• Nice Things Now

Contact

leah at agirlandaboy dot com

Et Cetera

About Leah (It's not my real name!)

Twitter!

I Also Write Here

  • Syle Lush
BlogHer Book Club Reviewer
July 28, 2011

More of Less: Why This Six-Time Veteran Is Scared To Go To BlogHer

Are you going to BlogHer next week? It will be my sixth time (Simon's coming too; his fourth) and although in the past I've been one to step up and share my advice about how to manage the conference and why you shouldn't be nervous because there's really nothing to be scared of, really, this year it's a little bit different. This year I'm a little bit terrified.

Okay, not terrified, but tummy-jumbly and apprehensive and, for the first time, worried I might be in over my head.

I've faced BlogHer challenges before (there was the time I knew exactly three people, the time I took my baby, the time I had to haul fifty pounds of swag for hours at a time because it was a ninety-minute round-trip to get between the session area and the hotel), but this year's conference is the first one that's filled me with this special flavor of dread.

Here's the thing: Thanks to Twitter and some of the smaller blogger meet-ups I've attended in the past year, I know more online people than ever before, but the problem is I know them all LESS. Way back in the wayback, my blog community used to be a manageable community of individuals, all of whom read all of each other's personal blogs (and we each only had one blog back then, remember that?), and that meant when the annual conference came around it truly was a chance to hang out in person with friends who were actually already friends. I was invested in their lives and they in mine, and every wonderful thing a person can say about meeting blog friends in real life for the first time--that you don't have to break the ice because it's already broken; that you can skip over the small talk because you've already read each other's About pages not to mention intimate descriptions of things like pregnancy hemeroids and bad break-ups and that time I puked all over Potrero Hill--yes, all of the magic that is spending real, physical time with those friends is absolutely true and real.

And as the blog universe expands to include more people, and as individual bloggers expand to write for more sites, my love remains as limitless as before, and my ability to appreciate a thousand different lives is equally generous and flexible, but, oh, my time is not. My time is short, thin, fragile, a thing to be guarded, sometimes with a big stick and bared teeth.

Conferences used to be a place to meet a few new friends through existing friends, or even just through happening to sit down next to someone you end up clicking with. Those early conferences were also an opportunity to fall into conversation with extraordinary people without being intimidated by how extraordinary are because you'd never heard of them. (In 2008 I sat down next to Casey of Moosh in Indy and said, "Nice to meet you! And where are you from!" "Uh...Indiana?" she graciously replied. Yes. Right. Got it.)

So there's that: These days I feel like I don't have room to meet new people, that I should actively avoid introducing myself to strangers because I already have my community, and it's already way too big. Even a lot of the people I've known for years I don't know know anymore because I can't keep up with everything they're doing. (Hell, I can't even keep up with everything I'm doing.) And here's what it really comes down to for me: I really really really just don't want to say something stupid.

At the first CheeseburgHer party, I cornered Jenn and for some reason started explaining roller derby to her, in detail, so she would ustnderstand, so she would get it, all the while having no idea that she was IN AN ACTUAL ROLLER DERBY LEAUGE HERSELF. I had read Jenn's blog, I was a fan, and yet I'd kind of totally missed the part about her being a derby girl. When I figured this out days later, I commenced a cringe that has apparently lasted four whole years, because GAH, SO DUMB. She wrote about it on her website, and I hadn't read it. BlogfriendFAIL.

Of course, what's even dumber than that is the fact that I bothered feeling so dumb about it because--come closer, friends--here's a little truth: We aren't all reading each other's blogs. We can't. Even if you have an RSS reader, even if you sit at home all day and do nothing but read blogs, even if you bought a speed reading course from an infomercial, even if you're a magician or wizard or something, you simply cannot read everything everyone writes and retain it in any meaningful way. I know this, I do, and yet it still bothers me. I want to read it all. I want to know you.

Ever had that awkward moment where you're talking to someone and you gloss over a few details because you figure there's no need to rehash what you've written about on your blog, your blog that everyone you know reads regularly and in its entirety, of course, but then you realize the person you're conversing with has NO IDEA what you're talking about? And you both realize, "Shit. I/she put that on the blog and she/I didn't read it." That's...not my favorite. So, yeah, I wish I could read everything everyone writes not just because you're interesting and I'm interested but because I would like to avoid this awkwardness, please and thank you very much!

