I’ve been reflecting on BlogHer ever since I left. I went in expecting to meet people I knew, and many I had not, but was not expecting to get anything ‘new’ from the conference topics. Boy, was I wrong.
I stepped into a different world. I don’t want to lay out stereotypes, but it was different. The interactions were different, and the issues raised were different. I went from panel to panel and found that, because the panels were unstructured and unfettered from the ‘normal’ set of questions that usually arrive, the issues raised had a different medium.
One such issue was fear. I had felt it, but Jay Rosen did a good time bringing it up. Having male perspectives to female perspectives was indeed valuable, in this and in others. Jay noted that many of the issues from panel to panel brought up a sense of fear or terror. He labels it fear of the internet, and this is fairly accurate: fear of security, personal violation, flames, stalkers, of letting go of inhibitions, of voice.
What is positive about all this is clear from being there – we are not afraid and backing away, but are rather embracing these challenges and finding ways to overcome them. To be heard, to be protected, and to have the benefits of sharing lives and experiences online.
I met many shocked people who were surprised at the level of personal blogging that I was doing. That I was sharing many aspects of my life online. Why would I do it? For whom? Was I not afraid of being stalked? Or having our house robbed? Well, no. I was never afraid and am not now either. I see the personal benefits of sharing my life here on this blog, while others remain rather impersonal. I don’t give out my address, though people know generally where I live and what I look like. I am ok with that. And I have admiration for mothers and families who embrace the fear even further to share their family experiences online as well. Overall, the conversation made me reflect on what I do, why I do it, and what I get from it. And I came out satisfied.
There is, however, one area I am not satisfied in. And that is my blogging community. I began reading blogs through a network of a few of the top 100′s, as I am sure many do. Most of my blogging friends in Vancouver also got onto my list. When I saw something interesting linked to, it also got added to my reader. So, over time, my list has grown from these linkages and networks. Sometimes I go outside the network to find blogs in topic-specific areas that I write on. But not often.
So, here is a new problem – these networks comprise of men, for the most part. I have very few women on my list. Top bloggers interlink, often not going outside the network. The perspective is skewed. And I had no idea. Was unconscious of it. Met many women I was surprised not to know, who were intelligent and amazing. And whose blogs I am now adding from searching BlogHer. I even know at this moment I am not linking to any. I will, and that gives me hope. I just have some catching up to do.
I feel a sense of shame and guilt at having followed a path unthinkingly, and at having not consciously expanded my reading list to be more whole and well-rounded. In one sense, this is to include women. In a broader sense, it is to include others who are of different race, ethnicity, or country. We applaud the blogosphere and what it can do, but often don’t embrace it. I am going to take time each week or month to find people, topics and blogs outside my comfort zone of people who are “like me” and I am going to embrace the blogosphere as a whole. I encourage you to do the same.
Thank you to everyone at BlogHer for synthesizing these important things for me. I am truly thankful for my experience and for the thoughts still rumbling in my head.