Monday, November 21, 2011

The Online Sewing Communtiy & Blogoshpere....A Personal Observation

Over on one of the blogs I follow I read a post concerning "blogs." The author was discussing which blogs she chose to read and what type of criteria she found her self using as there are so many blogs out there. This got me thinking about my very small niche within the larger online sewing community and the blogoshpere as a whole.

I started blogging in May of this year and I started it mainly as an outlet for my creative pursuits.  I didn't know the first thing about sewing blogs or the online sewing community until I started one and as I began following blogs and reading what other people had to say my feelings toward blogging and my own blog began to evolve as the enormity of the online sewing community unfolded before me. Though this community is based online there are still very real societal constructs at play.

The social hierarchy and nuance being played out in this microcosm is fascinating. Everybody has a role and there seems to be a representative for every standard societal archetype, arguably stereotype....There are the "popular" lot, they even clique together at times, there are the "henchmen", those who hang at the periphery of the popular in an attempt to be recognized as popular as well, there are the "individuals", those who are "different" by choice and pride themselves on their "against the grain outlook" even though they are as plugged in as the popular since they continue to subscribe to the societal norms we have constructed as an online community and there is the mass multitude of nameless, faceless "operators." People who are part of the community, operating within it, but have either failed to distinguish themselves or are as yet unrecognized as part of a large subset. These people may be completely satisfied to observe from the fringe or maybe they are completely unsatisfied with this placement and so they scramble for recognition by the rest of the community.....and here I am.

I began viewing my blogging differently once I began to really pick up on this complex environment I stumbled upon. I no longer placed the value of my position in the community on my accomplishments in sewing or even music, the entire point of my blog mind you. I instead started basing my value within the community on my place in it or how I viewed my place in it. And I viewed my place in it as miniscule and insignificant having measured this by how many followers I had and how much traffic I generated and if anybody left me a comment. I wanted to be recognized and appreciated like some popularity obsessed teenager, so what did I do? I did what has been done countless times before since the beginning of time when attempting to obtain recognition within the dog eat dog world of "society." I networked, I advertised myself, I put myself out there. I held a giveaway, I posted on a couple of the well know online sewing-centric networking sites, I commented on a multitude of blogs (the "popular" ones particularly) and I checked my followers and "stats" constantly, fanatically. I felt like I had entered myself into a self sponsored rat race and there was no satisfaction to be had since the limits of success were unstructured and I could not stop expanding them...and having completely exhausted myself I decided I had to put a stop to this insanity.

Upon reflection I realize now that I felt compelled to act in this manner not because I am a fame hungry, recognition obsessed luney but due to a more complex and innate instict, something borne out of being a social creature by nature. I want the society and community I value and am operating in to accept me and want me as much as I want it. As humans we feel validated by the acceptance of our peers and the recognition of those we respect. It is also a survival mechanism, we want the pack to protect us and feel we are worth protecting. How awful to feel dispensable, useless and what an untenable situation to find yourself in. I believe these feelings and instincts are left over from our days living not at the top of the food chain and  our only protection came from the small community we lived in and our very survival depended on our being recognized as an indispensable part of it. So valued by the community that our lose would be detrimental to the society at large and worth protecting at all costs. For these very nuanced reasons I feel that at times I place too much value on my "status" within the online sewing community and I invest too much energy in elevating my standing within it. 

I have felt it necessary to reevaluate what is important to me and why I began my blog in the first place. The point of which was to document my creative journey for personal validation and as my own personal yardstick to measure the progress I make. I have had to consider what is actually valuable to me within this community so I don't lose sight of what I am attempting to accomplish, a community I feel very fortunate to be a part of even if only on the fringes. This community has a plethora of knowledge and experience to gain an education from, though I knew nothing of this before I started my journey it has truly become a valuable aspect of my online presence. Since my goal is to continue to learn new techniques and to apply them in the garments I make the fact that all this knowledge and experience is out there to be had, free for the taking, benefits me innumerably and I am truly grateful for it. My sewing has improved measurably due to the stuff I have been exposed to through this community. Isn't that what a community should be? A mutually beneficial construct where the members are able to freely exchange necessary commodities, in this case all types of sewing related information. The point of any community, at least in my opinion though I am by no means an expert, is to serve as an environment to nurture the members in some way not as a platform for vanity. Vanity being something I have all too often fallen victim.  Here in lies the basis of this whole post, my finding it necessary to shift back to the nurturing aspects found within this community and a retraction from it as a means to fanning the flames of my misplaced vanity.

