“You like me, right now, you like me!”
These fairly famous words spoken by Sally Field in 1985 when she accepted her Academy Award were scoffed at by some but resonated with thousands of others across the country who appreciated the authentic, ingenuous, and unscripted honesty of her reaction. Call it projection, but I thought I recognized underneath her words, and slightly hysterical affect, a source of insecurity and a great need for external validation. This past year, I had two Sally Field moments. No, I didn’t win any Oscars, but I did win two awards! The first was from About Curves who recognized my blog, Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels, as number 4 of the top 50 trendsetting self-acceptance bloggers for 2012 and gave me a Size Acceptance Blogger Award. The latter was just last week when thanks to a nomination by Jeanette DePatie, writer of the wonderful blog The Fat Chick Sings, I received an Illuminating Blogger Award. Both awards have great meaning to me; the first because it was on behalf of people reading my blog and the latter because it came from a fellow blogger acknowledging me as a worthwhile contributor to the blogosphere.
It’s hard to believe that blogging; (“online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often containing hyperlinks provided by the writer” -Webster’s) has only been around for about a dozen years. I know the super geeks will remember the esoteric history of blogs and can cite the precursors to blogs when they were still called online diaries. But for the rest of us otherwise ordinary folk, blogs began creeping into our consciousness around 1999 and have become an integral part of our online experiences. These days it is unusual to visit a website and NOT see BLOG (short for “Web log”) as one of the headings. People are using blogging for a variety of reasons ranging from working on personal recovery to documenting a year of living without a mirror and everything and anything in between! Because of this proliferation of bloggers and their readers (blogees?) blogs have become the subject of much controversy, discussion, and inquiry:
Are bloggers journalists? Are bloggers narcissists? Are bloggers frustrated writers who can’t get their work published? Are bloggers marketing maniacs?
Blogs have also acquired the power to unite people or divide them. People who find support, comfort, knowledge, etc. in reading someone’s work that resonates or reflects their own points of view, or experience, may be moved to subscribe and become part of a community. (One example is Big Fat Blog‘s amazing contribution to the Fatosphere providing comfort and education to so many of us over the years.) However, bloggers brave enough to put themselves out there are also vulnerable to public humiliation and reprimands. Trolls, who according to Wikipedia are defined as those “who post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the primary intent of provocation” can insert themselves into the comment section and decimate the communal climate or educational tone of a post. They have also been known to spread the links of blogs around the blogosphere like bait to attract other trolls. This raises additional questions about bloggers:
Should bloggers be accredited? Should they be held accountable? Do they own their work or can anyone repost their blog? Are they obligated to respond to each and every comment? Can they repost an older blog if a year later it still has merit and they would like their new readers to read it? Do they ever get paid? (Okay that last one was a personal question and has nothing to do with the train of thought I was writing about).
And for the readers:
What kinds of responses are appropriate? What rules of etiquette and code of ethics, if any, are applicable in the commenting process once the post has been published? Does a reader have the right to mention their own blog, book, or program in the comment section of someone’s blog? How much should a reader rely on what they read and the “relationship” they feel they are establishing with the blogger?
I never set out to become a blogger. I read some blogs over the years, with great delight, but I never imagined that I would become a contributor to what I now know is called, “the blogosphere.” That was, in my opinion, an elusive and mysterious place reserved for talented, geeky, and already established writers with important things to say. Nor can I claim that my entry into the blogging world was particularly altruistic. After all, it was a wonderful marketing professional in concert with my web site designer who, a couple of years ago, suggested that I begin to blog for the primary purpose of bringing people to my website in order to learn about my book. Needless to say, I had NO IDEA what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. It turns out that I have Perry White living inside of me screaming DEADLINE constantly!
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t conduct some research about blogging before writing my first blog. I had no idea how long a blog was supposed to be. Did I have to blog every day? Was there a certain format or “voice” that differentiated a blog piece from an essay or short story? Did any of this matter especially since I was certain no one would be reading my posts anyway? Will I get penalized for using the word blog too many times in this post? ;-) And are emoticons allowed?
