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)?


147 thoughts on “On Obligatory Obligations

  1. Omg, I didn’t think I could love you more, but this, OMG. YES.

    I’m a tiny little blogger. But even I have had people email/comment asking for favors to increase their traffic. Um, no.

    I link to people I like. Plain and simple. I read what I like. I write mainly to get the crazy out of my head, and if people identify with it, laugh at it or feel less lonely? Then awesome. But my blog is my own. It is a part of me, and me and my presence online owe nothing to anyone. The only person I have an obligation to is myself. As long as I stay true to me? That’s all that matters.

  2. Glad you had a great time at Blogher this year! (One of these years maybe I’ll get around to figuring out how to work/leverage/spend time on the Blogher website)

    And I agree with you. It’s great when we *want* to help. It’s great when we’re at a place where we feel we can or need to do so … but sometimes we just can’t. Maybe time is too short, maybe emotionally we’re too drained or overcommitted, or the sky is pink with purple polkadots and we just *can’t*.

    Good on you, mate. Good on you.

  3. No, you don’t owe the Internet anything, any more than you owe the air some of the oxygen you’ve consumed in your lifetime.

    Yes, there are baby bloggers out there finding their way – just like you did once upon a time. And yes, there may be some to whom you want to offer advice or a bucket of martinis. That’s your choice.

    And if someone really wants to be like you, they’ll read your blog and see where you’ve been and how you got where you are today. It’s all there for anyone to see. And if they don’t see what they need, they can go to communities or sites with advice on increasing their traffic or getting a plug-in to analyze metrics.

    PS – You rocked the panel!

  4. You know what I think, man – it’s awesome that you could get up and speak. The funny thing is I actually can – public speaking doesn’t freak me exactly. I’ve done it about serious stuff but I’m not funny in person. I’m probably funny when I write but maybe just cause my spelling is so abominable and my kid thinks I’m hysterical but in a crowd I just head for the stairwell and take a xanax.

    So as far as owing anyone – you’re right. And even sticking your neck out to say that was more then you had to do…

  5. i was JUST discussing this very topic & as part of that conversation? all sorts of chatting you up as an example. and then BAM, you put it out there exactly.

    eerie. and? amazing.

  6. So, I was there. And thought that your session was pretty cool, food coma or no. I thought about applauding when you said that because it’s all kinds of true. Throughout the weekend, I kept wanting to shout “WE’RE BLOGGERS, PEOPLE! THAT MEANS WE’RE ALL NERDS.” Not superheroes who have to save the world with every word we write, but geeks who find reason for being behind our keyboards. It’s only slightly cooler than the folks that were here in Indiana at GenCon this weekend (it’s a gamer’s conference).

    So. No. We don’t owe anyone anything. Some of us (a lot of us) just don’t like to admit it.

    (on a side note, I spent a lot of time hiding in a corner whimpering “too many people, too many people…” I’m not sure I’m meant for big conferences.)

  7. this is my first time reading, and i couldn’t agree with you more! i’m not a big-time blogger, so don’t get the randoms you’ve mentioned… but as a person, in general, i can’t believe that random people would ask those types of things and not think that there’s something wrong with it? i mean, do they want random people asking them a gazillion favors? my guess is no.

    thanks for the read; adding it to my reader for sure!

    1. Aw, good, I’m glad I didn’t come across as harsh. To me, it doesn’t seem harsh, but there was a ton of blank looks as I said it, so clearly, the world doesn’t see it all my way (WHY NOT?).

      I’ll be totally checking you out too. Any one with your (our) name has to be awesome.

  8. For some odd reason, people ask me for advice in real life and on my work-related blog. Strange but true. If they had any idea how full of shit I am they would be horrified to be seen with me much less listen to a crazy word that spews out of my mouth or from my keyboard.

    But you are absolutely right. You don’t owe anything to anyone, especially a stranger on the Internet. I was in that session and you didn’t sound harsh at all. You sounded pragmatic. What you said might have been a revelation to other bloggers that, yes, you can be a helpful person but, no, you don’t have to take on the world’s problems to solve.