The point of this blog, for me, is to document my growth and progress. If others find that interesting or inspiring and would like to follow me on that journey than I am truly grateful that I have been able to contribute even a small bit to the community. For my own sanity I am no longer going to measure my own self worth upon things which are completely out of my control, like whether or not people find my journey intriguing or worth following. I will continue to produce garments at my own slow & steady pace, continue to blog about it and I will cease measuring myself against the success of others. I will be satisfied with merely operating within the community so that I can continue to learn from it and not feel inadequate if I am not considered a taste maker or a tone setter by others since all I can control is my own taste & my own tone.

Jeez....that was an epic discourse, maybe diatribe if you are so inclined, but I guess that other post really got me thinking and I am grateful for it. 

Cheers!

Amelia 

27 comments:

  1. I really loved this post! It's so true how easy it is to get trapped in the trappings! I really love your resolution to focus on the community aspect of the online sewing community. I've just come across your blog..oddly enough from the very post at Tilly's blog and I'm really happy I did!!

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  2. Hi Debi, I'm glad you came over. One of the many good thing about all the blogs is reading the comments and getting introduced to others with similar interests! I enjoyed the discussion that Tilly's post prompted, I know that some people seemed to view it in a negative light but I didn't see it that way and I think it encouraged honest thought and debate.

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  3. This is a great post! I have my own story about getting caught up in the trappings - it took me a while to sort out myself and just blog for the joy of it. As soon as I did that, I was so lucky to have people come and comment and even follow me!

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  4. Well said. I gave trying to fit in a long time ago. Though I do enjoy reading many sewing blogs, I only visit during my regular work hours during my break. Never at the weekends nor in the evenings. I don't always comment and when I do I try to be positive or correct a blatant error. I've been a blogger for three years and my followers are in the double digits. I have most of there private postal addresses so I can send them a surprise once in a while as opposed to having a giveaway, etc. My blog (when I feel like posting) is my personal account of what I do. As I said, I've given up trying to fit in along with wanting to make an impression.

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  5. Maintaining a blog can become a bit of a monster after a while. Once you're over the initial flurry of excitement from the attention and support you receive, you then have to keep it up - I really don't think many new bloggers have a solid grasp on how hard it can be to stick to a regular posting schedule. Soon you're posting because your afraid of the consequences if you don't, and nobody wants that kind of pressure in a hobby.

    This is where community sites like WeSewRetro fit in, to my mind. With a 40hr a week 'regular' job, a vintage pattern business, a one year old and a punishing accelerated degree schedule, I simply cannot sew and blog about my sewing on any kind of predictable or consistent basis. BUT when I do find time, I want my post to be seen. By sharing my work on a community site, I get it in front of a ready-made audience of people with similar interests, without having to do all the chores associated with gaining and maintaining that audience. Plug in when you want it, switch off when you don't :)

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  6. This is fascinating. It's so amazing the way we can be tied into and effected by large groups of people we have never physically met, but still feel loved, rejected, improved and teased by them. We start these little online worlds to feed something in ourselves and then end up getting swallowed by other people, or our perceptions of what other people want. I'm constantly inspired by what I see other people making, but it's so easy to lose sight of what I myself make, and to value that as serving a need within me. Ultimately I think we are all our most creative selves when we take what others give us and turn it into something we ourselves love. And when we share freely, and without jealousy. I suppose that's easier said then done.

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  7. Brilliantly written. I agree 100%. I found myself blogging for others when I first started, but now I really love doing it for myself. It's like an online scrapbook of all the things I have created for myself and I take such great pride in going through my posts and seeing how much I have learned. I always feel honored when people decide to read what I've written, because I am just sharing - I didn't expect someone to stop by and share with me, but I love when it happens.

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  8. Thank you all for your comments and insights, every one has such a unique perspective. I truly appreciate the food for thought as they say. It is really just cool that even though we are miles apart and worlds away from each other we are still connected by our similar passions. I appreciate all of your interests in my little essay and for taking the time to give me feedback it has again helped evolve how I am viewing this community and my relationship with that community. Happy Blogging!

