I have been reading with great fascination (and not a small degree of annoyance) various stories over the years, of bloggers who stage and promote their own dramas for attention or page views or fame or mental illness, or perhaps some other reasons I can’t quite figure out.
There was the infamous story of April Rose, a terminally ill fetus who died some hours after birth…only she didn’t. There was never any such baby. Just an elaborate hoax for attention.
The list goes on.
There was the TSA Took My Baby story which was easily and quickly proven false (or at least…not all true) with the help of airport security videos. I even hesitate to mention it, because the blogger has since apologized and to this date, I don’t entirely understand what happened, where the disconnect was, or whether she somehow believed it to be true. However she is entitled to make amends and move on, and that she has.
Just last year, on a more national scale, there was the Gay Girl from Damascus, who turned out to be a “hairy dude from Georgia” as it was aptly described by Kristine on MamaPop.
I loved her conclusion: “By making up a story about a girl from Syria, he basically took a voice away from a real one.”
I could not agree more. All this has been on my mind the last few days, since hearing back-channel murmurings, again, about bloggers who seem stage (or enhance) melodrama in their lives for online attention. (To say nothing of buying Twitter followers, participating in linkback schemes for traffic, or gaming Klout scores; but that’s another post.)
It makes me crazy. And when something like this makes me crazy I always try to step back and wonder why I don’t just ignore it like normal people do.
Maybe because, as Nate says, I’m the most trusting person he knows and the James Freys of the world chip away at my optimistic world view.
And because, as Kristine said in her Damascus post, there are real bloggers with real problems who need help. My heart, in these moments, turn to them.
I have spent months, even years, following the often tragic stories of people I know and trust. Parents who have lost children–the worst possible thing I can imagine–from the exceptional writers Heather Spohr and Kate Inglis, to my own inlaws. And certainly the feisty, unrelenting Katie Granju who continues to fight a mighty legal fight to clear her son’s name after he died of a drug overdose that could have been prevented.
There are parents who have suddenly lost a spouse, like Matt Logelin or Jennifer Perillo. The world has followed the well-known near death–and recovery–of Stephanie Nielson and her husband from a horrific plane crash.
And of course much-needed depression advocacy comes from strong online voices with personal experience with their own demons, most notably Katherine Stone, Heather Armstrong, and Jenny Lawson. They bare their own souls, sometimes even to the mockery or judgment of others, all to help those thousands of readers who would otherwise live lives of quiet desperation, never knowing that all along they had company.
This week alone, my thoughts are with my friend and colleague, Mir of Woulda Shoulda who’s in a fight to save her daughter from unknown demons and diseases. And the incomparable Anissa Mayhew, whose miraculous recovery from a stroke was cheered on by the internet, but whose feisty, hilarious, remarkably resilient nature is still tested in the face of inconsiderate asses who find wheelchairs in their restaurants annoying and inconvenient. To see someone like her start to crack, cracks me too.
(Clearly the 10 minutes they were inconvenienced by her presence far surpasses the lifetime of it that Anissa will endure. Assholes.)
And I always think of my very dear friend Tanis Miller, who lost a son, but gained a new purpose in life, adopting and advocating for special needs children. I still remember when I made a comment about feeling how lucky I am to have healthy children. She snapped back, “Actually, I’m lucky to have all my children.”
And F me, if she didn’t just school me for life. (Thanks Tanis.)
I’m not describing these people because they need your sympathy (although they certainly have mine). I mention them as exquisite examples of resilience, strength, fortitude, and above all–authenticity.
It’s the one trait in my mind that has always described any blog worth reading, on whatever the topic.
Back to my original point, I mention these men and women because I don’t believe one of them ever wrote about their deepest, most painful problems thinking, “wow, this will go over great on Facebook!”
And I don’t imagine one of them ever sent a press release out about their children dying, or their tragic disfiguring accidents, pitching it as a great news story the day after it happened. I don’t think they felt the need to embellish their problems, or manufacture drama or tie it all up in a neat little bow about what lessons they’ve learned from it all. I imagine they simply needed to tell their stories. To get it out. And maybe, perhaps, to get some support and compassion in return, something to keep them going.
It’s the best–the very best–of the blogosphere; rallying for those in need.
So yes, page views are nice. Fame has its benefits. I’m sure a book deal looks mighty attractive when you’re just a person behind a blog struggling to pay the bills on crappy $2 CPM banner ads. And indeed, some of these bloggers have ended up sharing their stories in books and in published essays. As they should. They’re good, important stories.
But if you’ve lost your authenticity en route to “greater” successes, then in my mind, you have nothing of value for me here. You do have my sympathy however; but not for the reasons you’d think.
Do I sound sanctimonious? Eh, fine. I’m entitled once in a while.
My heart–and help–is with those who need it. Sometimes because they asked. Most often, because they didn’t.
Thanks Elan for including this post in Five-Star Friday.