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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Selfishness, Selflessness, and Blogging

There is an event at the end of this post that begs an RSVP. Just to give you a heads up so you don't miss it.

Sometimes I write the title before I write the post, and sometimes it is the opposite--the title is not apparent until after I write out my thoughts. This time, it was the former, and I am struggling now with the words "selfishness" and "selflessness" in terms of blogging because they are imperfect terms to further muse on what I observed not only at BlogHer, but in three years of blogging in general. Actually, it's not just in blogging, but in all interactions in life. But here, because this is a blog, I am discussing it in terms of blogging.

Blogging is obviously by default selfish--it's all about the "I." It's my point of view, it's my world, it's what is important to me. Take apart the word: the "ish" is a suffix meaning "resembling" and the main chunk of the word "self" is obvious. Ish turns a noun into an adjective, a description.

Except how can you have words without the writer? And just because there is an important "I" in the equation, doesn't mean that it is inherently selfish. Perhaps it is more self-ish; resembling the self. Because, at the same time, how can you have a blog without the self? It can never be self-less; without the self. Self, again, is not a dirty word, something we should be striving to remove. It is what makes each blog unique, interesting, necessary--just like the people who write them.

Maybe we should start with a fable? Skip it if you already know this story.
Once there were two sisters, Gentle and Wicked. Their mother loved them both equally, but it was easier to be around Gentle. One day, she asked the girls to get water from the well and Gentle volunteered. Getting the water was hard work and it took her about two hours to get to the well and draw the water. She was set to return home when an old woman approached the well and asked her for help in drawing the water. Gentle gave her the water in her bucket and set about refilling her own.

By the time she got home, her mother was worried because she had been gone a long time. She opened her mouth to speak and a diamond fell out with each word. She kept telling the story over and over again and soon the family had enough diamonds to live comfortably for the rest of their life. They would never worry about food again.

Wicked was thrilled that they had money but was frustrated that her sister was once again her mother's favourite. The next time water was needed, she volunteered to go, determined to find the same old woman and come home with a mouthful of diamonds so she could be on equal footing with her sister. She filled her bucket and spent the whole day waiting, but the old woman never came. In fact, strangely enough, no one else came to use the well except a girl about Wicked's age who asked for help in raising the bucket and Wicked told her to do it herself since she was on the lookout for the old woman.

She returned home where her mother was very worried because she had been away for the whole day. She started to tell her mother about why she took so long, but with each word, a frog fell from her lips. Soon, the whole house was filled with frogs and it took Gentle and her mother days to shoo them out. They begged Wicked to never speak again.
The point: give help even when you don't know what is in it for you.


Don't fuck with people at wells.


Diamonds are a girl's best friend.

It's not really a fair situation on one hand--I think we'd all help the old lady because we can quite clearly see that she needs help and we're not assholes to the elderly. Wicked may have even helped the old woman if she had been there on that day. But it's harder to set aside what we believe to be true about another person--about what we believe are their limitations or needs or even what we can get from them--and interact with them without conditions.

For this fable to work, we need to make the assumption that Gentle would help anyone who came to the well and Wicked would only help if she thought she could get something out of the interaction or if not helping made her a huge bitch who looks like she hates on old people.

There was sometimes neck craning at BlogHer--or people who treated me one way before I flipped my name tag around and treated me quite another way after they could see my blog title. And that does feel crappy. I didn't tell this story last year, but during the speed dating session on the first morning of the 2008 conference, there was a blogger (who has a large readership) who was supposed to move to my table, looked at us, and made a dismissive motion with her hand and picked a different table. That same blogger was there this year. And now she wanted to chat and chat once she saw that I was in the keynote. And frankly, it stung. I was polite because she's a human being, but I was distracted through the whole conversation because all I could think about was how she treated me the year before.

In light of that fable, selfless blogging can more accurately be called after the first girl in the story Gentle Blogging (and blogging is an interactive, community-based medium. A private journal is not a blog, it is an online private journal. Keeping a private journal that you don't intend others to read but leave public because you assume no one will find it is not blogging. When I use the term "blog" or "blogging," I am speaking about people who write an online journal that they intend others to read and utilize the interactive nature of the medium by accepting comments as well as reading other blogs and leaving comments), which is reading blogs and leaving comments without expecting anything in return beyond knowledge. It's the impulse behind the act. It's helping out a fellow blogger without knowing their stats and whether there's something in it for you in the future. It's reading what interests you; not because it's popular, but because the words move you.

I give my attention, I give my help, I give my Twitter status, I give my advice or comfort, and I give my clicking finger (oooh, that sounded dirty!) regardless of what I get back from the person. I'm not perfect and requests and people fall through the cracks from time to time. And I apologize for that, but blogging is a hobby, not a career, so there is only so much I can do in my free time.

But I read what I like because I like it. And I follow people on Twitter because I'm interested in what they have to say. And I attended sessions at BlogHer because they sounded interesting. I email back everyone who writes me a personal note that requires an response without regard to whether they have a higher readership or a low readership. I am interested in people and I am interested in stories; regardless of what I may also get out of the relationship.

That is what I mean by Gentle Blogging. Not gentle as in treating something delicately; but Gentle as in the main character of the story whose actions stem from a pure space untainted by the question, "what's in it for me?"

In regards to help (ranging from retweeting a post for someone to giving an answer to a question on a blog), the people who do the same--who help all regardless of what they can get back--have my utmost respect. It is easier to be kind to people who are kind in return, but I do feel that to be true to myself, I need to suck it up and help even those who ignore me when I ask for help. In other words, I will post your news on LFCA even if you ignore me every time I've asked you to help me out.

