) is so fascinating because, despite what the Mashables and Tech Crunches tell us about how we act, in reality (and far away from the ivory towers of education and commentary) we make this up as we go along.

    And when we find people that we wouldn’t run into otherwise (except at, maybe, a Genesis-impersonation band performance), people from whom we can learn some good skills about what goes on here, well, that, my friends, is what community is all about. When I can be a part of something like that, the only choice is to give love.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Hee, yeah. Thanks for talking up my brand, man. And thank goodness for the Beardfish forums where I might actually meet someone I have a frightening amount of tastes in common with! Seriously, I’m really grateful.

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  4. 4 Meganon 22 Feb 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I read that post at BlogHer, also. In real life terms, I’ve always felt like I can only manage a finite number of relationships in the way I think it should be done – meaning exchange attention and time with other people. I always feel guilty because I feel like I should be able to give more than I can to more people. But I just can’t. For whatever reason, my well runs dry fairly regularly (just ask my sister.) I just can’t manage more relationships, even though I’d like to.

    Blogging is a lot like that, I think. I will admit to being jealous of other bloggers who get more attention. I will admit to wanting to break into that social inner circle of BlogHer types. I will admit to being annoyed when I find blogs that get more comments than mine, but have been in existence half as long, etc, etc. I get jealous. It’s human nature. And really the fact that we interact mainly via computer doesn’t really take blogging out of the realm of human nature and human interaction. It’s all really still the same. You can just do cliques and be jealous and have the more popular/less popular debate in your pajamas without washing your hair.

    Would I be happy if I got more comments? Hell yes. Am I going to drastically change what I do to try and get more readers and more comments? To be “famous”? No. So maybe it will just be me, my mom and 10 other people who know me IRL . . . . some days I am better with that than others . . . but I’m not going to stop either. And for the record, I’m OK with being “famous” also . . . you know, just in case ;)

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Yup – I get a little jealous too, though I think at first it was worse, and it got better as I realized that that was not the kind of interaction that would truly be fulfilling for me. Oh, it would fulfill something! My ego, among other things.

    But yeah – my resources are not infinite and I have some amazing friendships to feed now. Some of them in fact are getting quite neglected.

    The searching I do online – the hope for meeting that new person that reads my blog and is interested in what I’m saying, or to find that writer that I’m intrigued by – I don’t really know how to put it, but it’s a learning experience and it’s broadening. Even when I’m in my own little world of pens or prog rock, things happen to open my mind.

    I suppose I could riff on this mess all day, be even more navel-gazey. But yeah. What you said. Happy having it my way, and happy with the ways it changes.

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  5. 5 Michelleon 22 Feb 2010 at 4:08 pm

    it’s funny because when I started blogging on livejournal, I really wanted people to read my journal, and for the most part, all of the journals I read were from friends. Now that everyones gone to facebook, most of the blogs I read are not people I ever expect would read my blog. My blog is more personal, and most of the blogs I read are sciencey skeptic people blogs. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but I like commenting on your blog. So um… there.

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    Kim Reply:

    That sounds more like the one way information gathering entertainment model, and i am so down with that. I read a bunch of car blogs and never comment because all I am doing there is learning about new cars. I think going to BlogHer made me think I would be just stepping right into a new community and basically being at home but that’s not how it works.

    Do you read a lot of nursing blogs? Because I read a metric fuckton of them and one is more amazing and touching and gross and fascinating than the next. I almost never comment though because I feel like a poser.

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  6. 6 Rachelon 22 Feb 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I kind of wrote about this a few days back, about comments and how I want them on some posts, on others I don’t. How I promote more when I want feedback, how I wish I never started blogging on others. (And how it usually goes the opposite of what I really want.)

    I agree about mutual comments, wholeheartedly.

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    Kim Reply:

    Thanks. Yeah. I actually, when I want to talk about something personal, that I feel I can’t handle feedback on, have started putting it on paper. Which I never have been able to do consistently in my life before. It seems really self-indulgent but I don’t know why I care, so I fight that feeling back and put it on paper.

    If I don’t comment super regularly it’s because I often feel like I don’t have the right words, and I’m usually not willing to just say something for the sake of it, I have to feel like I can say it and really understand what I am talking about, or at least think I do at the time – but I am reading!

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  7. 7 LiLuon 22 Feb 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Love this. Very interesting perspective on something sort of “taboo” in blogger world.

