the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Insecurity and The Online Community

Note, 10PM,  Sunday Night:  I was going to take this post down because… I’m not really sure why.  At first, I thought I would take it down because it was a boring post about blogging, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about blogging so much.  I’m no sure I even care that much about the subjects I bring up.  Am I trying to get attention from other bloggers by bringing up dramas in our community?  Not really.   I’m more embarrassed by the post than proud of it.  Even the thesis of the post is a little forced — I don’t feel  very insecure in the online community.   I have made great friends here  and I have wonderful readers.  People seem to like me.

So what the hell is this blog post about?

I’m not sure yet.   But as I am reading your comments, I am realizing that no one is addressing whatever is in my mind.   So, this post seems odd to me now.   It is something deeper that blogging.   Maybe it is about my place in the world, and I am just using blogging as a way to explore this theme.    Maybe it is safer to write about blogging than other issues in my life.

I leave this up, not because it makes any interesting statement about blogging, but because it gives you some insight into how my mind operates on a Sunday night in October.

The Post —

I was going to write a post about my insecurity and self-esteem issues today, but the thoughts of putting that to paper made me feel like throwing up, so I decided it wasn’t a good day to write that post.   Hey, but at least I started exercising!  (#2 on my To-Do List)

Then I was decided to write a post about how we all use the term “community” online.  Whenever I want to avoid writing about my life, I turn to the blogosphere for blog fodder.  Clever, huh?

I asked myself these questions:   What exactly is this community online?  How does it work?  What is it doing for me?

Then I decided to combine these two topics — insecurity and community.  Two for the price of one.  What a bargain!

OK, let’s begin.  Insecurity.   I think most of us are insecure.  Some more than others, right?  If you a person with no insecurities, then you are probably a… psychopath.  As humans, we want to overcome these insecurities.  We NEED to overcome them if we want to accomplish anything or become successful in life.  One effective way to combat this is to search for support — a family, or a community.

Make sense so far?

This begs the question — how healthy are our communities online if it breeds so much insecurity, jealousy, and trolling?  While it is natural to point the finger at the idiots who are out there poisoning everything, I am an Obama-voting liberal who looks inward.  I believe we should throw criminals into prison, but at the same time, we should look at our society as a whole, perhaps even finding ways for rehabilitation.

Every single one of us can give a million examples of how online life can breed insecurity.

I can already hear your response:  So what?  Life breeds insecurity.  It is part of human nature.

That is true.  That is why we tend to look for communities in the real world that work for us, where we feel comfortable and secure.

Is your community online doing this for you?  How about for others in the community?  Is there such a thing as a real online community?

Let me first mention this Broad Summit that occurred last week.  Thirty popular female bloggers met for a sponsored retreat at some hotel in the wine country.   Some women were upset by the appearance of elitism at this invite only event.   I’m not going to try to be controversial as Anna was in her post, but I find it hard to leave a good controversy alone, even if I tap around the issue!    But don’t worry, one day, I will write about male bloggers and some drama — I promise!

Here it goes —

Perhaps it is a good idea to create a mini-community within the larger community as a whole.  We all have friends that we feel  closer to than others.  We all want to be considered important in some way, if not as bloggers, than writing books, or being the best fireman in the city.  But, we all know how jealousy can rear his head.   If you read the comments on Anna’s posts, it is textbook drama.  There are accusations of jealousy.  There are angry denials.   Let’s face it, jealousy and envy are human emotions.   Great books have been written about envy and jealousy.   We need to be somewhat aware of the potential for jealousy and envy, in the way that we don’t put our hand in the lion’s cage at the zoo, and then be act shocked when we have  one less finger.

Now I am friends with a couple of those women who went to this exclusive blogging retreat.  I am proud of  their success.   I almost didn’t write this post, worrying that one of them would hate me.   These women have all worked hard for their success, and are talented bloggers.  But I’m not really talking about this retreat.   I am talking about all of us and what we want “blogging” to be about.  Are we just going to imitate the model of old media, or are we going to celebrate the fact that everyone and his mother can start a blog in five minutes?