Last winter, I asked for a general favour and posed it via a blog post to the general community. More than one blogger took my request and honoured it without being directly asked. Believe me, I notice as you notice when people reach out to you and let you know that they care. I also asked another blogger directly for the same help and she ignored me. I asked a second time and she ignored me again. She recently asked for my help, suddenly realizing that perhaps she can get something from me. It is hard to help, it takes a lot of swallowing down bile (or toads? Or french-cut diamonds?) to post links for her. I do it not for her, but because I need to remain true to myself and this idea I am attempting to articulate on Gentle blogging.

And like the sister in the aforementioned fable, that is the essence of selfish or Wicked Blogging. It's following people on Twitter not because you're interested in what they have to say, but because you want to get something out of them. It's talking shit about a person's writing in one space, and then fawning over them in another. It's craning your neck to see if there is someone more interesting in the room at BlogHer rather than getting to know the person in front of you.

What it is not is an expectation that dictates your time or attention--it is not wicked to not read someone back who reads you. In other words, if I start following you on Twitter, it is because I want to hear what you say, not because I want you to follow me too. People have limited time and they can have limited interests and no one should be doing things online out of obligation. The difference is that Gentle Blogging is about doing things because it is meaningful to you or because you wish to help them, simply because they are a human being asking for advice or comfort or aid, and not because you believe that they are worthy due to what they can get you in the long-run (which would be Wicked Blogging).

When I write of "Wicked" blogging, I am merely speaking about the intention behind the action. I just want to make this clear--that Gentle blogging is not reading every single person who reads you and following everyone back on Twitter and Wicked blogging is not about never commenting. It is merely an attitude. It is why you blog, why you read, why you comment, why you Twitter, and why you follow or friend people.

And I think the people who were cranky at BlogHer (with the exceptions of the ones who were cranky with the commercialism) were cranky because they were probably bumping into a lot of Wicked bloggers. But, my question then, is that if you were in a room with 2000 people and you were only finding Wicked bloggers, what were you doing wrong too? Do you see what I mean? No one was tied to one chair for 72 hours--people were free to move around and mingle and mingle and mingle. And vote with their feet. So if you weren't meeting cool people and learning about new blogs, was it because you were literally blocked in by a wall of Wicked bloggers who ignored you or was it because you didn't put yourself out there enough?

I am trying not to sound like I'm blaming the victim, but frankly, I don't think there are truly victims in this situation. There is shyness, but people who are shy tend to understand why they are not meeting people and tend not to complain about it. For the people who complained about that aspect of the conference or who complain about the state of blogging or who bitch about the behaviour of others: what are you doing to be the change you want to see in the world?

I've been thinking about Gentle blogging for a long time. It goes back, honestly, to the start of the Lost and Found, even if I couldn't articulate this idea back then. This fable has played out in my mind numerous times during things I've observed on the Internet.

The LFCA is two years old this week. How does the site relate to Gentle blogging? It levels the playing field. It makes sure that a new blogger with twenty readers has the chance to gather the same support as an older blogger with several hundred readers. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. Just because I post it doesn't mean that people click over and just because they click over doesn't mean that they leave words of support. But in my opinion, it's worth my time five days a week to give it a shot.

I put it together because I want to take part in Gentle blogging. And this is my method. If you also want to take a stand and consciously commit to Gentle blogging, you will need to find your own or you could even get involved in LFCA. Click through on those links and leave words of support not because you get something out of it, but because you see another person with a need and you can fill it. Set aside one day a week to choose five links off the list and leave good thoughts. Think about what a difference it could make in another person's life if everyone did this.

For those who complained about the conference, I challenge you to return next year. I challenge you to plan a meet-up for lunch time with other bloggers with similar interests. I challenge you to talk to one new blogger every hour, to sit down at a random table.

And to put my money where my mouth is (or something like that), in the spirit of Gentle blogging and a desire to bring people together, Lindsay, Lori, and I are planning a New York Meet-Up next summer the day after BlogHer 2010 solely for ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) bloggers. I'm stating this now before you make your tickets or hotel reservation or plan that vacation to other locales though you live in NY. Leave your ego at the door, and join your fellow ALI bloggers for a picnic lunch or other low-key, no-money, just good company meet-up in New York.

You can sign up for the email list and RSVP for the event now or any time up until June. At that point, we'll need to have a sense of the number of people attending so we can pick a spot. This is separate from BlogHer and merely piggybacking on the event since people will be in town. But being held after BlogHer so those in the NY (or reasonable driving distance) area can participate without having to go to BlogHer. Combining efforts with the IVP (are you guys game)? Is there a face-to-face NY group?

The length of time and the amount of structure to it will depend on the number of people there, but the point is threefold: (1) to meet, (2) exchange ideas, and (3) strength our community. And that's it. We may need even more people to help with the planning in the future if it grows into something larger than a picnic.

So, are you in? Let me know on the RSVP list as well as below in the comment section so others can see that you're planning to attend. And your thoughts on Gentle vs. Wicked blogging.

And I'm well aware that my kumbayaness is cringe-inducing and this post pretty much cements the fact that I have rainbows and unicorns shitting out my ass. But despite my crudeness, feelings are important to me. Another person's feelings (unless there is a sound reason for my bitchiness) are important to me. It's pretty much the most important thing that I hold carefully in my hands. We trust each other when we crash into one another. The least we can do is cushion the other person with a gentle--a Gentle--landing.


Anonymous said...

