I am particularly fascinated by the communities of blogging parents that seem to have sprung up almost overnight. Though I’m not a parent, I sometimes end up reading the different “mommy” and “daddy” blogs and even subscribing to some. Eventually, I’ll realize that I’m being kind of crazy and becoming totally invested in a family that is not mine and then I’ll unsubscribe, only to find other blogs and starting the whole cycle again.
The New York Times Magazine has a profile about Heather Armstrong, who almost single-handedly started the mommy blogging craze. This profile also mentions several other famous names, one of whom may see her life story turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Armstrong’s blog has become so successful that she and her husband quit their jobs and basically live on the revenue produced by their blogs. ReadWriteWeb also interviewed Armstrong about her 10 years of blogging and they discussed just how much the web has changed in those 10 years. One comment that I found interesting is when Armstrong says that if Facebook or Twitter had been around when she had started blogging, she would not be where she is now. I was also interested to learn that she has expanded her blogging empire by introducing forums, which allows greater interaction among her readers, thus cementing their connections and creating even more of a community among her loyal readers, and when I say loyal, I mean loyal. (Just try and write something remotely negative about her in her comments section. I dare you.)
Sometimes, being a part of an online community isn’t just about joining a chat room or a discussion board or a forum. It can be as simple as following the same blogs and participating in the comments section. Though I jokingly mentioned just how involved I would become in the lives of these strangers, the truth is that there are some readers and commentors who truly and really feel as if they are part of the family.
We have a tendency to oversimplify our interactions online, but the truth is that relationships formed on the web are just as complex as relationships in the real world. Most of the parent bloggers started out in order to connect with other parents and form a network of support. The better writers with greater staying power managed to find some followers and they become a different subset of community. There are daddy bloggers and mommy bloggers. There are minority bloggers (who, for some reason, tend to be mostly dads, not moms) and there are bloggers from the dominant culture. While the original reason for blogging may have been to find resources for their upcoming adventures in parenting, many have found these communities surprisingly lucrative.
I don’t think we can, or should, underestimate just how much power these communities have in shaping our ideas and forming our identities.