It didn’t take a Sigmund Freud to figure out that this retreat idea was going to create uneasy feelings in a certain sector of the online community.  No one wants to feel that others consider themselves “elite,” even if it is true.  Or at least when it is done in a public manner. It just draws too much attention to status.   It is like showing up to church driving a Lamborghini.  And clearly that wasn’t the intention of this blogging summit.

Enough about that.   I have much of the same feeling for all many of our online activities that we probably could do without — those bullshit blogging awards, for instance , which are mostly popularity contests.  Or live tweeting who you are eating lunch with at a conference.  (why doesn’t anyone ever eat lunch with anyone boring or “not awesome” at these conferences?)

I have insecurities, so I am assuming you do too.  Yours may not be about blogging, but for some, it is.   Boo-hoo.   Who cares, right?   But, If we are going to consider ourselves a community, and TALK about it all the time like it really exists, then we should try harder to think about the others in our neighborhood.  All of us.

Think — What would Mr. Rogers do?

This is not to say we shouldn’t self-promote.  I can’t wait to tell you how wonderful I am.  I’m going to pimp Kate Inglis’ book next week, and I haven’t even READ it yet!  We help our talented friends.  We all know how this works.

BUT — back to the community.  Are we a community or not?  I join a community because it serves a common interest.  Every time I read about a conference, half the sessions are about promoting oneself and getting more readers.  Of course that is important.  I am not stupid.  But this is primarily a model for the business world.  If that is the type of online world we want, then let’s openly admit it.  Coke and Pepsi don’t hang out at the same bar, trading stories.  We are competitors.

Example:  A friend of mine was trying to create a blogging event and asked another blogger for advice on how to get a sponsor for a car.  The other blogger, who was lucky enough to get hooked up with GM during some BlogHer promotion, didn’t want to give her any names or contact numbers, concerned that the new blogger might hone in on her territory.

OK, I understand that… in the context of the business world.   I might have had the same concerns.  Again, I am not an angel.  But if we are going to pose as if this is a “community,” we should act more community oriented — whatever that means.

On the other hand, I am also having thoughts that go in the completely opposite direction.   Perhaps, I should just start thinking of myself as a writer and you as my audience, without considering myself as part of something bigger online.   My self-esteem would have nothing to do with others, and my main priority would be to keep myself in business.   Maybe that is more professional… and “successful” thinking.   I’m no angel.

31 Comments

  1. flutter

    Community doesn’t breed jealousy, insecurity or togetherness. Just as life doesn’t breed those things. Online, offline, next to the line those things are inherent in humanity.
    We are bred to have them, but we are also bred to rise above.
    I am all about transparency. Am I jealous of people who have gained incredible success via blogging? Yes. Does it mean that I believe them unworthy of their success? No.
    I don’t begrudge someone for cornering a niche, I don’t hate people who have money or success. They earned those things.
    It is up to me to claim mine.
    As artists (and that is what writers are, come hell or high water) are insecure beings by definition because we view life through a more sensitive lense. Being a part of, or apart from a “community” of like minds does not affect that either way.
    That is internal work that we have to do with our own spirits. External answers will never quell the question.

  2. Neil

    Flutter, yours is the natural response, which always sounds like “pick up your own bootstraps, young man” of the Reagan era. Of course, it is internal and the responsibility of each of us to find self-esteem within.

    But for instance, what about clothing ads that just use size 0 size women? They work because they help breed insecurity in women? Is this good for business or should they be held accountable to help make women have more “self-esteem” about their bodies?

    Would you tell women that they shouldn’t let these ads bother them and just be happy with who you are? Or would you also look at the advertisers and culture itself?

  3. Angella

    All of the Broad Summit hoopla left a bad taste in my mouth. I love many of the people who attended (They are friends of mine), but the website about it was ridiculous. As was the pitch.

    Between that and other blog drama, outsiders could think that Bloggers are a ridiculous crowd.

    Fortunately for me, I have made some pretty kick-ass friends who love to keep it real.

    I consider you part of that group, Neil.

  4. witchypoo

    Neil, I don’t hang out with the drama mama crowd. I’m too old for that shit.