    If you wanted to be harsh, you could’ve just said “I’m not your bitch, bitch.”

    You and the Mouthy Housewives rocked. It was one of my favorite sessions. Party on, Aunt Becky. Love you.

      1. Bwahahah! My old (new) blog had that as a tagline: “We’re not your bitch.” Because, you know, I had a co-blogger, not because I was two people. Although it would have been more interesting if I was.

  9. I have to agree. The internet is so wide open that you will destroy yourself if you try to grab every hand that reaches out to you for help. If you pull too many people into the lifeboat, the lifeboat collapses & no one survives. So you have to make choices & use your energy wisely. If you are in a position to help and want to help, by all means do so. But I don’t think anyone is required to do so.

    Of course, I am a loner, so contact with others is fraught with all sorts of mental peril at the best of times.

    1. Bwahahaha! That’s just it. We’re all nerdy people who live in the computer. So we’re all like, ‘FRIENDS, LET’S BE FRIENDS’ when we make human contact. It’s not the best idea.

  10. *big sloppy kiss on the lips*

    I struggle with this. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does … OY!

    From, “Can I be your friend on facebook?” (ummm … NO! Facebook is for people I know and I don’t know you) to “Can we exchange cell phone numbers so we can sext?” (ummm … NO! Again, sexting is for people I know and I don’t know you – KIDDING!!) you just never know who will show up on your cyber doorstep. And honestly? That’s how I look at it. If I wouldn’t let you in the front door of my real house, I’m not going to let you in to the front door of my cyber house. And if you don’t go away when I ask nicely? I won’t be so nice the next time I ask.

    And really, I’m a nice blogger! I swear!! *grin*

  11. Thank you! This makes me feel so much better. I was recently approached by a blogger who wanted free advertising on my site. She sent me an email and was all “Hi, I’m new, and I need help getting followers. I want to swap buttons with you. Here is mine. I’ve already put yours up in my Sponsor’s section.”

    I was surprised- I didn’t know her, and it felt very assuming. She was brand new, and with only 2 posts I couldn’t get a feel for her personality or her blog.

    I turned her down, because while I don’t mind promoting my friends, I felt like she thought I owed her something (this was made even more apparent in her nasty follow-up emails).

  12. I agree with you 100%…you don’t owe a random stranger anything. That sounds weird, but you know what I’m saying. Right? Thought so.

  13. First off, Welcome Home!! So, glad your weekend was full of the Awesome! (Minus your jewelry going AWOL; u bet I followed ur ass on Twitter! :p )
    Re: Owing the “Internet”…to the randoms who live in my computer, I don’t owe shit and they don’t owe me a damn thing either. But then, strangers on the Internet have never *actually* asked me anything, but if they did, I wouldn’t feel too bad about ignoring their asses. HOWEVER, if I know you and you know me, especially IRL, I would expect *some* kind of response, even if it is just to say Fuck off, Fucker. And trust, I would do the same.
    PS…So glad you’re home!!

    1. Being home is pretty much awesome, but my jewelery is sad. SAD.

      That’s exactly it: if I was in Starbucks, I wouldn’t sit down with a rando and listen to their life story just because I looked inviting or happened to be there. Unless I wanted to.

  14. Wow, now I wish I could have been there just to hear that!

    I do like to help out someone if I can- and hell, if someone wants to help me, that’s awesome. But, I’ve gotten several rude emails that basically ask me how the hell my blog is bigger than theirs b/c theirs is better than mine so I better tell them what I’m doing. And all I can think is um…well, don’t send angry emails to people.

      1. LOL Yeah, I love the nasty emails. I have no problem with the nice ones, but when someone basically tells me they think I suck and then asks for help, I’m left wondering what on earth they were thinking.