If I can make it from Perth, Australia I will I swear. This was a great post Mel. I hope I am a gentle blogger, really I do. But sometimes I'd probably be a bit, well wicked too. I think you ask the questions that people sometimes (and by people actually I mean me) don't think to ask.
Thank you.
Finding LFCA has taken me on a pretty long journey too, through it I've found a great deal of peace with past events, some great friends and a way to honor my baby brother.
Yeah I'm on a kumbaya wave too. xxxx
ps put me down as a maybe rsvp!

WiseGuy said...

I am interested in the idea of BlogHer conferences...I have never been to any, and did not know about them till now (i.e. 2009). I do not think I am making my way to the US anytime soon. But I sure do hope to be able to meet quite a few of the ALI bloggers in person some day.

I am floored by your post. Totally struck! And I like how well you have articulated your thoughts about blogging and what should/should not be the focus of doing the same.

LFCA is great, and a number of people I read regularly have been gifts of this feature.

I loved the fable. I have read something similar in a different context though. And I love the way you have applied to the situation.

Keep up the good work, Mel.

Tash said...

If I can go to BH'10, I'll come!

You know, this v. issue raised its head for me just this morning: commenter somewhere claiming loss blogging was too negative and emotionally injurious. And I've been wondering how/if to respond, but I think you hit it on the head: it's not about blogging in general, it's about what *she* gets from it. And if she doesn't get anything from it (or it hurts) then by all means, step away. Chances are you can find another human out there who will reciprocate your feelings and intentions, but sometimes, you need to try.

Thanks for this Mel, I have a feeling I'll be referencing it! I'm not sure where the negative BlogHer posts are, because I've read about 4 accounts now and they're all really gushy and glowing.

angie said...

LFCA is the quintessence of gentle blogging, and I send people there often. Just to touch base. Just to support. Just to see they are not alone. And I read everyday, though to be fair, I don't always have the time to click and comment. I find commenting comes to me in waves. I give my love sometimes to every blog I read (and click through) and other days, I cannot muster even a ((hug)). It feels empty. And so I am gentle with myself on those days and rely on the comfort of the comments I have received. I don't feel guilty about that.

But I have had a few experiences with the wicked among bloggers. In the end, I believe the laws of arma garner blogging. Gentle begets gentle. For me, blogging became a way for me to share my very alienating feelings of losing my child with other people. Hopefully, they don't feel as alienated as I once felt in the beginning of this journey, and conversely, I feel less alienated. It is beautiful synergy. If it works, everyone walks away with a sense of community, love and acceptance. That is the goal anyway.

I have never attended a Blogher, or really know much about the conference or Blogher (though I read your posts, Mel). But being close to NYC (Philly), I would be interested in meeting with local bloggers next year. I will read more, and be back to rsvp in the next few days. Hope that is cool.

Queenie. . . said...

As always, you've managed to perfectly frame something that I've been thinking about in a much more amorphous way. I've been thinking about this concept lately, albeit as it applies to the "real world," rather than blogging.

It has occurred to me lately that the Wicked people, the ones who calculate and do things based on what's in it for them, rather than because it's the right thing to do, seem to get ahead more than the Gentle people do. I live my life the way I live it because I am happy with knowing that I do the right thing, consequences be damned. I know I'm living the right life for me. But I can't help but note that some truly awful people with awful motivations, people who harm others by their actions, have achieved some pretty spectacular things by selling out. It doesn't change my mind about my own choices, but it's something that I've been musing about.

Also, please don't construe the fact that I still haven't written up a review of your book as me being a Wicked blogger. I have been fried over the last two months and knew I wasn't in a space to do your book justice, so I waited. My review will come soon, I promise, and hopefully it will do the book justice!

jenicini said...

As a relative newbie to the blogging world, I find great comfort in what you've created here. The comfort comes because you offer yourself and your resources selflessly as a way that builds community. This isn't something that we have so much in our society any more. Perhaps the looking for comfort and understanding is selfish in and by itself, but the community is created by Gentle Bloggers. Perhaps it is the multitude of hormones running through my body right now...but I'm now with the kumbaya. :D

VintageMommy said...

I would love nothing more than to come to your meet-up, but that's not in the stars for me, unfortunately.

Regarding Gentle Blogging, I was in the "productivity" blogging world for a while, which somehow led me to the write a "successful" blogging world, which is more or less about snake oil. It was too much, too much! Now I read crafting blogs for creative inspiration and come here regularly. Much "gentler"!

I hope I've said it before (I think I have) but Thank You Mel for all you do. I was so alone when going thru IF and even though my daughter is almost 8, I feel a part of things here more than anywhere.

And kumbayaness - haha! great word!

N said...

I love this post.

RSVP'ing here with a maybe. I doubt I'll go to the conference, but we're so close to NY, and I'd already had my interests piqued.

Jen said...

Now I want to go to BlogHer 2010 even more!

Lovely post, Mel.

Lyn said...

Thanks for the rainbows and unicorns! They are all the more precious coming through you. I'll be pointing my twenty readers to this post.

Cecily said...

Uh oh; am I gentle or wicked? I have no idea. :)

I remember that happening to you last year, but I didn't think that same blogger was here this year. ARG. I'm so sorry.

Sunny said...

You did such a wonderful job of conceptualizing this. I don't know much about the "politics" of blogging, and I really don't care. I leave comments because I want to, with no expectations. Do I hope that I get some comments from people -- of course! I support and cheer for others, and it's nice to get it back. If I never got one single comment on my blog, I don't know if I would be as interested in it. But it's not a specific tit-for-tat. I comment on several blogs that the author has never commented on my mine, ever. It's not about keeping score or working my way up some virtual ladder. It's about sharing the experiences and thoughts of others, and putting "goodness" out into the universe -- and appreciating any "goodness" that my virtual friends give back to me.