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  9. This is so spot on. I have really begun to feel some of the pressures you talk about recently, so much so, that sometimes i feel like reading all my "usual" blogs has become a chore! How ridiculous is that! A few months I knew nothing of this world and now i am struggling to keep up and be part of it. However, having said that, you are right, the amount learnt from this community is invaluable. Not only that but if you have few friends who share your passion, having others to chat to about it and get their opinion is great too.
    I started my blog to try and influence others to learn to sew but had no idea there was so much out there already. I am slowly finding my feet in this world and this post as well as Tilly's has really helped me think about things. Thank you.

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  10. This is such a thoughtful, articulate post. And very honest. Thank you for writing it - you're really made me think about the social dynamic of an online community... and why my post managed to upset a few people. I feel so awful that a few speedily written, careless words (writing was never my forte) made some people feel like they were being rejected. In my mind, my post was about complimenting a load of bloggers and widening the circle to include the less well-known blogs. But it backfired spectacularly! I guess I hadn't fully grasped how sensitive some people are about being included (one person emailed me to say that by namechecking other bloggers I was "creating an exclusive love-in of narcissistic bloggers like yourself"). Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    I also really respect your reassessment of what you want to achieve with your blog. Blogging is great precisely because you can get out of it exactly what you want, without the pressure of circulation figures, advertising revenues, editorial decisions made by someone else or whatever. So enjoy it!

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  11. My husband always, always tells me "You write for you. Don't write for anyone else." That always centers me when I'm obsessing.

    I'm not so sure about some of your assessments of the various roles within the online sewing community... It seems a little negative for me... This isn't the island in Lord of the Flies, this is a worldwide creative collaboration between thousands of people. We're unprecedented. ;)

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  12. StephC: While this post was meant to be critical, it wasn't meant to be negative, I wanted to present as careful and exacting an evaluation as I possibly could of not only the actions I have observed in others but primarily in myself so that I might gain a new perspective of this very lovely community that I am a proud member of and how I view my role within it. It is just my personal observation and I don't expect that everyone will see things the way I do. I can see how a couple imprecise words might skew the tone of my intentions and in hindsight I might have used more discretion with certain word choice but upon reflection I am not inclined to change those things as I think it is just my very real expression of how I was feeling. Anyway, all I was trying to convey is that our community is still a social construct, even though it's online, and within this environment our social natures and tendencies influence our interactions and reaction to each others' individuality. I think it's cool. Thanks for leaving your opinion it has provided another perspective.

    Tilly: It is interesting how hundreds of people can see the same thing and see it a hundred different ways. While I can't help but think that at times we really do operate on some type of unavoidable, instinctual, social plane I love that we are individuals and can see the same thing differently...isn't that being creative and why we are all here? That being said it's a bummer when you offend somebody especially when it was completely unintentional I'm glad you came over, read my post and left your thoughts.

    The...Way: I'm really happy that my post got you thinking and evaluating what is important to you and why you have joined this community. I think that's important, it is for me anyway, to keep my motives and priorities very straight.

    Again this has been very mentally stimulating, Yay to communities

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  13. This is an excellent article. I find myself feeling extremely excited when people other than my mom or sister view my blog. I also love what I have learned from the sewing community even though my blog isn't all about sewing. My daughter, too, has found many blogs to help her explore her need to create. Thank you for this great article.

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  14. A really thoughtful post – I’m glad that I read it. Sewing should be the one activity that we can rely on to foster ‘nurture’ – sewing and mending is an act of caring.

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  15. Despite the small amount of negative reaction to Tilly's blog post, it's clearly generated a huge amount of thought and further blogging in the community. That can only be a good thing, in my opinion. This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the topic. You're right that it's easy to become obsessed! I think my saving grace is that blogging satisfies so many genuine interests in my life - not only making things, but writing and indulging in a spot of silly humour. I love to write and can write fairly fast, so the blogging doesn't become too onerous for me. I know as a human being I am strongly motivated by a sense of community and my friends are deeply important to me, so the blogging community is just an extension of that for me. Thank you for this wonderful post - and thanks to Debi for directing me over here.

