This isn't really the true BlogHer wrap-up because I will post notes once I have those ready this week and when video goes up for the sessions I attended, I'll link to them. But these are my final (I hold the right to say more) thoughts on the conference.
This year differed greatly from last year. Last year, I likened the conference to visiting Wonderland and then having to return home, knowing that the white rabbit and red queen were still going to be existing without you. This year, it was more like the spinning tea cup ride at Disney World. It's fun--it's absolutely fun--but it's also chaotic and you can only catch snatches of things and it makes the world feel like you can't take it all in. Everything is just spinning by you too quickly to be sure of things.
And that's sort of how this conference felt.
It was fun, and I learned a lot. But it was exhausting and everything kept moving without down time unless you decided to sit something out. And I sort of have this approach to amusement parks too. I figure I'm finally there and I don't want to miss anything. So instead of sitting things out and going back to the hotel to rest, I go on all the rides.
And I went on all the freakin' rides at BlogHer.
I met hundreds of bloggers I read and hundreds more that I now will read. I went to five sessions--one from each track and a Geek Lab. I wrote posts and tweeted and updated my Facebook status and uploaded photos (sorry, Denise, not to Flickr yet). I went to parties this time...sort of. I collected swag this year. So much swag that I needed to get another suitcase to get it all home. It is mostly not for me--I have it separated out into multiple bags right now so I can pass it along to others. But still. I had meals with friends and saw celebrities (Paula Deen, Dave Lieberman, Tim Gunn!). I cried. A lot. I laughed. A lot. I got no sleep. I felt like my entire nervous system was inflamed by the time the conference ended.
There are people who bitch about BlogHer, who leave unhappy, but I really believe that with a conference that size, a lot of it is what you make of it. I went to a school with 40,000 undergraduates, and some people walked out saying it was a great school, and others walked out saying it was a terrible school. But when you are speaking about an enormous entity such as a school or a conference, I really think that a lot of it becomes what you make of it. Did you actively seek a change when you became unhappy? Did you ask for help? Did you wait for people to come to you, or did you walk up to every person you could and start a conversation?
Because we're all writers there--no one is better than anyone else. And if you're going to come with the attitude that you're owed something--owed attention because you have a certain amount of readers or owed accolades for your writing, you're going to leave disappointed. Because, as I've already said, we're all writers. And everyone thinks their little blog is special. Instead, all that should be left at the lobby doors and people will get the most from the conference if they turn to everyone they meet--from the random person sitting next to them at a panel to the other woman washing her hands in the bathroom--and start a conversation. Ask them about their blog. Hopefully they will ask you about your blog. A conversation begins.
Was the conference more commercial this year? Certainly. There were more sponsors and there were more business-y people walking around, trying to promote their business while interacting with bloggers. Was it a little annoying? Yes. But again, it was avoidable. And I could also choose to try to engage the speaker as a fellow person rather than follow their agenda to tell me about their product by asking them questions about where they're from or if they've ever been to Chicago. And, sometimes I just smiled to be polite and took their card and then moved on rather than eating up more time explaining that I'm a kosher vegetarian and while their custom jerky business sounds cool, it just isn't for me.
I saw some pretty sucky attitude on some people, comment-worthy sucky attitude. And like I did with my big college, I took my big conference and I avoided that suckatude because it wasn't worth getting upset about. I left the party or I shifted spots and I used my time to find the most kick-ass people in the world. I freakin' met Kathy and Io and Emily. I got to see Cecily and Sarah again. I spent time with Alexa and Aurelia and Kate and Briar and Magpie and Julia. I got to see people from DC and my fellow BlogHer CEs and some of my favourite bloggers I met back when I did book publicity. I took Nora's head around the conference and took pictures.
And you know what, that sucky attitude that I witnessed in person, I also witness it every freakin' day in the blogosphere. It is not a problem with the conference; it is a problem with human beings. People who won't help you out unless they think they can get something out of it, or who think they're better, or who ignore you...that happens every place in life. And BlogHer is not immune to it.
But it is an amazing place to be. Before I left, a blogger (I will keep her anonymous in case she doesn't want me to tell her words) leaned in and whispered in my ear, "you saved my life." I went back up to the room and cried and cried. It was a complete catharsis that I couldn't reach on my own because I was so damn tired. But she brought me there because she said the most important reason why I blog and why I read: because we are saving each other.
When we write the words out of our heart and take them off our chest so they can stop eating us alive, we're saving ourselves. And when we comment on another person's blog, letting them know that their words matter, we're saving them. When we reach out and support another person, we are literally saving their life. And I'm not talking in the hypothetical sense. Humans cannot live without contact, without interaction. Blogging makes the world less lonely, the world less difficult.
It is that Irish proverb--two shorten the road. And carrying each other's burdens simply by listening, by saying with our actions, "I care"--that is not just shortening the road. That is saving a soul.
That is why I go back to BlogHer and why I walk away each conference saying that I had an amazing time. Because I go in looking to connect with other humans--not fawn on them or hope that they read me too--and I connect with other humans. And I walk away feeling full from the experience.