I wrote my first blog in January, 2011. The initial draft was 2300 words and the final version was edited down to 836 words and took me four days to write. When I finally completed the piece, my index finger hovered over the publish key for what felt like an interminable period of time. My inner monologue was having a field day!
Who are you to think that anyone will be interested in what you have to say? What makes you think that you can write? You haven’t taken a writing class since graduate school! What if the three people who manage to find the blog post hate it and comment publicly? What if no one notices it all?
My self-esteem issues were running rampant and the thought process was eerily familiar. It reminded me of the years I had spent having this same conversation with myself about my body.
Who are you to think that anyone will be interested in you with that body? What makes you think you are desirable at all? What if someone makes fun of you for wearing that dress or worse yet, what if you are totally invisible because you don’t have a perfect body?”
Seeing the parallels and realizing that those body hate conversations were a part of my past, gave me the courage to publish the blog and while I still battle with some insecurity and have to work on avoiding comparing myself to other bloggers (OMG Ragen Chastain!! She really is incredible!) the way I learned not to compare my body to other women, I have continued to write Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels ever since. Today my blog is syndicated and I write an original monthly blog for the Fierce Freethinking Fatties and Art Therapy Blog websites. My motivation is no longer solely to sell my book or book sessions with me, although when that happens it is fabulous. It has been replaced by a combination of wanting to share my experiences and add another voice to the size acceptance community in an environment that is predominantly inhabited by weight loss programs and fat-phobic messages.
During this time, I have also answered some of my questions about bloggers and blogees. At a recent panel discussion about blogging at the NAAFA/ASDAH summit, I learned that it isn’t “good form” to mention your own blog site or product in another blogger’s comment section, (although I don’t mind because that way I may learn about other blogs that I may enjoy). And answering comments is generally thought of as part of the process, after all, most bloggers are more interested in diablogues than diatribes, otherwise they would be writing pieces, more similar to op-eds without offering opportunities for commenting. I also learned that there is no hard and fast rule that a blogger has to write every day. In fact, there is a great deal of individualism allowed in the blogging world. A blogger can post quippy news commentaries, rants, raves, personal memoiresque pieces, Edublogs, etc. with no template to follow. What is impressive is that despite the lack of a Blog Behavior Oversight Board (BBOB) calling the shots, there still seems to be a strong code of ethics that encourages bloggers to cite and provide links for sources and ask permission before posting another blogger’s work on their website. Some types of blogs may have specific guidelines in order to warn readers of possible triggers that appear in a post and some insist that certain topics be omitted completely. A great example of this is when blogging about Eating Disorders, guidelines typically include not mentioning specific foods, or numbers associated with weights.
This kind of care and hyper vigilance underscores how powerful words can be and that bloggers do need to take a certain amount of responsibility for what we write. As I review my list of favorite bloggers, they all have this quality in common; a deep unswerving respect for their readers and for the subject matter they are writing about. So before I add my own nominations for the Illuminating Blogger Award and hopefully introduce my readers to some writers they have not yet discovered, Jeanette informed me that a requirement for accepting the award is to share a random fact about me. The first thing that popped into my head was that I lived in a tipi in New Hampshire in the 1970s. I wish I had a photo, but alas, I didn’t even own a camera at the time!
My nominations for the Illuminating Blogger Award go to:
ASDAH: The Association of Size Diversity and Health, which features a weekly blog post about Health at Every Size (r) by a variety of authors.
Never Diet Again UK: A blog about Health at Every Size, Mindful Eating, and Positive Body Image
We are the Real Deal: “An educational blog universe instructing today’s youths on body image, healthy coping, nutrition and self-esteem via empowering content authored by professionals from arts, wellness, nutrition, yoga and psychology.”
Weightless: Margarita Tartakovsky’s blog Weightless on Psych Central A blog about body image and freedom from numbers.
See you next time!