Jendeis said...

Will definitely be attending, with or without bells. :)

Lavender Luz said...

During an apparently formative stage in my youth, my parents used the word "selfish" to describe me (I'm sure it was deserved in the moment, and that they meant it just for that moment). I carry the shame of that even now. I've made it The Worst Thing a person can be, the heart of every other evil.

That said, I think for the most part I am a Gentle Blogger. Maybe that's also because I am small potatoes myself. I hope, when I strike it big (haha!), that I will not judge the nametags, and that I will always be open to helping at the well, based on need rather than deservedness (because really, who am I to judge THAT).

I had not heard this fable, but it encapsulates so much truth about blogging and about living.

I'm in for ALI10! Woohoo! Our own hearth and well to gather round.

Kirstying this. EVERYONE should read it.

Orodemniades said...

I can't go, heck, I couldn't even make it to the book group for your book!

But I wanted to say that I link here a lot. I encourage people to start blogging, or join the forums, or simply read and commiserate or find information.

I find it difficult not only to blog (heck, I haven't even tweeted in nearly 3 months) but to comment. The usual story, of course, sometimes I have nothing to say, sometimes it's just a 'me too', sometimes words fail the depth of emotion I feel. Sometimes, reading is all I can do.

Gentle blogging is harder, because it requires one to think outside of themselves, and as you've witnessed/experienced, that's a lot harder for some people to do than others.

chicklet said...

If I make it to 2010 (damn well gonna try!), I'm in for the New York meet-up for sure. I'd love to meet all you lovelies:-)

On the gentle vs wicked blogging stuff, I think you showed the differences really well by "showing" rather than "telling", and that's part of what I enjoy about reading you (even if I can't comment all the time). For me though, personally, I don't really care if people are wicked or gentle - everyone's got their own intentions, their own needs, and if their way is wicked, I just stay away. Meaning, I like to think I fall more into the gentle category because I don't care what's in it for me, but I'm also not gentle in that I care about feelings so much.

That probably sounds very harsh, and isn't MEANT to sound harsh, but it's just that for me, I'd rather just not INVOLVE myself in their wickedness because it just leads to more wickedness, and I don't need or want that in my life, so I just stay out of it. I think sometimes people worry too much about the wickedness. Instead of just tuning it out, removing themselves from the situation, and accepting that everyone is different and has different needs, they worry about the wickedness, they let the wickedness hurt them. And like you said about the victims and choices, I think people make a choice to let the wickedness hurt them, or make a choice to just move away from it.

a Tonggu Momma said...

If we are not in China, heading to China or just home from China, then I will be there next summer!

And I don't understand the whole "pecking order" thing. I used to always tell my students, "You are very important, but you are no more important than any other person in this room." Wicked bloggers would do well to remember that.

Hyla said...

I read this early this morning. I was just now looking at free twitter layouts and came across this one

And I had to come back and leave a comment, thought it was appropriate to the shitting rainbows line.


Meghan said...

I've now read this 3 times and each reading it gets better and better. Thank you for it

I could definitely be talked into a GTG in NY next summer. We're up there at least once a summer anywho. And how fun a road trip would that be with all the TOOTPU ladies?!?!?

Rebecca said...

Great post. This should be required reading.

I hope I am a Gentle blogger...I want to be...

I have been a little wrapped up in my own issues lately, but that's another story.

Thank you for this post.

MrsSpock said...

I hope to go next year- though it is dependent on the state of my health. Even if I have to go by wheelchair, I'll do my best to go!

I would say I strive to be a Gentle Blogger, and have a lot of guilt about the amount of time I have to comment nowadays. Being a Clicker is part of my own kumbayah blogginess, and I try to do something extra (carepackages, cards, making commenting on that blog a priority) for those folks who are having an especially hard time.

Of course, I do things like that in real life too.

Most of the blogs I read (including my own) are small potatoes. And I've met some wonderful people. There are many hidden gems in the ALI community, I'd say.

Great post Mel!

tbonegrl said...

Mel, this post is fabulous. You are fabulous. And I don't have sunshine OR unicorns coming out of my ass.

I signed up for more info. I have NO idea what my life will look like, but I would LOVE to meet people, blog people, gentle people IRL.

areyoukiddingme said...

I can't quite stuff myself into either mode...I don't really feel like a Gentle Blogger because I know I wouldn't be reading other people's writings if I weren't getting something out of it. Maybe it's just a forum to share my experiences. Maybe it's to change my world view. Maybe it's just for the entertainment value. I don't feel like a Wicked Blogger - that seems reserved for the competitive sorts who are just trying to find a way to be special. I don't need that sort of external validation (aside from a few very important people in my {real} life).

I do know that I really enjoy the opportunity to expand my reading base through LFCA - I read it regularly, click through often, and sometimes comment.

I don't know if I will go to NY - I've never been there and would love to go, but I can't seem to make myself take a vacation. I'll have to sign up to keep my options open!

tireegal68 said...

Hi mel
I loved your post and think that gentle gals rock! I am a frequent commenter, and as bloggers go I am a very small fingerling potato. I have to confess though that I feel like a comment - needy person and I am not sure what to do about it. IRL I am in a care-taking profession and I feel ashamed to admit how I like and need comments in blogland. I have been pondering this a lot recently and am not sure what to do about it. I know this confession is a little off topic and apologise for that. I love that you are a good gal, so to speak and am so grateful to have found you. I doubt I will be anywhere near NYC next summer, but I am sure it will be great. How about rainbow and unicorn balloons? Xoxxooo

Heather said...

