I could probably have entitled this post the Culture of Community, too, but it really was a crowd and that’s just a bit more descriptive.
ADHD factors into this post somewhat. Not all ADHDers are like this, but I am. I get overwhelmed by groups bigger than about four people at a time. It intimidates me because I hear snippets and strands of things going on but not one single strand. It means I have to pay attention to being inattentive with intention to avoid hearing pieces out of context. Being overwhelmed is exhausting.
Blogher attendees were an incredibly diverse group, if you ignore gender as a factor. Inside the diversity, there were some fairly large groups of like-minded bloggers, including the formidable group of mommybloggers (with a few daddybloggers thrown in), the techie bloggers, and of course, the so-called “A-listers”. There were edubloggers, bloggers for social change, foodbloggers, photobloggers, vloggers (or is it vbloggers? I’ve never gotten that right) and other smaller microcosms of the whole that was the BlogHer community.
I don’t fit into any of these groups. I sit on the fringe of several. This blog touches on so many different topics that there were times where I felt as though a new group of bloggers should emerge called “eclecti-bloggers”. There were times where it felt a bit isolating to not really belong to any specific group. Those were the times where the camera came out. TW said it quite nicely:
I am a blogger. Pure and simple. I am uncategorizable, I am not “JUST” this or that sort of blogger. I don’t feel a dying need to run around announcing that I am a lesbian, just like I don’t run around announcing anything else. Other than the fact that I would really love for you to read my blog and I would love to read yours or that I might already read your blog. That I know I will announce or try to get the courage to announce to anyone I see whether they have kids, don’t have kids; whether sleep with women, men, both, neither; whether they drink Coke or Pepsi; whether they have a high school degree or graduate degree or no degree. I am interested in people. I hope they are interested in me, no matter what category I might or might not belong in today, tomorrow, last year, or this year.
Much has been written on the Blogher postmortems about cliques. Fear of encountering them, techniques to enter them, frustration that they exist, all of it.
Another way to describe a clique would be “a group of like-minded people”. Describing the various groups at Blogher as “clique-ish” implies that they were not inclusive. I didn’t see it quite like that. There was never a time where I felt excluded from any group that I encountered. However, there was a clear “Culture of Celebrity” that emerged in that two day period that I’d like to see diminished.
I touched on this topic in my previous post where I talked about some of the fears expressed around introductions to Heather Armstrong (Dooce). But she wasn’t the only “A-Lister” that was held up in reverential tones on blogs and conversation over the weekend. And I don’t get it. I read many of the blogs that were mentioned because I enjoy them. Not because they’re popular, not because they’re A-listers. Because they write stuff I want to read. Most of what I read are not on the “A-list”. Some are.
It seems to me that there is a tendency toward a “culture of celebrity” that spills over into the blogosphere, and was evident at BlogHer, but certainly not unique to Blogher. That raised a whole series of questions for me (but no answers), so I’ll put them here and maybe you have an answer or thoughts that will clarify things.
Is the need to focus on celebrity unique to American culture or is it a human trait? Do we gravitate toward those who are first, the risk-takers? Most of those “A-listers” are on the A-list because they were some of the first to be doing this and also because they’re pretty good at it. Does the focus on celebrity detract from the overall message or add to it? Do we create celebrity as a defense to keep ourselves from questioning our own skills, motivations, and voice? Is it fair to those we call celebrities or “A-listers” or whatever else you want to call them to hold them to a higher standard than we do others? And if they meet that standard, do we give them the freedom to make mistakes and take more risks? What benefit do we as a group derive by carving out a smaller group and assigning them “specialness”? And is it really a benefit or a detriment?
There will be a time in the not too distant future where the Blogher groups will, by necessity, need to splinter. The Mommy/Daddybloggers are already a force unto themselves and my bet is on them to become the first offspring of the BlogHer mamas. There will be more. This is really a natural aspect to any community– as it grows, it branches.
New leaders will emerge to serve alongside those who exist now. There will be disagreements, philosophical differences, new opportunities and stronger focus. But at the bottom of it, we are all still bloggers who belong to that larger community.
1/7/07: Comments are now closed on this entry.