  5. Deb on the Rocks

    You have posted a lot to think about. I think too much is made of insecurity and jealousy, though. A lot of what gets assigned to those feelings is really politics and a reaction to politics, which are also primal mammalian feelings and experiences, but are very different from neurosis. But every community, intentional or otherwise, has unspoken rules, and one rule of the life blogosphere is that if you feel someone has passed judgment of any kind on you, you are allowed to call that person a troll, a hater, or jealous. That shortcut is a shame, because it cuts off a lot of interesting discussion, and THAT engagement is why people offer critique, even messy ones–because we are attracted to blogging because we like to analyze our lives, others lives and our culture.

  6. slouchy

    wow. you think hard. i’m questioning a few things i do online that i’ve never before questioned.

    so, uh, thanks a heap.

  7. Neil

    Deb on the Rocks —

    I really respect everything you say, so I would love to know more. Because, as of now, your comment went way over my head.

  8. Deb on the Rocks

    That’s what I get for writing in excess of 140 characters. Or maybe I need a post of my own. I just think the same feelings in another industry of community aren’t called jealousy, they’re called political assessment and reactions. We look to Freud too often, when Machiavelli is where it’s at. Also, I’m high.

  9. abdpbt

    As usual, Deb says the exact thing that I cannot articulate — when I wrote my post I was not intending to stir up drama or controversy. Yes, I KNEW people would be interested, I KNEW people were afraid to talk, and this made me want to post it even more. But that is not the same thing as being insecure, jealous, or in love with drama. These are discussions about business and about how people interact with each other, they are interesting because nobody is 100% sure on the best way to deal with them. That’s good blog fodder. And if I can get you to come to my website to talk about it, then hell yeah I’m going to do it!

  10. kenju

    I have my insecurities, but they don’t revolve around my online persona, or my blog. I don’t care if I am ever considered an elite blogger – nor do I care that there was a blogging retreat – or that I wasn’t invited to it. I wouldn’t expect to be invited to any of them. What do you care so much about how you are perceived by other bloggers?

  11. Becky

    Laughing … because Deb on the Rocks’ comment went over your head … and because she’s high. I need another drink.

  12. Neil

    Deb — Jews tend to go for Freud. No one in my family ever talks about Machiavelli at Passover.

  13. Loukia

    Okay, I’m going to be honest here – the fact that blogging is in many ways a popularity contest is really stupid. It just is, and you know it’s true. I blog because I love to write. I have my own online community of supporters – those I talk to everyday, interact with online, etc – and I’m happy with that. Sure I love days when I get more than 20 comments, but eh, whatever if I don’t. Don’t tell me there aren’t cliques in blogging – there are. And who says we should all be friends, anyways? That’s not how it is in the real world. We stick with people we can relate to, people who are like us, people we aspire to be like, people who write well and people who are personable. Sure there are some successful bloggers I am amazed at – amazed as to why they’re so popular… but I guess that’s how it is in the real world, too. And there are other ‘mommybloggers’ who drink an awful lot and that is something else I question… unless of course it’s just all show and lies… I don’t know… I think it’s healthy to have a bit of jealousy of others, but for what? For being a popular blogger? Um, no. There are also some people who basically only talk to other people they perceive to be more popular… when really… it’s silly. I think we should just do what we want and talk to whom we want and not be mean to anyone else. And while blogging is real, and fun, and it makes me happy, it’s not my whole life, not even close. My family, my friends, my job, my home – that’s what really countes at the end of the day!

  14. Corina

    I think we think too much about these things to be quite honest. We live, eat, and breathe the reaction that we get. We drink it up when someone more popular addresses us. Is this what it is about? I found my blogging “community”. I found people with whom I can laugh with, share with, and those that really get me. I hope to add to those. And yes, I want to be read because I have something to say. Any artist or writer…. that is the intent. But to breed insecurities in ourselves because someone whom we respect does not seem to find me valuable. Or cuts me down? Well, it is what it is.

    This week, for the very first time, I got “attacked”. Did it affect me personally? HELL NO. It did not make me feel bad about myself. It did not make me feel like I had finally made it because someone jumped all over me. It just was. It made me mad, really mad, because they were mocking an effort for good. But it made me feel nothing about my personal skills or life.

