First the positive. The sessions were interesting. The Voices of the Year reading was one of the best yet. Standing ovation good. This year honored 10 years of BlogHer, and the atmosphere was celebratory. There was a feeling of nostalgia in the air, combined with an openness and hopefulness towards the future of the internet.
San Jose is a mellow city (even a little dull), but I liked it as a locale for a conference. Sure, New York and Chicago are more exciting, but this year attendees stayed around and participated rather than running around town for sightseeing opportunities. The final party, outside in the warm California sun, was fun, and felt like clubbing in the classiest McDonald’s in the world (they were the sponsor of the event).
I was honored to be part of a Pathfinder session on Becoming a Visual Artist. It was the fourth time that I had been involved in a session (Storytelling with Amy, Blogging with Elan and Laurie, Fiction Writing as a Writing Lab, and now photography with Lucrecer).
Now the negative. No, let me rephrase it. It isn’t negative. It is just change. And the change is not BlogHer, but ME.
I felt less personally invested in the blogging community than in previous years. Is it the result of my interest in mobile photography? Do photographers become aloof from the world, acting more as observers than participants? I didn’t even dance at the final party, always one of my highlights, instead choosing to photograph the OTHERS dancing.
Perhaps the disengagement is a natural reaction to a once small world that is now part of a bigger media world. Everyone now has a reason for their blog, whether to “help others” or get on TV. Whatever happened to just starting a blog because you are crazy, lonely, and neurotic?
I think back at how emotional unstable I WAS in the past, especially during previous BlogHers.
At my first conference, I tripped at the Chicago Sheraton registration line as I met Elan (Schmutzie) for the first time, tears in my eyes, as if she was some character I had been reading about in a book and had suddenly materialized as a living, breathing person. As if she was Harry Potter, and Harry Potter wanted to meet too!
This year, at BlogHer, Elan and I hugged on the last day, our suitcases trailing after us. We apologized for hardly speaking during the entire conference. We were too busy with our own sessions.
“Eh, no big deal,” I said. I’ll see you on Facebook later.” This is not something I could… or would…. say eight years ago.
One of my highlights of BlogHer 2009 has nothing to do with the sessions. It was me bitching to Jenny (the Bloggess) and Tanis (Redneck Mommy) for what seemed like an hour about this “Blogging with Integrity” campaign started by the “evil” Liz (Mom 101) and others. I have no idea why I was so passionate about this topic at the time, but I was sure that everyone putting side banners on their blog saying “I Blog With Integrity” would destroy Blogging as We Know It. It was as if Joseph McCarthy had taken over the blogosphere. Now, I just laugh at myself for acting so weird.
Tanis wasn’t at BlogHer this year, focusing on her family. Liz wasn’t there either. Jenny WAS there, but mostly in the capacity of the best-selling author of “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.”
The line was so long to see her at the book-signing that I said, “Eh, I’ll just see her on Facebook later.” This was becoming my motif.
Does the name BlogHer make sense anymore? Maybe they should rename it FacebookHer. Or SocialMediaHer.
Sure, there were SESSIONS on blogging, but I had very few personal conversations about blogging. I had interesting discussions about publishing, race in America, using Pinterest, and the cheekbones of Kerry Washington, the TV actress who was also one of the keynotes. I think we still use blogs as a tool, but are frankly bored about talking about it.
OK, enough ranting. My new aim in life is to become a positive person, like that woman I met at lunch who handed me her business card that read “Positivist Entrepreneur.”
I had a great time this year. I met so many new people, not to win more “followers,” but to understand why the hell anyone would waste their time starting a blog in 2014 rather than just write for the Huffington Post.
A lot of the newbies I met were much younger than the typical mom blogger (I mean, “they could be my daughter” young), and it made me feel kinda old. One kind woman in her early twenties came up to me and said that she was honored to meet me because “she was a big fan of my work on Instagram.” She addressed me as Mr. Kramer. I choked on my coffee.
I got many compliments on my new designer jeans that I bought two weeks ago at Nordstrom. I wore them every day of the conference. But I didn’t get laid. San Jose is just too hot for any hanky panky.
As usual, I heard a lot of talk about hits and followers and platform. I had a nice conversation with a popular fashion blogger until I mentioned that my comments and visits to my blog were half of what they were only three years ago, and she took off as fast as if I had just announced that I had syphilis.
There were whispers and rumors that this might be the last year of the big BlogHer conference, and that the organization would focus instead on the niche-conferences dedicated to food and business and politics. I hope it isn’t true. The annual BlogHer conference has become an important ritual for me.
But if the co-founders decide to change direction, I would understand. A conference that appeals to personal writers, political activists, business women, and coupon moms ALL AT THE SAME TIME is hard to maintain forever. Splitting up by tribe and demographic might be the way of future.
It might even be good for me. BlogHer has been extremely kind to be, taking me into their, uh, bosom, as one of their own. But it has never been my authentic “tribe.” If the annual conference ends, it might feel to me like a parent kicking their deadbeat artist son out into the real world to get a job. And maybe it is time to stop caring about BLOGGING as some sort of spiritual or personal journey, or as a social or radical act, and focus on it as a way to advance my career. Because THAT is blogging 2014.
Thanks to everyone I met this year, both old and new friends. And thank you for BlogHer for being such a class act.