  15. Whoa deep man…
    I am a TINY TINY blogger. I have been asked advice from random strangers, usually about Autism or Infertility. I answer usually, because I have nothing else to do. But I don’t out of a sense of responsibility. I don’t feel like I OWE anyone anything. I like to share what I have discovered on my own, but nothing more.

      1. I’m a tiny tiny blogger, too…but I haven’t been contacted by total strangers looking for me to solve their life’s problems! I’m being ROBBED, goddammit! Where are MY pushy, needy strangers?!

  16. I was there, even got to talk to you while you needed to pee yourself. That right there was a heap of good info, do not drink a GIANT FUCKING dr. pepper during blog session. You will pee yourself.

    I loved your session. In fact I am starting a second blog, just with advice, with two of my crazy, completely unprofessional and unqualified friends. I think the best thing you gals talked about, besides being magical and the reality that if hookers can be bloggers so can we, is the fact that this is for ENTERTAINMENT. We cannot take these issues on our shoulders.

    It was good stuff.

    1. Next time I go to a conference, I’m loading up on Astronaut Diapers. Because you know, that makes good sense!

      And yes, entertainment is key here. You can never bring that stuff home with you or you’re going to go nuts. Or, if you’re me, MORE nuts. Hehe.

      So glad that I got to meet you.

      1. Next year we are taking a photo together, I can’t believe I fan girled and didn’t push my way in with my camera for a photo! Also, I am bringing you a pack of adult diapers just in case things get sketchy or really fun, depends how you look at it.

        1. I SWEAR I am so upset that I had to pee because I felt like I RAN out of there. I’m so upset that I didn’t get more pictures with everyone. I came home and I’m all, “uh, 10 pictures? REALLY? That’s BS.”

          Next time, we’re taking like 20 pictures of you and me ALONE. PERIOD.

  17. Nope. You don’t owe anybody anything. Even people who do nice things for you. If they’re doing it because they expect something in return? They weren’t that nice to begin with, right?

    This is where that whole negative comment/troll thing sticks in my craw. Why, oh, why do people do this? I’ll never, ever get it. If my opinion IS different than yours, then really that’s what makes the world go ’round. I don’t have to voice that opinion in a disrespectful, trollful manner. I can say, “Hey! I think you’re wrong! And this is why…” and not be a total bitch about it. (Although I truly think some people think they’re being respectful and they just can’t write. Or type. Or spell. Or have relationships with real people. Whatever.)

    I wish I could have been there but I’m just not a “real” blogger. I just blog so that I don’t forget the stuff my kids have done, mostly.

    1. You don’t have to be a “real” blogger (although, dude, I know you and you ARE a real blogger) to go to BlogHer. Period. Come to any of those conferences, and you’ll see that anyone is welcome.

  18. I wish I could have been in that room, listening to you talk IRL. That would have been awesome.

    I agree that we don’t owe the Internet anything. Give what you choose in your heart to give, do what you choose in your heart to do, and don’t expect anything in return. To do it any other way is to have strings attached and that’s just wrong. And for people who contact others with expectations, that’s just as wrong. I think it’s okay to ask, but you have to be okay with the answer of “no” and you can’t get mad at other people for not falling in line with what you want.

    Good advice you gave that blogger, Aunt Becky. šŸ™‚

    1. It’s not fair to feel as though we have to keep giving when we’re tapped out. If I can give, I do. If I can’t, I don’t. The expectation part is what makes me mad.

  19. Your session was full of greatness by all and when you said that I agreed. On another note, I have not had this happen to me (ever) but will take your sound advice if it does.

  20. I agree. You don’t owe anyone anything. We have to be able to determine for ourselves what we’re comfortable doing and what we don’t want to do. And we have the right to not feel guilty about saying no.

    1. If you see someone in the grocery store, when you’re bags are nearly breaking from the weight of what’s inside and you’re kids are shrieking and you have to get home to let the plumber in to unclog your toilet AND your sink, and some stranger stops to ask for $200, or a nice long chat about their problems do you feel bad saying no?