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  16. Thanks for this great article - it was a very thought provoking read over my morning coffee!
    This is certainly something that has crossed my mind recently, and like most I was very interested in the reaction caused by Tilly's post.

    Since joining the online sewing community nearly a year ago, I have been bowled over by the generous and friendly nature of most people I have come across. I suppose the reason I continue to blog, other than for the sheer enjoyment of it, is for that very community. Although it can be easy to fall prey to vanity; I simply remind myself of how accepting everyone has been since I started. I have made many many online friends, met many in the real world and in doing so have come across opportunities that I could never have dreamed of had I not put myself out there, for the world to see.

    Running a blog is great fun, but can also be a tad frightening - you’re projecting yourself out to the world to view and comment on, something which will undoubtedly provide a few knocks. So far in my blogging I have only received one negative comment (see you’re a lovely bunch!) and although I didn't forget it in a hurry, I didn't let it get me down, because all the others were darling.

    I love the sewing blogging world, and I suppose hierarchy will always take part in any community, but like you so wisely say, do what you enjoy doing, and if it makes you and a few other happy, its all worth it :)

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  17. Thank you, this is a very interesting post! I went through some of this a while back, starting to feel stressed about not making more out of my blog. I felt I didn't post eunough, didn't do enough, didn't comment eunough, just wasn't eunough.
    I took a step back, and remembered why I started blogging. Now I blog when I have something to blog about and I mix all sorts of topics, reflecting all the things I do and the many things that interests me.
    One thing that really helped was to stop apologizing to my readers (and thereby to myself) when failing to post for a while. Starting a post with "Sorry I haven't posted..." for me set the tone that I had done something wrong in not posting sooner, when the reason was either lack of material or lack of time. By not making it a wrong to post irregularly I removed all of my posting-stress. I know this means my blog will never be "big" but that's ok, I don't blog for commercial reasons. I'm thrilled about all the lovely people who follow me and leave comments (who doesn't like comments? =) ) but I try to keep the blog mine. I'm sure I still fit in somewhere in the social construction of the sewing/vintage community, and I'm happy to be a part of it! I've just come to consider my role in it an effect of the things I anyway wanted to do, instead of a goal my actions aims to achieve. Sorry, tripping a bit on my english here, hope this makes sense...

    So thank you! I've been thinking about this, but haven't been able to articulate it half as well as you did!

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  18. Molly has put my initial thoughts on blogging very neatly "Running a blog is great fun, but can also be a tad frightening - you’re projecting yourself out to the world to view and comment on, something which will undoubtedly provide a few knocks" I'm dreading the first knock! I'm also trying to stay focused on why I started to blog - a way to document what I do, my thoughts and plans and to share a little with the community that has given me so much!

    I've loved reading your post, I think I may have been on the precipice of obesessive stat checking, but you're thoughts have made me stop and think about why I blog. I'm satisfied to be in the 'nameless' area as being part of this community is truly amazing.

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  19. This is one of the best sewing posts I have read. I have tried to remind myself of why I started a blog ( initially just to have my own blogroll to keep up with my favourite blogs ! ) I have sometimes wondered about how much pressure the popular blogs have - to keep on sewing and coming up with topics so frequently - I am glad I don`t have that pressure and am happy to remain on the very outer of the sewing fringes ( actually my blog resides in the arctic circle ! ) although when I get a comment it does provide a warm inner glow and makes feel a part of this community ( the other reason I started a blog ) Anyway I love sewing and always have been and will do this whenever I can get a chance and this will keep on happening regardless of any blog.

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  20. Brilliant post - thanks for putting your reflections out there for us to read and think about!

    I specially liked your thoughts on the vanity trap - something I've been falling inti a bit lately, thinking before I post anything 'is this what people want to read? Will they find it interesting? How many people have visited?' Instead of doing what I started my blog for, which was to keep a record of my projects and what I learn, and have a space for friends and family who don't live near me to keep up with what I'm doing and what I'm passionate about. As a result of which, I wasn't overly happy with my blog anymore - it changed a bit for me from something I was doing for myself to something I was doing to present a view of myself to the world. So, thank you for your post - it's helped me identify what was bothering me about my blogging, and now it's time to go back to writing what I want to write, as I want tto write it! :-)