It used to be that a blogger's community was equally if not more accurately defined by her number of reciprocated connections. I read her blog, she reads mine, we both read this third person's, and she reads ours, etc. Now (and this has been true for several years), I suspect that a lot of the people with the biggest audiences are the ones reading the fewest blogs, not because they're all high and mighty and snobby and such but because they simply don't have time considering they're busy writing for a dozen sites and attending networking events every two weeks and, of course, don't forget they're also out there "living the content." It's not a bad thing--I don't begrude anyone her popularity in this free market; if people are reading what you're producing, write on!--but from my perspective, as someone who liked the give and take of running a personal website that belonged to a tighter network of other personal websites, rather than as someone who wrote to an audience that was largely anonymous (I see you in my stats, you anonymous lurkers! who are you?), it's a little sad. And it makes attending a conference of three thousand-plus bloggers a little nervewracking because even if I know a few hundred of them, it's likely I mostly only know of them. You know?

I don't think my audience is all that larger than it was four or five years ago, but it's certainly different. Although there are some old-timers still hanging around, it's not the same crew at all, and even the names I recognize in the comments aren't necessarily people I'd be able to pick out of a line-up. I'm trying to be better about visiting more blogs outside my regular five (seriously, FIVE) and to also be better about leaving comments, even if it's just something simple to say, "I was here." I try. But it's HARD. I don't have the time. I wish I did.

If you're going to BlogHer, let me know (so I can stay up late cram-reading all your blogs). (I'm the type of person who will Google someone's new boyfriend before meeting him at a party, just so I know what I'm dealing with.) (Planner? Or psychostalker?) And if you see me there and I'm acting weird, please know that it's not that I'm shy, it's that I can't always trust what will come out of my mouth so I sometimes feel best just keeping it closed. There's a reason I do my best work in writing. I'm a bumbler. To quote a line from Coupling, sometimes I just open my mouth and there's a bit more in there than I was expecting.

Let's be generous with ourselves and our stories. Let's not assume anyone knows anything about us just because we have blogs. Let's not be afraid to talk out of fear of saying something stupid (because, hey, it happens). Let's not be afraid to make new friends. I'll start:

Hi, I'm Leah (but not really), and I've been blogging for a crazy-long time. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my kind and talented husband, my humdinger of a two-year-old son, and cats who suffer being dressed up now and then for my amusement. I'm a book editor and writer, an amateur photographer, and a planner lacking follow-through. This is my sixth BlogHer conference, and I'm scared. But also really freakin' excited.

42 Comments

I share these sentiments. This is almost identical to how I feel about going to San Diego next week.

Also Hi. I hope to see you and not put my foot in my mouth at any point. But forgive me if I do.

HI LEAH (but not really).

(I love that photo of us. The card you sent me with it on it is on my writing desk at home.)

I totally hear you on this, and after last year's conference, which was so different that years past, (and not just because you were my roommate instead of Simon's) I wondered if I wanted to come this year.

But! Amanda is coming and dying to meet you guys. And it's the only time of the year that I get to spend time with you two, and Linda and Kristin and all of our other friends who we never get face time with.

So, I'm excited to see you all, and to see San Diego, and to have a lot of fun.

(We get in Wednesday at noon. Ping me when you arive.)

xoxo

This is so interesting to me because I've noticed it myself, "I suspect that a lot of the people with the biggest audiences are the ones reading the fewest blogs..." Yes, this. And I can't say for certain because I'm certainly not one of those people but there just isn't enough time in the day to keep up with every possible blog or blog friend or person you know from twitter.

Not that I don't love them all dearly, and I certainly would never hold it against someone if they haven't read every single one of my posts and memorized it, but it does make me think about downsizing in the internet world. Sacrilege.

(Also, I don't know you! but i do now! So helloooo!)

I think you're right about a lot of this--it's impossible to read everyone, and anyone who thinks differently is a smidge on the crazy side. I personally read somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 blogs (partly for pleasure, partly for work, hooray!), but even amongst those 200, the details blur and meld. There are a few that stand out and stick out and won't meld with other people, but there's so much information, so many stories that it's impossible to know/read/connect with it all.

That being said, I'm hoping that doesn't mean I can't connect with people at BlogHer. I'm going in assuming the people I meet, by and large, will not have read my small blogs. I'm going in assuming that they may not know my twitter handle. I'm going in, though, assuming that I want to get to know them anyway. I'm hoping that they feel the same about me. Because all I want are the connections and the experiences, be they old friends or new.

AMEN.

