Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Intimacy and the Cost of Blogging: Part Deux

I wonder how many of you began following me when I wrote the original The Intimacy and the Cost of Blogging post?  In light of Thursday's events, I decided to re-use the title. It's fitting, you'll know if you read my original post. 

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing, announced Thursday he would be taking a break from blogging. How long is anyone's least a week...maybe more.

It's hard not to know who Dan is at this point. If you use any kind of social media, you likely saw at least one shared link to the blog post he wrote back in November, I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay. The post went viral and continues to be shared 6 months later. In response to that post, he received thousands of comments and e-mails from people sharing their own personal stories of how that article impacted lives, changed minds, fostered the healing of relationships.

He also received hate mail and sad mail and threats.

The negativity didn't seem to squash him though. He kept on writing daily, sharing his life, his philosophies, his trials and tribulations, and his successes with his readers. He kept his chin up and did a bang up job at continuing to spread his message about love, caring, and optimism. He even posted some of the more compelling and wonderful responses he'd received from I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, he shared A Teen's Brave Response to "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" and this time the post went, in his words, "mega-viral". He had over 4 million hits in less than a day. All the traffic crashed his host server. He was forced to disable comments on the post.

Because of this second round of immense attention and scrutiny, Dan had an epiphany. He realized all of this attention was taking its toll on him and on his relationships. He had a decision to make. He decided to disappear. 

Regarding his sabbatical, he says, 

I have to get my brain balanced again. This blog has taken me down a road that is so deep and mental and heavy sometimes.

You see, if you read Dan's blog, you'll know he is all heart. He writes with brave sincerity and occasionally from a place that is vulnerable and lonely. He has over 100,000 subscribers and yet, often, he writes as though he is talking to a trusted loved one knowing full well there are people who will contact him with vitriolic nonsense, who will stalk him, who will call him "fake".

Most of the time, he appears to just shrug it off. Like Dooce and her campaign to monetize the hate, he knows there are people who won't like him, won't like what he has to say, will be loudly angry and mean. And yet, like Dooce, he still puts himself out there day after day.

Why? Why would he continue to write as he does knowing he'll be targeted by hate mongers and trolls? Is it because he's learned that much more often people respond and connect to him in a positive, beautiful way if he allows himself to be vulnerable regardless of the negative feedback? I think so.

But I gotta tell you, speaking from my own very limited experience, it's terrifying when an unusually large volume of traffic comes flooding toward me to devour my words, to potentially criticize and hate on me personally and not just what I've said and how I've said it.

To be clear, I've never had a post receive millions of views. I've never crashed a server or had to disable comments. But, beginning with the original The Intimacy and the Cost of Blogging post, I've had a handful of posts that have received thousands of views in a single afternoon. And every time, I've choked back a gasp, my nerves coiled up into a tight little ball in the pit of my stomach and I've waited in fear and outrageous anxiety for the onslaught of virtual fisticuffs to rain down on my head.

It - the nasty personal attacks - hasn't happened thus far. One day though, it will. That is a certainty. Unless I stop blogging all together. Not likely.

I've asked myself so many times - just as I questioned Dan Pearce - why? Why am I willing to risk criticism, rejection, hurt by continuing to put myself and parts of my most vulnerable self out here?

The answer came to me recently in the form of a TED talk on the power of vulnerability.

The video is almost 20 minutes long but it is sincerely worth every minute (as most TED talks are).

I allow myself to be vulnerable here - well, OK, fine, everywhere - because in order to connect, to feel deeply, I must be vulnerable. That is human nature. It is, at times, uncomfortable and frightening. Mostly though, it's gratifying and richly rewarded with friendships and dialogue I wouldn't experience without it.

I've written a number of times about why I write (because I have to) and I've even gone so far as to presume that I write only for myself.

But that's not true. I write, ultimately, to connect with other people. I write what I do to make people laugh, to cry, to cringe, to feel as I do. I write to feel less alone, to give others an opportunity to feel less alone, all the while knowing we are, all of us, alone.

And that's what Dan Pearce does. He writes to connect. Yes, he writes to support himself too but he wouldn't be able to without allowing himself to be sincere and, at times, vulnerable with his readers. Readers know when you consistently aren't sincere. Am I right?