  21. Holy shit, you SO put me in my PLACE, woman! Lately, I’ve been feeling… irritated, I guess, when replying to someone’s tweet that they just put out there for everyone to see but then I see time after time that they reply to their friends’ replies but not to mine and it ticks me off. Ok, it so shouldn’t, right? Because who am I to them? This up and comer, that I am. Why would they reply to me? I’m just some random person who started “following” them and now I’m all bent out of shape because they don’t reply to me? It’s not like they ASKED me to follow them and then started ignoring me. Holy crap, do I ever need to get out of my own ass.
    Thanks for this post. I will not have such ill-regard for the “big bloggers” who, for all intense and purposes, seem like very nice people. Although, for myself, I want to say that I don’t reply to them to increase traffic to my blog, I just sincerely have something to say to what they said. But again, who am I that they should care? It’s nice to understand it from a different point of view.

    1. The expectation of being owed anything is where I chafe. I’m totally happy to help, but when I’m suddenly inundated with requests that feel like demands, well, you know, that’s not really my JOB.

      And everyone feels badly when they’re snubbed. I’m pretty sure if I keep @-ing Oprah, one of these days I’ll wear her ass down.

  22. My 13 followers and I don’t even know the meaning of people wanting my advice on ANYTHING.

    Unless it’s how to cause fights with your fiance and question your own relationship. THAT I’m awesome at.

  23. you know I would totally hold your hair while you puked. ok I lie I would not do that for anyone, however I would pay a really hot guy to do it while he rubbed your back.. see I am nice sometimes and not because I have to be.

  24. You were also at BlogHer ’08. I think you had a great time, although you really looked nothing like either photo back then. A little more Russian.

    Also, if you could go ahead and write a post talking about how awesome I am, that would be great. I mean, you owe me, since I’ve been reading your blog since like forever.

    You also owe me a dollar. Everybody owes me a dollar. I keep telling them, but my wallet still contains only the dollar I put there myself like a busker baiting his guitar case.

  25. You know, I’ve been reading your blog for months and have never commented. Now seemed like the perfect time. You hit the nail on the head. Well said. You certainly don’t owe anyone anything just because they might stop by your blog from time to time.

    And I really enjoyed reading all of the tweets from the conference. Sounds like all you ladies had a wonderful time!

    1. The conference was amazing and I’m glad my tweets didn’t annoy you to death. I always feel a little bad when I tweet a lot more than normal, but since I didn’t blog, I was all ‘ZOMG, WHAT DO I DO?’

      And knowing that you read my blog means you’re a Prankster which means I’ll help you out with whatever you need. OBVIOUSLY!

  26. I am but a speck in the bloggy world so I have yet to be asked for anything whatsoever but I couldn’t agree more! When I do get bloggy famous and people are knocking down my door I will have to remember this post šŸ™‚

  27. I am happy you had a better time this year than last year! You deserve to be happy in your pants, all the time babeee.

    As to asking advice over the internet . . . While I totally respect your ginormous brain of smart goodness, if I have a problem I will talk to my Dr. or psychologist. Since I don’t intend to write a blog I have no questions on that either.

  28. Never have I been more glad that I don’t own a taco for you to punch or kick. I think that anyone stupid enough to ask me advice deserves to be sent the wrong way down a one way street. Although I did tell that nice policeman that it was an accident and that I didn’t know it was one way.

  29. Aunt Becky, I took a late night escaltor ride down with you and your husband late one night! (Nice to meet you both!)

    I LOVED how you spoke about this topic in session, and your very sensible advice was that we don’t have to address everyone that writes to us. My other favorite advice was to someone that wanted to make money on her blog, and your advice was to check for pennies in the sofa cushions. That just reinforced to write because you love it, and love connecting with those that have the same sensibility. Your panel talk was totally from the heart, and it made my heart sing, too.

    1. I remember you! You had the awesome bag that I was staring at!

      And I’m so glad that you liked the panel because we DO all love what we do. My blog is, of course, set up differently than the Mouthy Housewives, but I wouldn’t change what I have for anything. My blog is just as it should be.