I'll be there and I hope I get to meet you. I'll probably say something dumb, but I'd rather risk it and meet you than worry about something that might not even happen and miss out.

This is an amazing piece of TRUE! I am not/have not been/may never be a big blogger, even though I'm a huge blog fan and reader and supporter, so I've been to this conference six times, too, and I feel exactly as you do.

Like, woah, that's gonna be a lot of people there and how am I going to make meaningful connections?

You are in my Twitter feed and so yes, I feel like I know you in that weird way you describe. Maybe we'll bump into each other and say hi (we have some common friends); maybe we won't even see each other across the room because so many women (and men) will be there. But thanks for writing this. It made me feel better about the conference more than any advice about not worrying about what to wear ever could.

That was seriously on the mark.

All of that is exactly why I'm not going to Blogher even though I will actually be in San Diego during part of it. It's just too much, too many, not enough time. BIG parties have never been my thing, even if they're attended by all my favorite people. I get overwhelmed and then there's no way I can have a good time.

My Flickr set dedicated to meeting internet friends is called "meeting the internet one person at a time" because that is exactly how I prefer to do it. Will I miss out on meeting some awesome people that way? Sadly, yes. But I've already met so many awesome friends though the internet that I feel I should not be greedy. If there are folks I've not met (like you!) who I want to meet, I'll just keep reading those blogs and hope that one day our travels will put us in the same place. If not, that's okay too. I only have so much time, and I need to use it in such a way that I'm going to be content and meet all my responsibilities.

That said, have a wonderful time at Blogher! I'll be the one happily doing my own thing with some close friends and not being jealous of you at all. ;-)

Hi Leah (but not really), I'm Jennifer. And I suddenly wish I was going to BlogHer this year. If for no other reason than to actually have conversations with some of the women (you included) who I've followed lo these many years.

Of course, I get tongue-tied and turn shy and run away. Like last year. Le sigh.

Honestly, it's the "thousands of people" aspect that gets to me. Mom 2.0 was easier for me to handle, being a far smaller conference. But still....

hah, its funny to see me linked because i came here through tanis' link (pardon the lack of punctuation as there is a baby snoozing on me) i saw the title and thought ME TOO!
i remember when you were just a girl and a boy in chicago and now you're parents!
most of my friendships that have survived the long haul started at the rooftop bar in chicago where i was able to realize "I BELONG!" amongst this crazy tribe of women.
I think that's harder for people that are new to blogher this year. it's hard to walk in and feel "I BELONG!" when there's 3K people in a room.
But everything you said? Exactly, about wanting to read everything and know everything and pick up exactly where our blogs left off on tuesday and not having time but still being out there but not able to reciprocate and thank you so much for putting it into words.
that being said, i am very excited to go, to meet up with old friends and meet new ones, and bond with them for those three days as much as possible and leave with a few new friends and knowing that i can't know everyone.
(longest comment to chicken peck out EVER.)
xoxo see you next week.

May you have a drama free time.

(And you have no idea how much sage I'm burning around my monitor and the candles and chanting and shit going on while I say this.)

Luckily for you, I'm not going...so you don't need to know anything about me! Hee!

Kidding aside, I'm sad to not be going...since I have been to so many and have loved every single one. But I totally 100% know exactly what you are talking about here. I usually just walk around assuming that NOBODY reads my site...it's so much easier that way!

There are people I read regularly and I still miss important stories. It happens. There are so many great writers and storytellers out there...I want to read everyone! I want to know everything! But it just can't happen.

Maybe I can introduce myself to you AGAIN. Because, you poor thing, there's nothing like having to make small talk with Momo three different times. If I walk up and say, "You look familiar"...smack me.

Great comments, folks. Thanks for chiming in. *cue MJ's "You Are Not Aloooone"* If you look past the paper bag I'm breathing into, you'll see I really am excited to meet you/see you again.

And you know, the more I think about this the more I realize Simon's the one who has it figured out: he shows up to the conference knowing around five people and spends the rest of the time just having interesting conversations with interesting people, no strings, no expectations. His opening line: "I don't read blogs. Tell me about yours." Bloody BRILLIANT.

Nice to meet you Sometimes-Leah. -from a random lurker who will probably never be cool enough or brave enough to go to BlogHer, but who wishes you an awesome awkwardness free time all the same.

The part about community and how it's different now? Yeah, I feel that. I have a bit of nostalgia for the days where I actually could maintain connections with everyone. And then it all blew up and now it feels sort of like chaos and overwhelming. Twitter complicates things too. There are so many people to know!