NYC is out of the question for me, sadly, but would love to help organize the same any year BlogHer is west of the Rockies.

Great post.

S said...

Though I never actually made it private, when I started my first (non-IF-related) blog, I intended it primarily as an online journal. It never really occurred to me that anyone else would find it and read it.

By the time I began struggling with TTC and it became clear that we were going to have to use fertility treatment if we wanted to get pregnant, I had accumulated regular readers/commenters on my original blog and had learned how helpful it can be to have people who don't know me in real life comment and relate to the things I write. I wanted to have that support as I struggled with infertility, so I started a blog dedicated specifically to TTC and made conscious efforts to put myself "out there" by visiting others' blogs and asking to be listed here on the blog roll.

Getting feedback on the things I write--even if it's just a "me too" or even disagreement--has been very helpful in dealing with IF. I hope that I am more of a Gentle blogger than a Wicked one.

The Unproductive One said...

Wonderful post as usual Mel.

I've made it a habit that LFCA is the first blog I read daily and I click on every blog. The past few days I've been aiming to try and leave a post on every one of those blogs that I read via LFCA, I don't have a 100% success rate yet but I'm working on it.

I look at it like this, if my comment can make someone smile or just to let them know that they aren't alone in what they may be going through, then it's worth the 5 minutes it took me to do it.

Cassandra said...

I like to think that I am a very Gentle Blogger -- probably moreso than I am a Gentle Human. Not that I'm horribly Wicked, and in fact I am known as being unusually helpful IRL, but I am certainly more helpful to people I know well than to strangers or acquaintances. As a blogger, friends and strangers and everyone in between get as much Gentle-ness as I can muster.

To quote Say Anything, which I was watching yesterday, "You're such a great person, [Mel]. I'm a good person, but you're a great person."

serenity said...

I'd love to make an event in NYC. Put me down as a maybe.

And I have no idea if I'm a Gentle or Wicked Blogger. I just write the way I see it. And I try not to judge other people's decisions. Most of the time I hope I'm successful.


Anonymous said...

You've made me think, as you so often do, Mel. This community has given me so much already. I like the way you have framed this issue, and I will be thinking about it a lot. BlogHer '10 probably won't be happening for me for $$ reasons, but, it certainly is a nice fantasy...

Mic said...

Fantastic post Mel!

I love reading your blog, it's always so incredibly thought provoking and relevant.

And no, you're not shitting unicorns out of your ass, you just believe that there is really good in everyone. And with the state of the world today, we need people believing that there IS good in this world.

Michelle said...

This is such a great post! I love how you demonstrated Gentle v Wicked. I feel that I am a Gentle blogger. I love to read blogs and offer comments even if it is an "I understand" or "Hang in there". I think comments are important. I love when people leave me comments but I never go to someones blog in hopes that they will return the favor. I go there because I want to and I return because they have written something that has moved me or encouraged me or made me feel not so alone. I love this community because I think we, in the ALI blogosphere, are all (most of us) here because we have had to deal with some horrible crap that brings us together with a common bond. We have enough hurt IRL we don't need it here. At least that has been my experience and I hope it continues.

I would love to be there next year. If I can be there I will definitely be!

You keep doing what you are doing Mel. Finding you blog has saved me and I thank you for that!

Kristin said...

What a wonderful post. I am trying hard to find a way to get to BlogHer (and it is looking good) and I'm going to try to join y'all for this too.

Once A Mother said...

i am very interested in coming. I don't have a lot of readers on my blog, and thats fine, but what I have received is a great deal of comfort and compassion from people who found me on LFCA and for that I am so very grateful Mel. I have also found blogs that I can relate to which is huge. The journey of the grieving mother can be an extremely isolating and lonely one, and it has meant so much to me to receive the "gentle blogging" and compassionate comments of your readers. thank you

Stacie said...

I won't be there. I haven't gone to blogher yet and it sounds much to much like an academic conference for me to like it. And I'm barely a blogger these days anyway. So... as much as I'd love to buy you a REAL (kosher) drink I'll pass.

CreoleInDC said...

I'm not sure if I'll attend but would like to receive email updates regarding.

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times...the only bad thing about blogging is that ANYONE can do it. I am considering bowing out of blogland for my birthday gift to myself and it's for most of the reasons you state that are negative to blogging. For some's high school all over again. I only wish that, as adults, more people would have found their happy place by now and it be a good, comfortable spot full of positivity.


You're one of the few good ones Mel which is why I show up to support you whenever I can. I just pray you don't get disgusted and leave too.

PJ said...

I would love to do the NY event. I am planning on attending blogher for the first time in '10 and would love to connect with you there. I try to be a gentle blogger and gentle tweeter - not sure i always succeed but that is always my goal. Very nice post.

PJ / @doublelattemama

Coffeegrl said...

Wow! I love the idea of a meet-up in NY. I'm not sure if I'll actually make it to Blogher although I'm seriously thinking about it now. But even if I don't, my parents live in upstate NY so there's an excellent chance I could be on the East Coast for the ALI meet-up. Wow. I'll be back with a specific RSVP but for now I'm a definite maybe!

And I have to tell you I love this post. I love the LFCA just because it makes me feel good to try to make others feel better. Wasn't it Wayne Dyer who talked about how doing something kind for others (paying it forward and random acts of kindness and the like) and how it actually improves one's mood? I read some other research about this but forget all the details. Suffice it to say - if you expect something in return it defeats the purpose because you'll be let down by all those people who don't respond as you think they "should".

Aurelia said...

If I'm at blogher10, I'll be there. Haven't even looked at a calender yet, still can barely find underwear....