      Much love.


  30. I was there and I was in the 1/2 of the room that didn’t look at you like you had 3 heads. I’m glad you said it and I love you more because you did!

  31. Great post! Will you follow my blog? Can I borrow some money, since you’re a successful blogger and must be rolling in it?

    (Hahaha – I crack myself up!)

    I get the odd “great post, follow me” comments, but I don’t have ads, so no one is coming out of the woodwork to ask me for anything. Obscurity has its benefits.

    Glad you had a good time this year – the one picture I saw of you last year, you looked uncomfortable and sad.

    1. I especially love the comments that are like, “You have such a cute blog! Here’s the link to mine!”

      My blog is a lot of things, but cute, it isn’t.

  32. I agree with everyone else: you don’t owe the internet anything.

    Only thing I would add is, “and if anyone thinks I (or we, whatever) do, well fuck that noise.”

  33. Hey Becky- I was there, and perhaps you didn’t see us (Kristin & I) nodding in agreement. Just because someone asks the question doesn’t mean you owe them. If you want to and do, that’s your choice. There’s a part of us that likes to help people, but there needs to be line. Sometimes it puts us at risk, there’s a liability, or you simply don’t have the time to help each and every person that asks. There has to be a mutual respect in that regard.

  34. I don’t have anything to say on the “owing the Internet” thing other than YES, I TOTALLY AGREE. But I just wanted to say that I was SO GLAD to have met you and I only wish we could have hung out more. I was a little spazzy from the overstimulation–bright lights and random models pretending to shave do that to me–so if I seemed distracted that’s why.

  35. I feel like all 7, I know 7!! (so excited!), of my readers want me to write all kinds of serious stuff that gives me layers and makes me deep. So, I don’t post a lot because sometimes I am sad and pitiful, and nobody wants to read that. So, really I need to stop doing that thing where I question what other people are thinking about my writing and just write already!!

  36. I really do think that, especially when you do find that common bond with the blog you’re reading that the gift is in the blog itself. Knowing someone else is out there, knowing the taste of the same shit sandwich that you are picking out of your teeth right now, well he’ll, what more can you ask for ? Owe the interwebs something? Puhleeze.

  37. Dear Aunt Becky,

    You don’t owe anybody shit!

    I was at Blogher over the weekend and sat in on your discussion – you were a riot! You my dear are funny as hell! I am going to be a faithful follower!

  38. You know, this is perfect timing for me. I don’t blog, but I am dealing with a semi-friend (not a full on friend, just someone you occasionally say what up to, you know?) who has decided that I am their go to girl for alllll of their problems. Not their family, not their close friends who they see regularly, but me. And I feel like I finally have permission to tell him that I can no longer deal with these issues because they are not mine. Thank you aunt becky for your totally rad advice šŸ™‚

  39. I’m totally jealous that you have needy strangers reaching out to you. I don’t have any. The internet hates me.
    But I agree that you need to have your boundaries, in the blogging world and in the real world. In my real life where I work as a nurse people have asked me things that have made me feel uncomfortable- like if I can steal them any narcotics. Uhm? No? I can only steal them for myself, thank you very much.

  40. I’m really interested in why you felt it was “off.” I also didn’t feel any particular “community” feeling at all – in fact, much more like it was a high school cafeteria and there were the cool kids and the not cool kids. I was pretty cool in high school so I don’t need to do that again in my 40’s, mercifully, so I can talk myself out of being bugged by that aspect of it.

    What I realized on the way home is that I felt a GREAT sense of community and shared sense of purpose when I was in the keynote addresses – the int’l scholarship, the community voices readings, and especially the closing panel- which I loved. I also spend the entire weekend hanging out with my friend who I met through blogging but who lives ten miles from my house – I guess I take my community in whatever form I can.

    p.s. your panel was great, but the notion of those “forum people” scares the holy fuck out of me.

    1. Forum People are scary Internet Mole People. But they’re also kinda awesome, too because it’s funny (delete button is RIIIIGHT there).