I've actually been in the middle of telling a story to someone and they interrupt me to tell me they already read that on my blog! A different sort of embarrassment? I don't know. I've been avoiding BlogHer for a couple years using excuses like I have other trips planned (true) or I'm not interested in visiting the town it's being hosted in but really the deeper issue is that I don't really get how I fit into blogging anymore and worry I would just feel weird, awkward and outside of it all.

Love this. I'm not saying that it's not great to meet new people (I'm banking on people wanting to do that since I'm brand spankin' new), but I think it's okay to also sit back a little and enjoy the time to catch up with the folks you don't "know know" as much anymore.

One of the "bigger bloggers" told me a week or two ago that it's not that conferences have cliques - It's just that you don't often get to see these friends in person.

So enjoy. Hopefully I'll run into you and get to say hello. And you won't have to cram my blog ahead of time.

"We aren't all reading each other's blogs. We can't... I know this, I do, and yet it still bothers me. I want to read it all. I want to know you."

This = me, everyday.

And also, you quoted Coupling. :-D

love,
a [sometimes] lurker

The part about community and how it's different now? Yeah, I feel that. I have a bit of nostalgia for the days where I actually could maintain connections with everyone. And then it all blew up and now it feels sort of like chaos and overwhelming. Twitter complicates things too. There are so many people to know!

I've actually been in the middle of telling a story to someone and they interrupt me to tell me they already read that on my blog! A different sort of embarrassment? I don't know. I've been avoiding BlogHer for a couple years using excuses like I have other trips planned (true) or I'm not interested in visiting the town it's being hosted in but really the deeper issue is that I don't really get how I fit into blogging anymore and worry I would just feel weird, awkward and outside of it all.

Let's make a deal. Don't spend your time before Blogher reading my blog. We'll meet up in San Diego (we have to, I have to give you one of my Zazzle stickers because without you I wouldn't have them) and I'll tell you one favorite thing of mine from each of my (only 2) blogs and you'll tell me something favorite about Nice Things Now since I haven't had time to get on that bandwagon and neither of us will say anything stupid.

Deal?

You nailed it with this post. And I don't think blogging newbies would get it because this "blogosphere" has changed so much in the last couple of years.

I'm not going this year. For most of what you mentioned here. Also because most of my PEOPLE weren't going and I go to see them mostly. They are your home base. Even though I've been to three, I don't think I could go without my home base. (Which is why I'm going up to Toronto next weekend to visit Ali.)

I assume no one reads my blog, even my mother who reads it every day. I used to assume they did and tell 1/2 stories and people didn't know what I was talking about. Now? I say "stop me if I've already told you this".

It's much easier to survive BlogHer if you go into it like this, like no one knows you. Kristabella is my name, self-deprecation is my game. :)

Have fun! It will be awesome! I'm sad (and not sad) to be missing it! Next year!

Love this. I'm not saying that it's not great to meet new people (I'm banking on people wanting to do that since I'm brand spankin' new), but I think it's okay to also sit back a little and enjoy the time to catch up with the folks you don't "know know" as much anymore.

One of the "bigger bloggers" told me a week or two ago that it's not that conferences have cliques - It's just that you don't often get to see these friends in person.

So enjoy. Hopefully I'll run into you and get to say hello. And you won't have to cram my blog ahead of time.

I'm Janet, I'll be there, and you don't need to know a thing about me (no cramming required) except that, thanks to you and Simon, my kitchen floor still sticks with honey. Can't wait to meet you both!

I totally hear this, and am so glad you said it, and I hereby hope you and A (and Amanda, hurrah!) and the rest of the girls have an amazing! time in St. Diego. (It's German for "whales vagina," you know. Or so someone in a burgundy suit once told me.)

i've never been to blogher, though this was the first year i seriously entertained the idea. i share a lot of your sentiments though, and even find myself fumbling through some local tweet-ups and whatnot because of it.

this has gotten to be so very big.

but i'm really glad you wrote this. it's spot on.

I'm going (this will be my third time), and I really hope I get a chance to meet you in person. I feel like I've gotten to know you over the past year enough to know that you're my kind of people, and I'm pretty sure that'll translate in real life, right?

Oh! And I won't be offended at all if the only thing you know about me is my Twitter handle. Or, you know, if you don't even know that, it's cool. Seriously -- I have no expectation of anybody knowing anything about me. And I hope that nobody expects me to know who they are! Because I'm sure I've done loads of foot in mouths. I just don't care.

