No Blog is an Island

Two weeks ago, I met Rian, a blogger I’ve been following for 5 months even though she was a total stranger. Meeting her was an agreeable destination in my journey to “get” what blogging is all about.
.
Blogs are like millions of islands floating on the ocean. Some are small, others are huge. I started blogging on my tiny bit of island- centered on my own blog. Of course, I drew inspiration from a few famous bloggers like Garance Doré (if her blog was an island, it would be French Polynesia- very popular, French and full of gorgeous things to look at) or friends like Andrew (his blog would be more like the island from Lost- you never know what tricks it’s going to play on you). However, I didn’t care that much about strangers’ blogs. I didn’t realise that my little island could float and connect with the others to form a community (check John Donne’s poem No Man is an Island if you like the analogy).
.
I expected that only my friends and family would read my scribbles. Everytime I published a new post, I thought about the people who might read it and waited impatiently for their reaction. Disappointingly, while I could see on my stats that a significant number of people read me regularly, very few of them ever left a comment. Publishing a new blog post was like hanging a new artwork in the subway- people saw it but didn’t stop to share their impressions. I failed to realise there was a buzzing community of bloggers commenting, liking, reposting and reading each other’s blogs. The result of that approach was ignorance, and loneliness.
.
I was enjoying myself though. I had finally started writing regularly and was always on the lookout for a good topic or a funny story. Blogging had made me more interested and more interesting. So I continued, despite my disappointment at the minuscule reaction from my friends and family.
.
After a year of insulated blogging, I finally started reading other blogs, looking for the ones that had a similar style to mine, and commenting on what I liked. I was amazed to realise that so many people were doing the same thing as me, with the same hopes. Some of them came to check my blog and left a comment or started following me. The more I read and commented on other blogs, the more comments notifications arrived in my inbox. Finally! I had readers who took the time to drop me a line!
.
At that time of frantic blog reading and commenting, I discovered Freshly Pressed (WordPress selects 19 blogposts everyday which end up on the blogging platform’s front page for 24 hours). Being Freshly Pressed means thousands of new visitors, hundreds of comments and dozens of new followers (Every blogger’s dream, right?). I haven’t been Freshly Pressed myself yet but I’ve discovered many worthy blogs on that page. That’s where I found Rian’s blog Truth and Cake. It was bloglove at first click. Her header photo was classy yet original and colourful. The design of her blog was simple and easy to read, letting her personality shine in details like her signature at the end of each posts. I clicked “follow” immediatly.
.
Every time I got a notification for one of her new posts, I was astonished to read about something that had been on my mind. If you don’t know her blog yet, I would suggest this post about change and finding your own waythis one about failure, and this one about marriage. I felt a rush of positive energy after reading each of her posts. A bit as though someone had given me the explanation to solve a big puzzle that I’d been struggling to solve for ages.
.
I’m not the only one relating to Rian’s stories: she gets between 50 and 250 comments for each of her posts. Some of her followers, through their witty, kind or thoughtful comments, intrigued me. I checked them out and wonderful blogging friendships ensued (Hello Claire, Jessica, Laura, Tobi, LisaAmber, Little MissJune, Whitt, and Susie whose great blog I also found on Freshly Pressed. And all the ones I forgot!)
.
When I booked my flight for two weeks of holiday in Vancouver, where Rian lives, I wondered whether I should contact her. I felt like I already knew her through our exchanges of comments. However, her blog is so popular that I didn’t want to come accross as a mad groupie- I didn’t dare send her an email. Once I got there, I hoped I might bump into her by chance. Finally, I left a comment on her latest post and mentioned being there. She replied immediately and offered to meet for coffee.
.
I felt like I was about to go on a date with someone I had met through online dating. I selected a nice yet not overdressed outfit, put make-up on and wondered how we would like each other and whether we’d be able to talk for an hour.
.
I felt pretty nervous but started to relax when I saw that Rian was waiting for me with a smile and a box of chocolate. She looked pretty, a mix between Reese Witherspoon for the smile and Cameron Diaz for the bleached blue eyes. She was decidedly American in the best of ways: generous, open-minded, friendly.
.
We started talking about blogging, life in Vancouver, and the direction we’d like our lives to take. She explained how the exposure she had gained through Freshly Pressed had overwhelmed and even scared  her at first:
.
“I was wondering who all those people reading and commenting my blog were. I had started blogging thinking my friends and family would read my blog, I hadn’t imagined that so many strangers would stop by. But then I started checking out some blogs and getting to know my readers through the comments. I can’t possibly follow back everyone or even reply to each comment. But now I’m glad to have such an amazing community growing around my blog. I was really inspired by Jules (from GoJulesGo, another rockstar in the blogging world, who got Freshly Pressed 3 times), for example, the way she replies to every comment so kindly and also takes the time to check other people’s blogs…”
.
We talked for about 2 hours and it went so fast that we decided to meet again for a double date with her husband and my fiancé, Nick. We spent another fun evening, not even mentioning our blogs that much. At the end of the dinner, I had made 2 new friends in the real world.
.
So if you blog, don’t forget to leave your island more often to visit other blogs. Find the ones you like, and comment on them. Ignoring the blogosphere like I did at first means missing out on engaged discussions, ideas,  inspiration… and most of all, friendship. Some friendships might jump out of the virtual zone, like with Rian, others develop online only. They’re both valuable and turn the millions of lonely blogging islands into lively communities.
About these ads