      I’m sorry you didn’t see the community. I TOTALLY didn’t last year and it sucked ass for me. I guess this means that you needed to hang out with me, in the bathroom, where I spent most of my time, thanks to too many diet Cokes.

      NEXT YEAR.

  41. I don’t have random strangers contacting me via blog…but I do get lots of people (friends and the like) asking me for advice on subjects that I have little to no experience with.

    I’m usually to nice to tell them that “I’m not your bitch, bitch” but gosh it’s so annoying.

    Maybe I need to practice telling myself that I am nobody’s bitch in the mirror.

  42. Every time I visit your blog, I’m like the 4,364th commenter. Still. Glad you had a good time at BlogHer. I heard it’s going to be here in San Diego next year. If so, I may have to be one of the few, the proud, the XY chromosome holders who attend.

  43. The only person (soon to be persons) to whom I owe anything is my child (soon to be children). No one else may lay claim to myself or my resources…no one else has a right to anything of mine, whether time, money, or knowledge. I may choose to freely give of these things…but it should always be a choice, not a mandate.

    Also, there is a danger to giving advice, especially on the Internet…one can never really know the whole story. There are those who will not take responsibility for themseles but will seek guidance and a place to lay bame when their lives go sour.

    Which is not to say we should all just keep silent…we do have shared experiences, we can offer solace and support to each other, and we can make a difference…if we WANT TO. Not because we HAVE TO.

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  44. I was in the room when you said that and it didn’t shock me, make me think you were rude or otherwise. I thought you were right on. Especially given the subject she was talking about. No way, no how should she have felt obligated to wade into advice about THAT decision. No f—ing way.

    1. Dude. DUDE. YES. I was like, UM, HOLY FUCKBALLS. SRSLY, anyone who asks you for your advice on THAT subject (something I also have personal experience with), uh, that’s so not your business.

  45. I think there’s a related issue (and I”ll admit, I haven’t read all 78 comments to see if anyone else mentioned this). It’s not just the people who email for “help” in terms of link exchanges or other non-serious things, and it’s not just the “can I take on this emotional task?” kinds of issues. It’s also: “Am I really qualified to be helping someone with this problem.” I get questions like this periodically as a teacher — students who have come to trust me asking me about things that they really need a therapist, an addiction counselor, a social worker, a member of CPS, a cop, a lawyer, etc. about. And I think we do a disservice to people, ESPECIALLY online, if we pretend we are competent to give legal advice when we aren’t lawyers, or medical advice when we aren’t doctors, or … well, you get the point. I have learned that sometimes the best advice I can give is gently to insist, “you need to talk to a professional about this.” And I think that that is the extent to which I would feel obliged to owe anyone online anything. I don’t owe a freeloader anything, but someone who trusts me enough to ask me about something deeply personal and serious? I think I owe that person a response that shows respect in kind — and that response should admit what I can’t offer as much as what I can. My two cents, anyway…

    1. No, you’re absolutely right. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), I don’t have any real knowledge of your issues. I have a disclaimer on Go Ask Aunt Becky, but for other stuff?


  46. Uh…Hell to the no, we don’t owe! Chant that a few times will ya? Seems to get the juices flowin’ and pretty much sums up this Prankster’s thoughts on this subject.

    1. Kind of hurts your feelings? How about a lot? Hurts mine constantly. Like, dude, I earned all my readers. And PS. Blow me.

      (you can quote me on the “Blow Me” part to anyone who wants to ask you how you got your readers.)

      P.P.S. Now I’m mad. I HATE it when people ask me that.

  47. The only obligation that I feel is to my initial readers for taking a chance on an unknown kid. Though still pretty unknown, whatever followers I have were built on the backs of those inital commenters, which makes me grateful. Other than that, I owe nothing.

    1. Yes. Exactly. EXACTLY. I totally agree with you on this. I’m still fiercely loyal to anyone to is loyal to me because, well, obviously. You care enough to be MY friend, I care enough to be YOURS.