I'm a lurker most of the time & long-time reader. I'm not attending BlogHer but I live in San Diego, so if you need some food/beer/etc recommendations, don't hesitate to ask! Hope you have an un-awkward time. :)

Also, I must have that pink purse. Where did you get it??

Gretchen--That photo's from 2007 and that purse is probably from 2001 or so. $12ish at Old Navy and still kicking!

I've been going to BlogHer since 2005 (sans 2007 when I gave birth. Darned babies) and I love this post.

Over the past years, I've noticed I "know" more folks from Twitter and merely "recognize" folks from their blogs. My feed reader hasn't decreased in size, but the folks I read tend to not be the folks who go to BlogHer.

Oh and one of my favorite BlogHer anecdotes which illustrates what you've just written is this:

At BlogHer 09, I kept running into Ree Drummond in the elevators. Time after time after time. But I don't read her. I had absolutely NOTHING to say to her other than "Woot, Bartlesville." Because that is the ONLY thing I have in common with her -- the Bartlesville thing. Rather than look like a fool, I just pretended not to know her.

Cagey--That's me with practically everyone. I know who people are, but I don't know what to say to them except "Hey! I know you!" Like that time we passed each other on the elevator? (That was you, right?) And last year when Knighton up there was nice enough to come say hello and I was all, "Hello! *crickets*" and scared her away. I swear I don't feel this awkward in my head.

Girl, you didn't scare me away. I opened my mouth and forgot how to speak, so I ran away to hide in shame. I'm really more comfortable with Jenny in the ladies' room.

I totally know what you mean about the reciprocity of blogging! While I still read your blog and Amber's and Holly's, etc., I find I read a lot fewer "random" blogs (i.e. the ones I don't know IRL) as there simply isn't time what with traveling and having one career and a blog with three to four posts a week and also the Facebook and Tweeting and Tumbling and AHHHH that it takes to promote one's self in this day and age.

Have a blast! Wish I were going with you.

I'm not a blogger but really wish I was attending BlogHer just so I could meet all the people I *think* I already know.
And, like Gretchen, I live in San Diego so let me know if you need any recommendations!

Thank-you for this. I've often wondered how anyone is actually able to keep up with everyone online and just thought, maybe I'm not committed enough to this blogging thing to try. Those other people must do it all day long.

I love the relationships I find online. But my real life needs me more, so I feel guilty missing out on people I've come to think of as friends and their posts.

I am going to blogher for the very first time this year, and there a few people I'm so excited to meet irl. It was nice of them to host it where I live so I can go with minimal guilt about leaving my short people for too long a time period.

I find I have that moments with everyone now, blogger friends and everyone else, now that my blog is out, where I'll pause and ask if they read a certain post before launching into a story I already told the internets.

I was here. And I really liked this.

This post is soooo right on. (And frankly, exactly why I'm not driving the measly 60 miles south to attend. Too much for me. I'll miss seeing your beautiful face, though!)

If you're nervous, then I'm toast. TOAST.

oh, HI! i read often but rarely comment and i DO NOT have my own blog. i am fer sher a voyeur to the max! and i love reading your blog! so good job. i will keep reading and stuff and i hope you keep writing. holler!

You are also freakin' cute and I've met you at every Blogher that you've been to - and I'm pretty sure you have zero idea who I am.

Hi. I'm Carmen. I'm a freelance writer, mom to six incredibly wild and very opinionated kids. I train thai boxing - the stand up part of MMA fighting. I'm in the rotation to earn my black belt in December. I have attempted to sell FOUR books to editors, so, although I freelance like crazy and have made a name for myself that way - I still feel like a flop.

Hopefully when I see you I won't be tongue tied again.

:)

WAYBACK PLAYBACK! And old-timer checking in. Just sayin' hi. I still check in on you every now and then. And I realized that this may have been the first year that we did not wish each other a happy birthday! Happy belated and happy blogging, old-timey blog sistah of yore.

Hilariously, I hadn't read this until just now, where you talk about your shame at not reading me. I've seen you several times since then and had no idea! So, you know, it happens to everyone.

Also, the faux pas didn't register at all. I probably thought you were talking about roller derby because you knew I would be interested in the topic. No cringing necessary!

Leave a comment

Previous Next

Advertising

Snapping

www.flickr.com

Search

Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by Movable Type 4.3-en h2_2.gif