50 thoughts on “No Blog is an Island

  1. Pingback: The Risks Of Writing « Trying to be Conscious

  2. Thank you for sharing a personal story! It’s very interesting to read about other persons struggles with gaining a blog community and how they overcome obstacles. I really enjoyed the part where you met Rian. It’s amazing how blogging let you make new friends, both in cyberspace and IRL. It’s so engaging reading about others. I wrote about it last week in a post called “Real People’s Stories Make Other People Care”: http://communicateskills.com/2012/09/25/real-peoples-stories/ Read it if you like.

    About commenting and liking, sometimes the like buttons and commenting boxes are a bit hidden on some blogs. It’s been times when I really wanted to hit a like button or comment on something but couldn’t find the buttons (either not at all or not easy accessible). Hope you don’t mind this feedback, but on your blog it was a bit hard to find it as well. When you have to scroll up to the top again after reading the story and click on the comment button and then scroll down again through other comments before finding the like button and commenting box, I guess some people just give up. We are so used that everything online should be easy and quick accessible so we don’t always want to go the extra mile if we are stressed or busy.

    Thanks again and my compliments to you for writing an excellent blog!
    /Anna

    • Thank you for your feedback, Anna. I really appreciate you took the time to let me know about the comments. I tried to change the settings to move the comments box to the end of the post rather than the end of the comments but it seems I have limited flexibility (and skills!) with WordPress- I wasn’t able to change it.

      I’ll make sure to check out your post; I recently started following you after reading your interview of the girl behind a thousand single days.

  3. Hi Cecile! What a lovely post! I’m so glad that you’re starting to feel connected to the blog-world – and I’m so jealous that you met Rian! It sounds like you had a great time. And I agree with other commenters, that’s a gorgeous picture of the two of you!

  4. Speaking as a new blogger, this is encouraging! Like my parents told me when I was a kid “you have to send letters to get letters.” (They also told me that by the time I started getting mail, I wouldn’t want it – how right they were.)

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience! I had no idea that anyone did more than write on blogs, until very recently. It is heart-warming to know that friendships can form through space and time, even when the only way we are connecting is through our words on paper (or rather, on the web). I look forward to connecting with more like-minded people, and perhaps someday we can share words over coffee, too! :)

    • Thank you Alaina. I’d love to share coffee with you and get some insights about running… Since my holidays, I haven’t got back to the forest for a run and I start to feel the need! Maybe I should read more of your blog to find some motivation ;-)

  6. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: My Epiphany about Blogging « Second Chances

  7. Definitely true! Il faut s’ouvrir et s’intéresser aux autres pour qu’ils aient peut-être envie de s’intéresser à nous aussi! ;-) et les idées fusent quand on a l’inspiration des autres!
    Happy writing! and Cheers to more real life blogging encounters!
    Jul’