    As someone who would, while blushing furiously, POSSIBLY admit they might fall into that category you speak of… that’s the one thing I hate about it. I HATE not being able to get back to every person who reaches out. I totally beat myself up about it. But life awaits, unfortunately, and I am trying to find a balance that I can feel good about sans the guilt.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Yes! You absolutely should not feel guilty though I guarantee if I got into that situation I would. So yeah. You just do the best you can and “pick your battles” for the value of battles where it = a positive interaction. Rather, pick your moments to dig in and interact. Thanks for the comment. :)

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  8. 8 DCBlogs » DC Blogs Notedon 23 Feb 2010 at 6:23 am

    [...] of Prosaic Paradise has a unique perspective on the somewhat taboo subject of blogger “microfame” and [...]

  9. 9 Stimeyon 23 Feb 2010 at 7:43 am

    I think this is a great post, and I feel similarly. There are some bigger bloggers who I would faithfully read and comment, comment, comment, yet they would never come by to visit a post of mine, never respond on the rare occasion I sent an email, and never respond to any of my comments. You know, not once. There are situations in which I accept that, but social media is supposed to be social. I especially get turned off by bloggers who say, “Oh, who reads blogs anymore? I don’t have time to read blogs.” (These are also often the bloggers who tend to leave me angry after I read posts, so it’s really better for me to not read them.)

    I know that all sounds a little bitter, but I really don’t feel that way. To each his or her own. I truly believe that. It’s just not my way. I, like you, decided to build my community where it mattered to me, with people who are interested to know that I exist. There are still some big name bloggers I read who couldn’t care less about me, but I tend to just read without commenting. I think it’s great that they have created a wonderful, large niche for themselves, because that is hard to do. And I am glad to read their well-written words, and I’m glad that they get a lot of great comments, because that is so important to any blogger. But I tend to treat them more like a magazine than a blog.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    No, I completely feel you, and I know sometimes I come across as bitter too. I try not to say negative things because I’ve learned a million times that even if I can’t see the value in something someone else can.

    But I do this to interact, actually. I don’t do it to hone my writing or to inform the populace. I just like people and want to relate to them. (Among other reasons like: keeping myself honest about goals, etc)

    Treating them like a magazine: exactly.

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  10. 10 Johnny Virgilon 23 Feb 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I agree with Lilu — it sucks if you can’t recognize each and every comment in some way – I mean, I *read* them all, so it’s not like I’m ignoring them, but I still feel that way unless I can write something back. I need to change my blog template, because blogger doesn’t let me reply to comments like this platform does. Maybe that would help.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Yeah. And there have been times when I have not answered every comment – for time reasons or just because it’s not really necessary.

    WordPress is great at having plugins that do comment reply threads. I think there is a limit to how far they can nest. This is something that has always amazed me – how has Livejournal, which is always so disrespected, been doing comment threads SO well for SO long – when all the other ones are still stuck with linear comments?

    Anyways that MAY be a pet peeve of mine.

    Thanks for stopping by, nice to meet you.

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    Johnny Virgil Reply:

    You too. I’ve tried to convert a few times, but I made the mistake when I started blogging to do the “black background / light text” thing — so now whenever I try to export and import I end up with a bunch of stuff that’s unreadable because of the light color on the light background…and it just seems like sooooo much work to change everything over. Oh well. I’ll be back!

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  11. 11 Average Janeon 23 Feb 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I’m actually quite happy in my niche of being a long-time blogger with a relatively small following. I’ve been involved with BlogHer for so long that I “know” lots of people, but I don’t have any particular expectations of any of them, either blog-to-blog or face-to-face.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    That sounds like a really good balance. It feels like you also don’t feel obligated to be anything but yourself in your blog, which I struggle with sometimes, I don’t say things I might like to say or it hampers my writing a bit when I worry.

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  12. 12 girlvaughnon 24 Feb 2010 at 6:54 pm

    You are one of the people who I have “met” through blogging and are one of the people I think fondly of when I am hating the internet and realize how lucky I am to have found even a small number of people that I connect with.

    And I like run-on sentences.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Ding! This is why it’s so great to read comments and blogs – I never would have found your blog if not for Average Jane’s post, and your comment. I’m really glad.

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  13. 13 The Baltimore Chopon 25 Feb 2010 at 11:34 am

    This is exactly why we invented high school… so everyone would know how to deal with that sort of nonsense for the rest of their lives.