As far as the negativity, I don't actually get that. I never saw any, and I had a great time. Then again, I'm used to political conventions and they are 10 times crazier.

You made me laugh about the "looking over your shoulder" only because yes, it would be rude at BlogHer but it's pretty much mandatory at political events. And not for rude reasons, but because so many people are employed as lobbyists or political staff and are attending to get the chance to talk to someone else specific. Then again, everyone knows that and understands. I'm just looking back now and hoping I didn't do that to someone out of sheer force of habit.

I try to be a gentle blogger always, but the busier I get the harder it is....

Nosy me wants to know who that person was btw.

Wordgirl said...

I always am amazed at what this blog in particular has made possible for me -- and am forever grateful for it -- the gentle vs. wicked thing made me think of a conversation I had just tonight with a friend about a book she'd read about Highly Sensitive People -- she said she thought of me -- and though I haven't read it she explained it more or less -- and how certain people get invigorated by happy hours and tons of people -- and some people get exhausted after a day at the museum and would no sooner end their day at happy hour than poke a sharp stick in their eye (and that would be me..) and I think that how we blog very often is probably a reflection of how we are in the world.

I can only speak for myself -- when I began blogging it literally was a tool for self-reflection without any real sense that anyone would read it -- I was writing it through yahoo and unconnected to any community --- and when I found your blog I still was so new and tentative -- reaching out and reading and commenting a little at first -- finding my way ultimately to some wonderful blogs and amazing bloggers who I now am proud to call my friends -- and I do have new readers -- or readers who are unknown to me -- and as much as i'd love to reach out to each one -- I feel overwhelmed sometimes just in keeping up with the community I've come to know and love --- and that is just part of my personality and what I'm capable of....I still have high hopes to continue to reach out and be more present to those I only know peripherally -- but I try to be as mindful as I can with those I am fully present with -- and I fear I could spread myself too thin otherwise...does that make any sense at all??

luna said...

you are such a kind gentle soul, mel. this is so beautifully articulated.

I'm not likely to make it to ny, though I would so love to... I'm not really feeling much like a blogger these days, what with barely a chance to write down a thought....

you capture so much in this post, and you do the ALI community a huge service with your own gentle voice. thank you.

sassy said...

I love it - gemtle blogging. I really thikn, you have helped set the tone for us ALIers, and thank you so much.

If I can afford the ticket from France, would LOVE to come to the NY meetup...

battynurse said...

Mel this is truly a beautiful post. Very well said and thoughtful.
I too am one of those that if I can find a way to make it I will. I don't want to commit until closer to the time but I would really like to be there next year.

Leah said...

Good grief, you are so freaking smart, woman. I know exactly what you are talking about in this post. I truly hope I am a gentle blogger, but I'm afraid that my sheer laziness and criminal inattentiveness to my blog in the last year may cause me to look otherwise.

I do tons of reading, but very little writing or commenting. I do, however, always follow back a comment on my blog and typically read their entire story (if not their whole blog, sometimes until 3am!) and have been lucky to be introduced to a whole new group of lovely ladies within our community.

Of course you have to write this post the day after I moved from bloglines to google reader and pared my list down by almost half. Yikes. In my defense, the vast majority of those links were either invalid or unused in over a year.

But, still. There are so many more people I could read. There are so, so, so many more comments I could leave. I love to drink in the support and friendship of my blogging friends, but have been doing a shitty job of reciprocating. While I know this isn't the definition of wicked blogging, I still feel like dung about it. And I vow to do better.

Count me in for the post-BlogHer gathering. Hopefully enough of the TOOTPU gals will want to go that we can carpool there for the day -- or perhaps we can spend a night there and make a fun trip out of it!

I love you and your rainbow-shitting ways. I also admire your ability to rise above other wicked bloggers and do the right thing. Now you'd better email me the names of the bloggers you talked about because it's killing me. :-)

Chickenpig said...

Hmm...I would love to hook up with other ALI people, and I live in CT so even if I don't go to Blogher I could certainly make it. However, I can hardly make plans from week to week, let along a year in advance. Could I pass on the RSVP until a couple of months before the event?

Also, I was incredibly distracted by the mental image of unicorns flying out of your backside. That sounds REALLY painful. Did you get an epidural for that? I think I would have requested a C section for that one. Fingerboard!

I only have two posts up on my so-called-blog because of the terrible restraints on my time. If I actually went to Blogher I would just walk around all day like a geeky fan trying to find all the bloggers I "know". I think I am a gentle (doormat) person in real life, but I get passionate with my comments. I hope and pray that my comments are taken as they are intended, as Gentle support and/or advice and not just Wicked commentary. It is hard on the internet when people don't know you, and they can't read your facial expressions or hear your voice.

loribeth said...

"Selfish" is a hot potato word for me, because it's one that so often gets tossed at those of us who are childless/free, usually by people who haven't got a clue (and obviously haven't given much thought) as to WHY I have no children in my life. That said, I agree with you that blogging is essentially a selfish act. I started blogging for myself; the comments I get & the other bloggers I've "met" along the way have been a bonus & a blessing.

That also said, I agree with your concept of "gentle blogging" & doing unto others, etc. I try to keep up with my reading & commenting, but it can be hard sometimes... so many wonderful blogs, so little time!! I just got back from vacation & while I was trying to keep up with my reading while I was away, I have almost 400 unread posts in my reader & I don't think the count ever went below 200 no matter how much I managed to read.