  8. Ah, Cécile, it’s so cool to read it from your perspective! And I have to laugh because I remember thinking you didn’t have a stitch of makeup on and that your skin was flawless. I was totally jealous and feeling overly made up in comparison. I’m telling you, it really is like going on a blind date! I am so glad we had a chance (two chances) to hang out and I look forward to our next international meet up. It’s great to hear (from both you and the comments here) that we all sort of started out in the same place and had to learn to navigate the blogging waters. It was daunting at first, but opening up and sharing ideas with all of these passionate, interesting, funny people has definitely changed my life for the better. Thanks for being so open and sharing your thoughts! “See” ya soon, mon amie! xx

    • You thought I didn’t have make-up on? Man I wish my face looked like that when I wake-up in the morning :-)

      I use Benefit Porefesional: http://www.benefitcosmetics.com/product/view/the-porefessional
      It’s not foundation, you just need a tiny bit of this magic cream to make your skin all smooth and your pores disappear. It’s a bit pricey but the tube lasts for ages and it’s totally worth it.

      Then I use a bit of powder from the same brand: http://www.benefitcosmetics.com/product/view/hello-flawless
      I love it because it greets me with the message “Hello Flawless” every time I use it :-)

      Thank YOU Rian for taking the time to meet me twice and giving me chocolate and tons of awesome recommendations on things to do in Vancouver.

      A bientôt mon amie.
      xxx

  9. I was just thinking about you and had wondered if I missed one of your posts!
    Thank you so much for the shout out! You made my day!
    I too have met many wonderful virtual friends and hope some day to meet some of them in person. I am glad that you were able to meet up. I think there is something more real about getting to know a person through comments. I think I reveal more about myself!
    I will check out some of these blogs that you mentioned… :)

    Thanks again!

    • I was on holidays the past 3 weeks and haven’t done much blogging. It was good to have a break but now I have to catch up on a lot of blog reading, including yours!

      You’re very welcome Susie. I’m impressed by your blog and the time you take to reply to every comment and check out and comment other blogs as well :-)

      I agree with you, there is something special about getting to know someone through comments. I also reveal quite a lot more than I could over a cup of coffee. That’s why it felt so right to meet Rian in person, because we both felt like we already knew each other.

  10. I would love to meet up with some of my blogging friends! I a super jealous that your and Rian got to hang out in real life! So cool!

    I can relate to you in that I was hoping for more support from friends and family and did not get it. Now, the majority of my blog followers are fellow bloggers and I’m OK with that. Thanks for mentioning my blog as one of your nearest and dearest! I feel the same about you :) We are kindred spirits, for sure!

    • It’s strange how non-bloggers just aren’t that into reading blogs, isn’t it? I don’t blame them, as I didn’t really get how blogging worked and how important it is to have an ongoing conversation until I started blogging. But it was a bit of an adjustment to have mostly “strangers” reading my blog. I was like, where are all my peeps? Of course, now I have blogging “peeps” like you, Tobi :)

      • There are so many reasons why our friends and family don’t comment often- it could be a theme for a whole post!

        First of all, they’re not writers and as much as they enjoy reading our thoughts, they just don’t know what to write. A friend of mine told me recently how she read all my posts but was too intimidated to ever leave a comment.

        Also, they don’t know how much it means to us to get a comment. The care we take in crafting and editing our posts. It seems all easy to them. I often leave a comment just because I can see a blogger took time and effort to create a post. Only because I know how it feels like though.

        And then there’s the lack of time. We, bloggers, do take the time because we know it’s also an investment for our own blog in a way. But non bloggers don’t have anything to promote.

        In the end, the most important is that they read our blogs. And I know that my best friends and closest family members do :-)

        And yes Tobi, I really enjoy knowing what you (and your dog!) are up to :-)

      • It’a a nice feeling knowing that I have ‘peeps’ reading my blog, even though they are new peeps. It’s odd to say, but I don’t think that any of my bestest of friends even read my blog! Crazy, right? But I didn’t read blogs before I started blogging either. Interesting….

  11. I can’t wait to jump off my island!!! It’s taking time, but your invitation to the Zürich Bloggers group is a big step forward! Hope to meet you soon! Lovely post …. Thanks Cécile! :)

  12. Oh where to start, where to start?! I was so excited when I read [over on Rian’s blog] that you two had met and clicked so well in real life. You are both lovely. The fact that my name came up is beyond flattering – thank you very much for making my day!