  48. I found your blog through another blog, which I found through another blog. (I have blog-readers syndrome.)

    Can I still be a prankster despite not finding you through a vibe in the universe telling me there was someone awesome just waiting for me to discover her hilarious writings and wisdom-ish? I’ve spent the last two days trying to resist the temptation to buy a Shut Your Whore Mouth t-shirt and I don’t even know what that means. (It’s a terrible syndrome.)

    And once I was asked to help a new couple out by sending cash (in lieu of wedding gifts,) about two weeks after female member of said couple and former neighbor of mine abandoned her four children. Yeah… not happening.

  49. If I don’t owe the internet anything, does that mean I don’t have to tell you that the links are messed up in the twitter, facebook, flickr, and youtube buttons in your new sidebar thingy on the right side?

  50. Being brand new in the blog scene I went on a hunt to find anyone and everyone that would help me to increase traffic.

    I could never really convince myself to write the email, though I did start it because something was in the back of my mind saying “DON’T YOU DARE. YOU CAN DO THIS YOURSELF”

    So, I’m working on it, slowly but surely, people are finding me and checking out what I have to say which is a million times more satisfying than having solicited other people to advertise for me.

    I love this post, this ideal when it comes to being a blogger.
    It is brilliant.

    1. It took me months–months!–to get someone to comment on my blog. Then another couple of months to get someone to add me to their blogroll. It’s all a matter of time.

      I’m so glad you didn’t write the email, although I imagine yours wouldn’t have been pushy and rude.

  51. It never occurred to me when I started writing a blog that there was anything to what I was doing beyond using the internet as a tool of self-expression. I don’t know how long it was before I had a single reader, I didn’t even know to look at stats or even where the information was that contained my blog traffic records. I started reading other blogs, over time, and it was really about a year ago that I had the “Oh.” moment that for some people, blogging was a really big deal, that there were bloggers who had THOUSANDS of page hits a day and actually made money doing it. And that there were hundreds of thousands of people out there trying to do the same thing. Admittedly, its kind of cool, this concept that oversharing on the internet can actually be considered a living for some people. I’m never going to be one of those people (the “making a living part,” I *totally* fit into the “oversharing” model). However, I don’t see anywhere written in the small print of the Rules of Blogging that bloggers owe their readers anything. ANYTHING. Or that successful (either by numbers or dollars or infamy) bloggers owe anything whatsoever to less-successful bloggers.

    Helping is a choice. Helping isn’t always helpful. Having expectations of people and getting angry at them for not meeting them is the fastest way to insanity I know of. I have been fortunate so far not to have issues with people asking things of me simply because of my blog, and knock on wood I never will. I pay attention to how the bloggers I perceive as having healthy boundaries respond to this kind of thing, though, because I think its important in any aspect of life to know what your personal limits are and to enforce them respectfully.

  52. Totally agree. I have no experience having the internet ask me for anything since I just started blogging and my 6 or so comments have been from lifelong friends and my real aunt šŸ™‚ But I do agree that you don’t owe folks this or that, especially nameless, faceless folk. I do, of course, feel like I owe those close to me this or that but because of long years of give and take between us. Totally different, in my opinion.

    BTW, your blog was the first I started reading and gave me the idea to create my own place to brain dump whatever is currently floating my boat. So, thanks.

    1. I’m honored that my blog would give you the idea you start your own. I always think about it in terms of real life: would you stop at the store to give someone you don’t know everything in your wallet?

      Likely no. At least, not more than once.

  53. Perfect, mah dear. (I assume I may address you as such, seeing as how we have no traveled together, correct?)

    I had to learn this lesson right off the top because I write about mental health and am damn good at writing as if I know Very Important Shit. People? They will believe stuff that you tell them if you use big words and make the long sentences.

    Questions like, “My kid is on a med cocktail that includes drug z, drug y, and the doctor wants to add drug x. What do you think?” or, “I live in this other state, across the country from you, and I don’t know what services are available for my child who is mentally ill. Do you know who I should call?”