I would love to attend BlogHer someday & meet some of you. Unfortunately, next year will probably not be it, since my agenda for July 2010 already includes (a) my 25th wedding anniversary (b) my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (c) a family reunion on my Mom's side & (d) a 50-50 chance that dh & I will be hosting his mother's side of the family for the annual Labour Day weekend picnic, & girding up for that. (I've already told my boss I will probably need the entire month, if not the entire sumer, off, lol.) But I will love reading about the fun you all have!

eden said...

I've been reading your blog for over two years ... watching you grow, change, live your life. I think Stirrup Queens has gotten bigger ... it was bound to happen, all the great work and energy you have put in.

I commend you on that .... on being the change you want to see in the world.

I go through different stages, I guess. I have been a taker ... lately I am trying to comment properly again, give back to the community that has given me so much.

A kind word can do wonders for somebody and it only takes a minute.

Flying Monkeys said...

I'm still learning the etiquette, trying to figure out how to respond to a comment without leaving it on the comment page, leaving thank yous, etc. Some blogs I don't feel worthy enough to comment on. I didn't blog during our struggles and now, now I blog about my hair loss and weight issues while others blog about addiction and cancer and the children they grieve for. It makes me think that if they click back to my blog they'll see what I whiner I am.
With the exception of a blog created solely for drama, I have been fortunate enough not to see many truly negative comments out there. But then I've had my own misunderstood so if there's room to lean toward a positive then I do.
Man, I wish I knew what language you all were speaking sometimes and that I had known it 10 years ago when I boarded the train, not 10 years later when I decided to get off.

cheryllookingforward said...

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to thank you for everything you do, Mel. You are the definition of a gentle blogger. You are the reason I started commenting on other blogs and the reason I feel good right now.
I try to be a gentle blogger and I think it is even affecting me in real life - I'm so much nicer when people share their problems!
My blog is all about me and my feelings and I share them for two reasons: (1) because it makes me stop repeating stuff on my head and (2) when I read that someone feels the same as me, I feel better. I hope someone reads my story and leaves feeling better because they can say "me too."
Again, thank you for LFCA.

wifey said...

I agree that you are the definition of "gentle blogger." It is what I strive for!

And I have to thank you - the LFCA brought me reams of support when I really needed it.

And, by hook or by crook, I'll be in NY for the meet up next year. My whole family lives there so it'll be an excuse to visit them!

Bluebird said...

Fabulous fable. It's one that I hadn't heard before, but that I believe will be applicable in various areas of life. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. As you know gentle bloggers and kind people who left me comments during my second deepest loss helped towards healing my soul in ways they will never know. You are one of the few interactive huge bloggers and I appreciate that you reach back out to others. I appreciate that.I'm not widely read but I'd like to think if I was I'd still reach back to those who reach towards me.

I will also say it hurts when you get comments that clearly are left to get a readback on their own site. The kinds that are just "aw!" or "cute!" which show you never read and just wanted wider angling for your own site.

Aisha said...

Btw- I do check LFAC from time to time BUT I will make a new committment to making sure to check it in my daily routine of blog checking and leave at least two comments per day. Thanks for the reminder.

Journeywoman said...

I try to be a Gentle blogger--but sometimes I am a Wicked one. I will try harder.

I can RSVP yes for an ALI meetup. I have stayed away from BlogHer because I worried it might be too hard.

Also I live close enough to NYC that I would be willing to host people who don't mind sleeping in a Messy home.

Lisa said...

I've seen bloggers who explicitly say "I will follow you if you follow me, and only *if* your list of followers is public." And they mean it!

I am not a fan of that attitude. (As though the only benefit worth the trouble is a public nod to your blog.) Happily, though, I haven't seen much of it in the ALI community.

I just know I don't expect anything from anyone -- as you said, Mel, this is a hobby! -- and I just blog/read/comment with sincerity, according to my own schedule and needs, and try to always put out nothing but well wishes for all.

Calliope said...

love this post- it is exactly what I love about the community that you lead here. Haven't scrolled through the comments but I bet the IVP would so be down with a mashup. I am so looking forward to this next year!!!!!!

Jules said...

I don't consider myself a "wicked" blogger - but I am shy especially around those I don't know which is my hesitation in going to BlogHer, but if we can work out the details and make a trip up to NYC I'd go to the ALI meetup.

Hillary said...

Lovely and thought-provoking post -- thank you!

Vee said...

A great post.
Sometimes I click on LFCA and read posts and just don't know what to say because I am not in the right head space. Also being pregnant I am not sure if people are happy to receive comments from me. Although not very good excuses I am going to certainly start giving a bit more of me though. Thanks for the push.

Kim said...

New York sounds like blast but all my travels next summer will be to the opposite coast. I have an idea but I will put it in an email.

Dora said...

Wonderful post! I want to put a "kick me" sign on the back of the blogger who dissed you last year and tried to buddy up this year. Does that make me wicked?

LFCA is a wonderful asset to this community. I can't thank you enough for all you do.

Not sure about the conference, but I am definitely THERE for the get together. There are so many bloggers I can't wait to meet face to face and give great big hugs to. If it weren't for my blog and the wonderful people of this community, I would be pregnant with this baby girl right now. I would love to be able to introduce her in person to her loving internet Aunties!

kate said...

I think it's interesting, because I think the Show and Tell shows that issue in a microcosm way. The Gentle bloggers participate and click through because they genuinely want to know what is going on around the blogosphere, and maybe get to meet some new people, share some new stuff.

But it seems like it could easily be abused, too, like posting your own S&T and not bothering to leave a comment for anyone else (Wicked-style, I suppose). And I think that, as you say, everyone likes to be king of the playground, even for just a few minutes. So when I click through to a S&T post and see that there's only one or two comments on it, I wonder why that is. There are 20 other people who shared their stuff, who all have to want their brief moment in the sun.