    I don’t really know what my point is, or if I am just rambling. I guess it is separate the writing from the community. Find those that support you, argue with you, get you. Stop trying to put on a mask to fit what you think people want you to be, and just be. The community is not elusive. It is not some grand thing. It is your peers. It is those with whom you can share. And, in that, I hope that you stop the self doubt, and be.

  15. Nenette

    One of the things I love about being a blogger is the “being a part of a community” aspect. But it truly comes after my desperate need to get the constant stream of words out of my head and onto the keyboard.
    I acknowledge the politics in some regions of the blogosphere, and I try not to get caught up in it, because it has the potential to poison my online experience.
    Okay, so some “Alpha Blogger” won’t reply to my tweet. Big deal. If he/she won’t engage me in conversation, it’s too bad, because really I’m an awesome person. Just ask my kids.
    But like Loukia, I have people I’ve come to know and love online, and I don’t particularly care how many subscribers or comments they get — I hope they feel the same way.

    When it comes to the blogosphere, it’s all a matter of reminding yourself why you’re there to begin with. If it’s to write, then just do it and forget everything else. If it’s to be a rock star, you may be screwed.

  16. Annie

    The people who come to my blog are all about support and loving each other, some are more successful than others none are in the “it” crowd. I like them, they like me, we are not worried about being popular. I left that crap behind when I was out of High School.
    Sure, sometimes we promote ourselves or each other, but mostly we just communicate and try to help one another.
    There are a lot of bloggers out there, you can hang out with us if you ever get tired of all the backbiting and drama. But then we may be too boring for you :-).

  17. V-Grrrl

    I hadn’t even heard about the Broad Summit, nor the controversy surrounding it. I read Anna’s post and will admit I didn’t thoroughly grasp what or whom she was talking about. What I do know is this: social media is social and it’s media. It will connect people on a personal level and a business level and in the gray netherlands in between.

    Media exists to reach an audience, to forge connections between publishers and readers, between groups of readers, and among businesses that want to be associated with these audiences. The power of association. I don’t think the way it works is new at all. The only thing new is the players.

    I think we can spend a lot of time trying to pick apart where business interaction becomes social and social interaction veers into business and what’s appropriate and not appropriate. It’s interesting to discuss and consider, but I don’t think it’s always necessary.

  18. Bridget (@bcyberchondriac)

    Neil, you ask, “how healthy are our communities online if it breeds so much insecurity, jealousy, and trolling?”
    I am going to reveal my cynicism here but why should online communities be any different from offline, real-world ones. As long as human beings are involved in a community of any sort, there will be all of the above negative aspects.
    That’s why, as you say, people seek a smaller group of like-minded types, for security and refuge. It’s classic group psychology. Sad but true.
    Always cheerful…over and out.

  19. Christine

    The blogging community, at least the corner of it with which I’m familiar, is totally different than it was just a few years ago.

    I remember when it was controversial to put ads up on your personal site; now it’s all about “monetizing your brand.” Not a judgment (sometimes I wish I were motivated to ride this wave), just an observation.

    As to the whole popularity thang that factors in here…I’m vaguely aware of it in the periphery, but I couldn’t care less who the popular bloggers are, much less give a crap if they like me. I didn’t play that game in high school, and I’m sure as hell not going to do so now that I’m in my thirties. Okay, forties.

  20. Neil

    Bridget -The “real” writing world outside of blogging is intense and filled with jealousy and envy. I come online to escape from that. But if it is going to be the same thing here, there’s no point because I am not making any money here. I only want to hang out with nurturing people. That is why I work for free here.

  21. abbersnail

    I feel incredibly fortunate to have the circle of blog-friends that I have. I feel fairly well-insulated from the negative segments of blogdom. Granted, that’s largely because my “popularity” is extremely limited, but I prefer having a close-knit community over having high site numbers.

  22. harmzie

    I’m not really very good at this whole “blogging community” crap stuff, probably because I’m not really very good at the whole real life community stuff.

    Like real-life, there are a very select few that I consider actually *meeting* in real life (yes, I re-read that a couple of times & it stands). Like real life there are a lot more I appreciate from a distance, but just assume they won’t like me, so I just do what I do for me (and possibly those select few, see above) & maybe a couple of more will come on board.