    Like others here have said, I love the title/metaphor of “no blog is an island”! The community aspect of blogging is something I did NOT anticipate, but it’s turned out to be the most rewarding/appealing part, and I hear this time and time again from other bloggers.

    After a year and a half of blogging, I’ve met/talked to a ton of bloggers, and it’s always been a positive experience. In fact, I’m meeting Rachel from rachels-table.com on Sunday! So I encourage people to get out there and comment and interact! Please! Don’t be intimidated or think of each other as strangers! We’re all in this together! *cue sappy music*

    • You’re very welcome Jules, it was a pleasure to talk about you with Rian :-) You should become a motivational speaker for WordPress, encouraging people to interact with each other. We totally need someone as enthusiastic as you to show us how to connect with the blogosphere, especially for the new bloggers.

  13. This is a very nice post, really like it! :) I had more or less the same experience as you: entering progressively the “blogosphere”! But now, in addition to writing on my blog, I really enjoy looking at my favorite blogs and feel happy when something new is posted…
    BTW we definitely have to meet in Zürich: we live in the same city, would be a pity not to do it, don’t you think? :)

    • Thank you Laurène. I also look forward to read what the bloggers I follow are up to. I can’t read every single post but I really like to keep in touch as much as I can.

      We should definitely meet! Have you met Aurélie and Lisa yet? They also have a blog in French and live in Zurich. All of us French bloggesses should gather for a drink soon :-)

      • Hello Cécile!

        I already met Lisa. We had a drink together, it was really nice. I don’t know Aurélie yet but we were in touch by mail. We should organise a drink all together: can you send me your email adress at laurene@carnetdescapades.com? I will create a doodle to find a date :)

  14. Dear C,
    Awwww!!! I LOVE this story!!!
    Seriously awesome that you got together with Rian!
    And thanks so much for the mention☼
    Love, Lis
    xoxoox
    p.s. I love that picture of you girls. Two gorgeous ladies♥

  15. Why hello there! :) I enjoyed your simile “blogs are like millions of islands…” I very much thought I started this blog to be a personal journal chronicling my journey to find happiness, possibly even a private journal. I made the decision to make it public on a whim and I’m SO glad! I’ve discovered so many new people, stories, cultures, and ideas through WordPress. It has been life-changing.

    But among all of these islands, I still find yours to be one of my favorite destinations.

    • Thank you Amber, I love the positive energy oozing from your island :-)

      Alas, this wonderful simile was not all from me. I had started with the theme “A blogger is not an island” but didn’t exploit the imagery fully. My friend Andrew suggested that “blogs are like island floating on the ocean and they can connect to each others to form a community”.

  16. Beautiful post! I’m so glad our islands found each other. Commenting on other blogs is the best way to get to know people out in this ocean. We could lurk in the shadows of palm trees or join the luau. I choose the luau.

    • You sure choose the Luau Jessica :-). And you were definitely one of my first blogging friends. I think both our blogs have grown and evolved recently; I love your new design.

  17. I like your thoughts about blogs and islands. There’s a lot of truth in that. I didn’t know about the WordPress “Freshly pressed” it sounds great and I sure will check it out.

    • Which platform are you using for your blog, Leah? Freshly Pressed is only relevant for WordPress users but I think every blogging platform offers something similar to Freshly Pressed.

  18. How right you are! I used to “lurk” – visiting blogs, reading, enjoying but never (or rarely) commenting. Now I try to comment every time I visit. I haven’t been “following” many blogs, but am starting to do so a little more. I don’t always have time to visit all my favourite blogs, but I do try to sail by everybody’s island at least once a fortnight…

    I don’t know if I’d’ve been brave enough to meet another blogger – but isn’t it great when a serendipidous meeting can lead to RL friends? Carry on blogging – I only found you a month or so ago, and I enjoy your writing.

    • Thank you and nice to have you here :-). I also lurked for a long time. I think the main reason people don’t leave comments is because they just don’t know what to say. Especially, ironically, when they really enjoyed a piece of writing and can’t think of anything else to write than: “Great job!” or “I love this post”.

      In the end, I realised it was better to leave this kind of comment than nothing. (I certainly enjoy that type of comments on my blog, who doesn’t?!) At least, the writer will know someone enjoyed his post, and sometimes, inspiration strikes at the last minute and you end up leaving a thoughtful comment.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s