There shouldn't be any sort of formalized tit-for-tat kind of thing, but at the same time, if we all share in that format, hoping that we can create community, agreeing that everyone is on a level playing field, and that everyone is worth the 30 seconds of consideration of a click through (and shoot- maybe even the additional 30 seconds of "interesting photo!" comment, or the like), then it seems like it should be impossible that I have found people on the S&T list who seem to be ignored.

Regardless of Gentle or Wicked, it seems like the specific desire of people who participate in S&T is to show off some cool thing going on in their world, and how crappy is it that they share and almost no one cares? That's just sad, I think, and like I said earlier, is (in a microcosmic way) some indication of the Gentle vs. Wicked problem. We all love to show, but not as many love to clap (aka leave a comment)

And in saying that, I want to be clear that I don't mean that there should be some specific post to comment ratio that needs to be achieved. I just mean that in that specific format, people are clearly posting with the goal of (virtually) seeing the oohs and aahs of their classmates.

It's like the Golden Rule-- you treat others how you want to be treated. There's a fine line between that and being "wicked", I suppose. I comment because I want others to know that I care about them, because I know that when I have a situation, I want to be cared about. Does that mean that I expect a 1:1 ratio of comments left to comments received? No. But it does mean that I may be less likely to keep commenting forever if I don't develop a relationship with a person, and generally relationships are fostered by a back and forth exchange, so ultimately, if I comment and comment and comment, and you never converse back with me on my blog, then I will probably stop doing the same with you, because we have no connection. Which, looking at that fact, ultimately makes me a wicked blogger. And if that's the case, I guess I accept that title!

I blog to share my story, and in the process, I hope to have my story cared for by the people with whom I've developed relationships. I am always open to developing new relationships, and I know that in order for that to happen, a conversation has to be started. And I have to admit that selfishly, I get a little hurt when conversations go unanswered, because part of me is hoping that I will get that comment back, that there will be a new friendship made. I think I get the point of the fable section of post, that some act in an effort to promote themselves and aren't rewarded and some act unselfishly and are rewarded. I think with blogging I wonder sometimes where that line is drawn, because to me the very act of blogging is, in at least some fraction of a way, a selfish thing, and commenting (at least from the Golden Rule adherents) becomes in part a selfish thing, too.

Ahem. Novel over. This post just gave me a lot to think about!

Erin said...

I hope I'll be able to make it there. Even if I can't make it to BlogHer, I'm hoping that I can convince J that would be a good time to visit my parents (90 miles north) and I can take the train down to the city and meet up there.

I really hope that I'm a Gentle Blogger. I hope. Lately, I've felt very selfish (not with my own blogging because, HA, I've barely been doing that) for not commenting often. But I hope I don't turn people down when they need help, and I hope that I reach out when people need it.

Neil said...

This is my first time here, and to be honest, I only know about you from hearing you speak at BlogHer. I guess we don't usually hang in the same circles.

I just wanted to tell you that this post really blew me away. It truly captured what is good... and bad with the blogging community at times, whatever your circle -- and pretty much any organization where people get together. There is both comraderie AND selfishness.

Bea said...

Wow. Didn't know it was quite so cliquey out there in the blogworld. For some reason. She waved dismissively as she moved on?

I have doubts about our ability to make it to the event... but I will let you know! On the off-chance we are in the area, I'll be there.


mames said...

i am really so very glad i read this post, i clicked over from twitter. it spoke to something i have been feeling lately as i blog, the feel that i am gentle and that there is very much out there that is not....

reading through the various blogher posts this week made me a little apprehensive at times, but this post reminded me of something. i am planning to attend next year for a few reasons and this bolstered my courage to do so. because it is about what we make it and that is empowering.

thanks for this, and it seems to be an okay thing if you shit rainbows. it is working for you. :)

John Sullivan said...

I'm in LUV with you whoever you are :) Read that post I just wrote and you will see that we can relate;)
As far as snobs and people who THINK they are all that YOU my friend are all that for having the awareness and insights when they don't have a clue. Have mercy on them they don't know any better.PLUS when we stew about what bloggers have done or not done we hurt ourselves and block our flow. That was some flow :)
Get off Blogspot and I can see you being above all those clowns easy
PS Bear in mind I see many many blogs and although I read every word of your thoughts I'm new.
PSS if you want to meet the coolest best DO FOLLOW bloggers in the world come to my site and look at the people who comment. I don't need people to come to MY BLOG. But I'd like to offer you a chance to meet some people who will have your back so you can quickly forget all those fools :)
PSSS I see you have a great following here and no offense to bloggger Bloggers but your ready for Showtime :)
PSSSS Can a dude go to Blogher ? :) I'll straighten them out LOL :)
thanks for sharing some REAL stuff it was like a breath of fresh air :)

Liza said...

Beautiful post! Which comes as no surprise, coming from you.

Bri and I, and Polly/LesbianDad and I also talked about meetups or post-BlogHer conferences for the Sunday after BlogHer. I am absolutely bubbling over with ideas. I'm going to RSVP on your form, but I also want to email or maybe even *gasp* talk about possibilities and all of our ideas working in concert.

Capital Mom said...

I stumbled onto your blog from another blaog (as so often happens) and I wanted to say how interesting I found this post. I am new to blogging but have already bought a ticket to BlogHer in NYC because I am enjoying it so much and want to become better at it/ become part of the blogging community.
I liked your use of the fable. I think I will have to sit and think on it more. I hope I can remember it next year.