On Obligatory Obligations
Like roughly 72% of the blog world, I was at that gigantic conference this weekend and to be completely honest, Pranksters, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d gone last year, and for the few of you who read me last year who still read me now, I didn’t have a particularly good time. 85% of my problem was this:
It’s not a very good likeness, for someone who looks more like this:
Anyone expecting a cartoon Russian Lady washing the floors were SOL.
So learn from me, Pranksters, if you are going to a conference and your avatar is a cartoon or a picture from 80 years ago, you may want to update it so that people know what you look like. Just, you know, saying.
The other problem was that the tone of the entire conference (or at least what I saw of it), just seemed…wrong. What I’ve always liked about blogging was the sense of community and I just didn’t see any of that. When I tried to insert myself into a group of people talking it was all “talk to the hand, Aunt Becky” and that? SADPANDA.
I couldn’t find mah friends (shocking, I know, but I have friends)(well, I pay them, but you know) and so by Day 2, when my son Alex got orbital cellulitis, I was out of there.
But this year, it just wasn’t like that. The blogging community seemed to be back to it’s community-centered roots and from the moment I got there to the moment I left, I was happy in the pants.
On Friday, due to some TERRIBLE miscalculation on BlogHer’s part, I was speaking on a panel with the Mouthy Housewives about giving advice in the blog world. We hadn’t really hashed out the details, but I figured that if all else failed, we could do a Dance Party audience participation bit.
When I was in high school and we had to do group presentations, that was always my go-to solution: dance-off’s. Who doesn’t like a dance-off? (answer: people who hate kittens and big-eyed puppies).
I showed up, our panel being DIRECTLY after lunch, and I was a little concerned that people would be all, “FOOD COMA, MUST NAP” and blow off the session, so I tweeted that anyone who didn’t show up would be hunted down and kicked in the taco. I mean, nothing like a little threat of vagina-punching to get the attendees rolling in.
AND THEY CAME. This gigantic room, which probably held 30 or 300 people (math is not my strong suit) it was FILLED UP WITH REAL PEOPLE. My Pranksters, you showed up. I would have cried, except that I have to pay someone to do that and I had no cash.
BlogHer is working on an audio-recording of it, so you can hear me say things like, “When I write, Magic comes out,” (or perhaps not), but for now, there’s a live-blog of it up here. You should comment on it and tell BlogHer that reading the live-blog made you cry because it was so moving. Just because it was actually hilarious. The whole session was hysterical and the room was in stitches most of the time. Although they may have been laughing AT us, but who cares?
The Mouthy Housewives are freaking awesome and we didn’t even need a Dance Contest to fill up the hour, although that sort of made me sad, because I could have busted out my wicked “Sprinkler” and “Mowing the Lawn” for you to see. (shut up, my dance moves RULE).
But I wanted to talk about something else, besides how grateful I am that you all voted for us to have this session (thanks, Pranksters!).
Disclaimer: while my session was about advice blogs, what follows is not about running an advice blog.
Someone who had a fairly serious blog–not an advice blog–let’s say it was about drug addiction, asked about other people who had found her blog and wanted her advice about drug addiction. She seemed unsure about what to do with these people who wanted her advice on this very serious topic.
My statement to her, which made about half of the room look at me as though I’d grown three heads, all of which had started singing, “Don’t Rain on my Parade:”
“You don’t owe the Internet anything.”
I immediately followed that up with, “I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it’s true,” especially after seeing that everyone looked at me like I was the second coming of Alien.
I’d read something, I think it was actually on BlogHer’s website, about how other, Big Bloggers owed Smaller Bloggers a hand, and it had turned into a spirited discussion over there, but I feel this applies to any sort of, well, ANYTHING on The Internet.
Just because someone feels that they have a connection with you for some reason: drunken parents, teenage pregnancy, a couple of kids, abusive relationships, being a fellow blogger, infertility, WHATEVER, it doesn’t mean that you owe them anything. Especially not a solution to their problem.
Especially if the burden of helping them solve their problem will be something that drags you down as well.
For my friends, there’s very little that I wouldn’t do, and for my Pranksters, you know I love you all and will help you with whatever you need, because in turn, I know I can turn to each of you to help me out when I need a hand. There’s a give and take in a relationship like that, and I’m so fortunate to have found such an amazing community of people here. I don’t take that for granted–ever.
But for someone who finds me through clicking links or Google, then sends me a random email, and then expects that I can drop whatever I’m doing to help them increase their blog traffic? Or counsel them through xxx? I have no obligation to them. If I choose to help them, it’s my choice.
I don’t owe The Internet anything.
I can help my friends with whatever they need, but I don’t owe anybody anything. There’s a difference there, you see? It may be a fine line, but there is a line.
If you’re reading this and wondering if I’m talking about you, I’m not. Genuinely, if you’re a Prankster, then you’re one of my friends, of course I’ll help you if I can. But I don’t think it’s such a radical idea to assert that we don’t owe The Internet anything. You don’t have to help anyone just because they ask.
Putting yourself out there is enough. If you do want to help someone, that’s full of the awesome. If you don’t, that shouldn’t make you feel guilty. It’s not your job to solve the world’s problems and it doesn’t make you a bad person to say, “hey, I can’t handle talking about xxx anymore” or “I can’t help you with your problem.”
And you know what? I’ll probably help you, but not because I have to.
But I’m beyond interested to hear what you have to say about it, Pranksters. So tell me your thoughts on this: do you feel that you owe the Internet anything? Why or why not? Has anyone ever asked you for something that you simply felt uncomfortable about (besides, of course, the hot Russian spammers, who want your credit card numbers)?