    Of course, you could always try what seems to work in high school; namely drive a 3 series, be a quarterback, wear a short skirt, hang out at the mall, and go to college parties.

    [Reply]

    Johnny Virgil Reply:

    I tried being the quarterback and wearing a short skirt and all it did was make me less popular, so who’s to say?

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    Kim Reply:

    My high school efforts were all focused on gaining social power in the underclass. So um, power to the unpopular bloggers! Or something.

    Sadly, I barely went to college parties when I was in college.

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  14. 14 12tequilason 25 Feb 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I thought I hit the big time when complete strangers began to “stumble” onto my blog. Then a blogger I read and really admire, but do not know personally, commented, and I was all yay! about it. I don’t think I’ll ever have blog fame, but when people (IRL friends or no) make a point of saying nice things, it feels worth it for a while.

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    Kim Reply:

    There is no question in my mind, it’s nice to have visitors and comments. If I said something worthy of dialogue or comment I am really pleased. Like this post for instance – I’m like, wow! I’m glad to hear people’s thoughts.

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  15. 15 Rob Donoghueon 26 Feb 2010 at 9:30 am

    Huh. So, I get this, but I have to think about it because I feel like it’s a slightly different lens than the one I view blogging through.

    But you’re also making me thing more than I have time enough to write, so this may get followed up on another vector.

    -Rob D.

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    Kim Reply:

    It has to do with my own purpose for blogging, which goes through changes but in the end boils down to something personal. I’m just not trying to sell anything.

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  16. 16 … in a Bottle » Blog Archive » Too much information overloadon 26 Feb 2010 at 9:06 pm

    [...] mentioned all this the other day when she talked about her audience and blog fame and it got me thinking. My Google reader is out of control. When I find a new blog, I scoop it up [...]

  17. 17 Margareton 27 Feb 2010 at 2:35 am

    I found your blog via your comment on BlogHer. Your thoughts on microfame drove me here…so well put!

    I have been blogging for 4+ years, with a hiatus. My current blog has very little in the way of commenters and the like, but I really don’t care about it the way I did when I was first blogging. I’m doing this for me–not an audience. My personal non-blog writing–that’s for an audience, a specific audience, but my blog is where I get to exercise my writing hand, as it were, while answering to no one but myself, and what I think is important at the moment.

    The traffic, the stats, the number of comments mattered to me at first–it was instant validation! Years in, having dumped the old blog and started a new one, I’m much more satisfied with what I’ve got now.

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    Kim Reply:

    This is great. And I think sometimes people get confused a little about what they want. I mean, if you are a writer and you have a product you are trying to sell, like if you have a book you’re self-publishing or you need to drive traffic for reasons like that, then yeah I guess you have to, I hate to say it, build your brand. I know a lot of RPG writers who do this and it’s organic and builds community.

    But that’s a really small slice of people that need that. The rest of us are just making blogging a part of our everyday lives and might want to resist getting swept up in the drive for numbers.
    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  18. 18 Ninaon 27 Feb 2010 at 5:58 am

    I have a very love-hate relationship with fame.
    On the one hand, I really don’t like it and it frightens me. If I were to become famous, I’m fairly sure I would go into hiding and stop writing immediately because I would feel so blocked and paranoid.

    On the other hand, I do want to be recognised for my worth (if there is any) and if my words make sense to someone other than me, then it’s as weird as it is wonderful. (I was one of the Keynote Speakers at BlogHer 09 and could not get over my astonishment when people would come up to me afterwards and say they liked what I wrote). I get only a handful of comments on each post, and generally that doesn’t bother me, even though there is a part of me that really likes being validated for what I long to do well.

    I am with you though, I love to cultivate connections and the possibilities of relationship with others through mutual affinities/love of words. That was why I got into this internet thing in the first place.

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    Hey! I am sure I saw your keynote then! The whole experience of BlogHer mooshes together in my mind. I was so tired much of the time!

    I can respect the instinct to run away from the concept of being famous or having strangers pay attention to you. It makes a lot of sense.

    I think of it as like, I have that personality, which I got from my mom, that makes me strike up conversations with people in grocery lines. But there are introverted bloggers too, while it seems like an oxymoron.

    Thanks for stopping and commenting, I appreciate it!

    [Reply]

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