    I don’t know what that has to do with your post. Probably nothing. But the beauty of it is that in real life, I wouldn’t just stand at your front door shouting this to you.

    (Probably).

  23. Headless Mom

    fuck.

    Loukia made me self conscious because I’ve never gotten 20 comments. Is that what you have to do to be in the in-crowd? (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

  24. Joe Crawford

    I think blogging is no kind of refuge from human emotion and competition. It’s not a utopia. You know, the KKK is a community. Community just means group of people. :-\ I think blogging has opportunities for potential money to be made as much as traditional writing, I think blogging does not remove the possibility of having a lucrative /other/ career in writing, I think much of the drama and ethics and “what is true blogging” issues you bring up again and again are mostly in your head. The “highest-end” blogger I read, financially and popularity, is probably dooce, and she sells ads, and makes her living that way, and the “lowest-end” blogger is way2neurotic, read by nobody, but blogging about issues of grave concern to him, his life, his brain tumor. You can rank and categorize them if you like, or get upset at other people ranking and categorizing them, but I find such ranking and categorizing mostly useless other than turning me onto some good blogs sometimes.

    It’s possible I’m missing your point though.

  25. Katebits

    I had not heard of the Broad Summit. Yikes.

  26. Jurgen Nation

    Jesus Christ. I don’t really know what to write. I hadn’t heard about the Broad Summit. I guess I’m not in the circle.

    I can’t say anything bad or good about the sponsorship stuff because I haven’t the experience with it. The community is different, though, and I do think what we knew our community to be 2 years ago has cracked and split off. I make no judgment calls, I just miss our old community where we all seemed to know each other and we blogged because we liked to write and communicate and make new friends. That’s what I miss, the basic equality of everyone and that everyone treated each other equally and with interest and respect, not to enlarge their base. Or whatever. Again, I don’t know, I don’t know anything about that aspect. You know me. I despise niches and strata. It chaps my fucking ass. But I haven’t been “back” for long to understand all of this. I guess the good thing is that I am meeting a lot of new people and amazing writers that captivate me. The bad thing is that so many have gone another direction.

    I’m not making much sense, I think. I’m just glad to know that our community isn’t completely gone and there are still a few of us who just like to write and talk to each other.

  27. Jack

    I am a part of several communities within the blogosphere. And every 18 months or so I see a series of posts bemoaning how things used to be better.

    Within my original community, the Jblogosphere there was a time when we all basically knew each other.

    Now it has gotten to be so big you just don’t know everyone anymore.

    It used to really irritate me to see new bloggers come in and become more “popular” than me in not time at all.

    But most of them don’t last and I have. Not that any of that matters. For me the bottom line is this,

    “Do you like to blog? Do you enjoy it?”

    If you can’t say yes to those two questions than why do you bother with it.

  28. better safe than sorry

    i always find in my real life, i can deal with things easier once i write them down, it clears my head. you on the other hand, you think too much or something, maybe it’s part of your creative process, which explains your being a writer.

  29. Amanda

    I don’t think you can control the emotions that are triggered by these sorts of things. I have wondered the same sorts of things that you write about, but when I really dissect similar situations, I know that I am unwilling and unable to do some of the things necessary to get there. Kind of like the longing I have to achieve the looks in magazines being hindered by my fear of the knife, aversion to spending too much, and the lack of endurance to maintain. We can certainly argue the merits of writing quality or honesty or whatever*, but at the end of the day, you can’t argue popularity or conquests. They just are. And so, I say, let it be and be happy.

  30. Bridget (@bcyberchondriac)

    Neil, good news, I think you can be more free here in the blogosphere. But it’s populated by people in the real world, so…..but as in the real world, there will be people you get to really enjoy, trust, bond with. Surrounding yourself with those people — that’s key to it all. Never mind the rest.

  31. Miss Britt

    OK. Whew.

    So I started reading this and my first thought was “the Internet is a community like the Earth is a community. Realistically, we feel more tied to SMALLER communities – like families, neighborhoods, cities, etc.”

    But then, well, you said that.

    And after that, I’m not exactly sure WHAT you said…

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