But what Dan has not yet discovered is the balance or the boundaries. He has not yet learned what price he's willing to pay in intimate currency for a connection and a following. He has not yet learned how much to distance himself from the extreme highs and the extreme lows other people will swing toward in order to connect with him...through love and through hatred.

He's off to discover the price he's willing to pay right now.

There is a price to pay.

What is MY price?

PS A most sincere apology to My Alien Body who probably ought to have expected this as a guest post on her own blog. I'll come up with something else for you, Melissa. It just felt right to put this here.


Masked Mom said...

Sincere and well-written as always. I love Brene Brown--her brilliance kind of sneaks up on you and sucker punches you in the best possible way.

I hope that you discover that the rewards you reap are worth the price you pay. I think the vulnerable you that you are putting out there is making a significant contribution to more lives than you might imagine.

@NativeMikeAdams said...

I'm saddened to hear that SDL is taking a break! I haven't checked in on his site in a short while. Jane, this was a very thoughtful and engaging post. Thanks!
--Mike Adams

Gaelyn said...

I hope that positive interactions on blogs are more frequent than negative. But if one is opinionated, whether for love or hate, controversial topics.... Then I guess hate mail would be inevitable. Sad but true. It's hard to imagine 100,000 views a day.

Great TED talk. I felt it to the core.

Liz Baumann said...

Well thought and said. This probably has something to do with why I cop out and call my blog "My Public Diary".

Lucy said...

I will be back to watch TED, I love their videos.

Love this post and totally understand it. I read Single Dad's post on Blogher and thought it was great and then I read his post with follow up to the original but to be honest I never followed him. I had no idea he was struggling and receiving a bunch of hate mail.
Honestly, I am not sure how I would handle it? I am shy and an introvert. It would make my stomach turn. Of course, I have had some mean comments,only a few though but never hate mail and I just let the mean comments stand.
I do feel bad that people feel they need to spew hate to make a point. It is fine to disagree but why be so mean?

Jenn and Casey said...

Thanks for sharing. I live under a rock and had never heard of him or these posts. Also the link to your post at the top was giving me an error code :( I'd love to read that too. I've never had a "viral" post, but I can imagine how stressful it is in lots of way. Very thought provoking post, Jane!

Scooter Lass said...

I love that TED Talk - I watched it a few weeks ago! Very nice post.

Anonymous said...

The TED videos are so wonderful.

This: "I allow myself to be vulnerable here - well, OK, fine, everywhere - because in order to connect, to feel deeply, I must be vulnerable. That is human nature. It is, at times, uncomfortable and frightening. Mostly though, it's gratifying and richly rewarded with friendships and dialogue I wouldn't experience without it."

is so true for me. I've said it over and over. You have to be all in. Without a willingness to be vulnerable, we aren't going to have anything of any real value. I'll take my chances on getting my heart stomped for the trade-off of having it tended beautifully.

Deb Stevens said...

I'm with you on Brene Brown -- I was buoyed by her brilliance too, in this post awhile back:

Your thoughts are lovely. I'm glad you keep writing and sharing regardless of the price. Thank you.

alienbody said...

I just loved the TED Talk on vulnerability, thank you for introducing me to it!

And, my life is sort of topsy turvy right now, so you were right to profile this excellent post right here, where it belongs. I don't have any trolling haters right now and I don't think I'll reach that point, but I do wonder - what if they do come? What is my price? Am I willing to pay it? I've got time, since I think I may have only broken 100 views in a times...maybe. ;-)

Celeste Neumann said...

Viva l'Internet!
Here you can express you opinions freely, but don't disillusioned that everyone will behave like an adult when you express your opinion.
Dan experienced that. And although he made a valid effort to shrug off the comments and email as "spit & snot in the soup", he chose to ignore, it did not pass by him without effect. I am very happy to hear Dan is taking a break. He's doing exactly the right thing for his mental health, and he should stay away from his blog for as long as he feels he needs to rebuild himself.
Jane, it will always be this way. If you publish your opinion, there will always be someone who will find you and want to publically crucify you for your beliefs. And the hateful things they write will not pass by you without trace either. There may come a day when you must rebuild yourself.
Let's hope we have this understanding for Dan, and should this happen to you, then at least I will understand why you must do this.

Anonymous said...

I read and respect Dan. He seems to be a sweet fella, just trying to do the best he can. His bravery in putting it all out there where anyone can see is simply amazing.
You do much the same, Jane. I am always awed by how much, how intimately you share your life.