    Hello? No. Even if I was a doctor or a social worker, no.

    Honestly, I really enjoy giving advice and helping and all of that and I say yes as often as possible, but I reserve the right to say no. And if a “request” is really a “demand,” I’m going to say a merry fuck you and go on about my life.

    OH! And I look JUST LIKE my avatar. True.

  54. I don’t particularly enjoy large groups of people in a conference like atmosphere – it’s like all the work and awkwardness of college, none of the 3am Frisbee games. But I do regret hearing you speak, as it obviously would have been freaking amazing.

  55. Sigh. I was sort of disappointed by this year’s conference and experienced many of the same things you did last year. Now, this was my first time – do you think it is the first-timer experience? I don’t think I’d go again. But I will read your blog again!

    1. I wonder if it’s a first-timer thing. Did you expect something different? I did (the first time). Because if you go in expecting it to be about writing and other people getting together to appreciate each other, it’s not that.

      It’s something else, but it’s not bad…if you can remember that no one is actually trying to be an asshole to you. Probably. I certainly wouldn’t be an asshole to someone on purpose. I don’t know many people who would.

      Sorry it sucked. We should start a “First Time Is The Worst” club.

  56. Love it.
    I’m a brand spankin’ new blogger (well, since Feb. anyway) and I would never ever even think to ask people to link or sponsor or any of that. Probably because I have no clue what I’m doing…ha. But now that I read your post, I’ll know better:).
    PS: If I go to BlogHer next year I will TOTALLY prank with you. Totally.

  57. I was at your thingie in spirit, but really I was denied to go even across the border this weekend (I was trying for Portland, Oregon) so I would never have made it. But you know.


    It is a toughie. And I am with you, and not just about the Internet, man. Walking that walk is sometimes the toughest thing in the world, knowing the difference between doing something for somebody because it is right, or it is possible, and doing it because … well because one has a “important me” complex. (Note: Most definitely only talking about myself here, and a struggle I am having at this very moment (and in various ways this year) over here in Lotusland. Tonight was the perfect night for me to read this screed because I was talking about someone who is struggling, and who is reaching out, and my interpretation about my role in their need. And I think it is really overblown in my own head and, even if it is not, the power is mine to give what I choose to give, what is right and healthy for my life right now at this very moment. So thanks, Aunt Becky. This was a post that was totally filled with the awesome for me at this moment, and I know, I know, it is all about me. Or you. Or whatever. Thanks. I owe you. This comment. šŸ˜‰

  58. oh aunt becky, i LOVE your photos…. they are the best šŸ™‚

    i think you’re right, though, and your advice about not owing the internet anything is spot on.

  59. I think that was one of the best things anyone said on the panel. Well, besides when Marinka said I was a hooker.

    So happy to meet you & let’s make sure we have more cuddle time next year.


  60. I try really hard not to, but I feel some pretty serious guilt whenever I go a few days without posting. Even if it’s for a good reason (like, recovering from an appendectomy).

    Wish I could have gone to the big conference and had the chance to meet my long-lost Aunt Becky.

  61. Pingback: Expectations
  62. I had to really search for this article; must be because the phrase “obligatory obligations” somehow seemed to evade me.
    I had to link back to this post for another bloggy site. Not for it’s bloggy snarkiness, I keep that to myself- even though I write so rarely these days- but because of the life lesson you gave me those eight months ago. I don’t owe anyone anything. I am nice/generous/polite/courteous/honest because I want to be. Even though I believe it is important to be all of those things, I don’t have to if I’m just not feeling it. And that’s something my mother never taught me, my therapist never mentioned, and my husband can never get over. He appreciates the freedom you’ve given me. He likes me more when I am myself, anyway. Me too. I’m much happier now.

    1. Aw, you made my morning. It’s easy to be suckered into the trap of, “we must do everything for everyone else.” But you don’t owe anyone jack. Period.

      Much love to you.

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