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  21. Sarah huggiedoeshomespun@wordpress.comNovember 25, 2011 at 4:53 AM

    Great thought provoking post! I'm also a recent blogger and still finding my way, settling into a niche. I quickly realised I was never going to enjoy posting serious blogs with hints and tips (anyway I'm a crafting novice!). I enjoy blogging most when being irreverent and keeping the sense of fun about what we do. I was struck dumb by the post about Tilly's post. It was all a bit patronising for me "Bless, the new sewists and their child-like enthusiasm, run along now as us experienced sewists have some REAL sewing to do". Practice and experience are key but who can deny that which is known as RAW TALENT (I am not saying I have this btw). And guess what. It's not a competition.It's making stuff as we enjoy it.

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  22. What an interesting, and articulate discussion.

    I had no strong personal reaction to Tilly's post, partly because my own blog isn't a sewing blog as such. I mean, I talk about sewing on there, but I'm not a sewing blogger, really. But I did have a similar thought about the hierarchy within the sewing community, and your breakdown was really interesting. The wording of the post, and the subsequent reactions to it, really really reminded me of Mean Girls. Not to compare Tilly to Regina George, but when a popular blogger articulates 'rules' for what makes a 'good' blog, well that does have an affect. We only wear jeans one day a week! Friday is the day we wear pink! It does create a sense of exclusion, however well-intentioned it might have been. Especially as a lot of the readers probably have blogs that don't 'make the grade' (which is a phrase I did take exception to, I have to say)

    Still, I do enjoy a lively debate, and appreciate the opportunity for one. So that's a good thing :)

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  23. Amelia.. Girl, did you read my mind... I felt exactly like you until my boyfriend told me to stop because I was turning blogzilla... Fantastic post. I'm going to follow you on your adventure and keep you as my grounds keeper... Together , and with other very talented sewist we will inspire because we are happy not because we advertise it. Xx

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  24. This is such a thoughtful, well-written post, and I can definitely relate. I only discovered the whole debate that sparked your musings this morning... look at me, behind the times. Thank you for getting back to basics, and vocalizing much of what I've been pondering lately.

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  25. Great post. It articulates so well the social hierarchy that I too have observed in Blogland, One which reminds me so much of the same behavior that started in high school and continues in some form in any women’s group. I know where I fall in that hierarchy and how to play the game if I wanted to change it. I read sewing blogs to be inspired or learn something new. The chances of that increases with the number and breadth of content of the blogs I read. I blog to record my struggles and growth in a hobby I love, and share it with family and friends. If it is of interest to others, that is an added benefit!

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  26. Wow, what a thought-provoking and honest post! I thank you for taking the time to soul-search and share your feelings for others to consider. I am so pleased that, having got caught up with the statistics of visitors and followers, you were able to rediscover what drew you to blogging in the first place and leave that obsession behind.

    I have to say that I would rather have 10 followers who regularly read my blog because they genuinely found my work and words inspirational and thought-provoking, than 1000 followers who were doing so predomninantly in the hope that I would 'follow them back'!

    Having said that, if you are putting your heart and passion into the projects and topics you blog about, it would take a stronger person than I to honestly not give a crap if nobody read it! Afterall, we have chosen to blog rather than write a personal diary because we do want social interaction, both incoming and outgoing. It's natural to care if anyone is listening or not when you feel strongly about what it is you are broadcasting.

    Also, and I really hope this doesn't come across in anyway patronising, but your blog is relatively very new. Your unique outlook and work IS very much indispensible to the community, but takes time for people to 'discover' a blog.

    I wish you all the best and all the happiness in your blogging adventures. Happy sewing and harping

    Zoe xxx

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  27. This may be the most honest article about the blogosphere, I've ever read. What I like even more is, how you let your walls down and judged yourself fairly, without being afraid of the truth. I myself started a blog about 2-3 months ago and I am going through the exact same thing!

    I believe, as long as we create content instead of sharing the already generated ones and, create value by being unique and ourselves; everybody will get their slice of the popularity/followers pie.

    And the online hierarchy? Who cares? Some popular ones are popular because they truly have great content and they inspire. Rather than focusing on the rest, I'd stick to my own struggles and learn how to properly sew a dress and use the other blogs to find inspiration and information.

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