Seven hundred and forty-six

Afraid of blogging?

I guess my new blog day is turning into Fridays.  I’ve actually been avoiding blogging a little over the past few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t have anything say (all my friends and family can tell you I always have a lot to say).  And it’s definitely not because I don’t want to write – I love to play with words.  It’s that I’ve become increasingly aware of the impact of those words written on the internet and how they can affect other people.

When I started blogging a few years ago I figured no one would read what I had to say besides my mother and best friends.  I wrote how I felt and how I would have talked to them in person had we been in the same room.  I didn’t really think of other people I didn’t know reading my posts.  I started doing “the project” and slowly gained followers, but most of the topics were fun and people enjoyed my silliness.  I found out during good deed and poverty months that my opinions can really hurt people and that I should make sure I watch how I phrase things and what I choose to write about.  However, I kept going: in the name of art, truth, and being true to myself.

Recently, though, I’ve been aware of many bloggers writing sometimes seemingly harmless things and other people taking offence.  There was a vegan blogger who wrote about how she had to stop being vegan because her body needed her to.  That blogger got death threats from vegan activists, and ultimately she shut down her blog for the safety of her family.  She was just saying her opinion about her own journey and talking about the food she eats.

I just read a different blogger’s post about being depressed and angry at the person who wrote 21 Habits of Happy People.  She argues that it’s not that easy and those “happy people” are essentially being bullies.  (It’s a very interesting argument and worth a read).  She had so many responses from “happy people” telling her she is wrong that she wrote a follow-up post, and a subsequent 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

In many of these instances people are just writing how they feel, from the vegan blogger, to the depressed woman, to the happy people.  Yet, they are hurting other people.  I’m so very aware right now that what I write might be upsetting someone else, even if I’m just writing my own story, that it almost stops me from writing anything.  I’m so stuck between the need to share, the idea that more shades brings a more complete picture, and not wanting to indirectly hurt someone.  It’s almost making me rethink blogging as a whole.

I’m even more aware of the power of words and images on the internet by the stream of young people committing suicide after being cyber-bullied.  In these instances the people doing the bullying were intentionally trying to hurt the other person, unlike what I was talking about previously.  These sad cases (which disturb me to the core, considering my experience with being bullied) are an extreme, but they do highlight a major problem with the way we communicate on the internet.  In our age of putting everything online, we are forgetting that those words, images and videos are accessible everywhere and sometimes spread like wildfire, and can be very hurtful.

As a journalist, though, I also think about where we draw the line.  Should happy people stop saying the reasons they are happy?  Should vegan bloggers not be able to say that they think their body wants a bit of animal?  Should depressed people not be able to say their side of the story too?  Being able to publish how we feel is an amazing right we have, but it’s also a responsibility.  Now that day-to-day life is posted online, there needs to be an internet code of conduct written.  Don’t cyber bully, don’t be mean to someone, don’t discount their opinion straight away because it’s not your own.  But, yes, let’s have open discussions about topics like veganism, depression, bullying.  Because that is both the beauty and the curse of blogging.  But let’s also not forget that what we say can directly affect other people, sometimes hurt them.

As I write this, I am still struggling with whether I can keep putting myself out here on the blogosphere.  I don’t want to be a bully, directly or indirectly.  But I also want to share my story with the world.  How do I reconcile this in myself to continue to blog?  I’m not sure.

Four hundred and twenty-two

Date Month

I’m writing about the dreaded date month right now – the month that had me so exhausted by the end I almost fell asleep on an escalator going to see a movie, with my date holding me up.  It’s interesting reliving those dates now that I’m in a relationship and looking back on them.  I’m trying to put myself in the place I was in then and that was a crazy place!  It’s also hard to pick which dates I want to go into more detail about for the book.  They were all unique and had a great story to them, I could almost write a whole book just about that.

When I get frustrated I take a break and do something different to refresh my brain for more writing.  Unfortunately (and sometimes fortunately), my favourite couple from Caledonia told me all about the virtues of Netflix, which has turned into countless hours of watching full seasons of whichever television show I’m in the mood for at the time.  On the plus side, though, as I don’t have cable, I always felt out of the loop when people talked about Dexter or Breaking Bad.  Now I can join in on the conversation.

Recently, I’ve tried to watch educational films or shows to keep my brain working – there are some great documentaries – and came across a series of TEDTalks about Love and Relationships.  I’m researching and being entertained!  They were all fascinating, but one in particular really fits into the topic I’m writing about this month, so I thought I would share with you all what I learned.  This is a talk by anthropologist Helen Fisher about love’s evolution, biochemical foundation, and social importance.  Here are a few points and opinions I found interesting:

TEDTalk – Helen Fisher: Why We Love and Cheat

  • Being madly in love is the same part of brain that reacts as when someone is high on cocaine
  • We have three brain systems: sex drive (to look for love), romantic love (to focus your love), attachment (to be able to tolerate this person long enough to raise a child together).
  • There has been a rise of romantic love: 91% of American women and 86% of men will not marry someone that has every single quality they are looking for in a partner if they’re not “in love” with them.  (No wonder dating in the city is so hard!)
  • Casual sex is not always so casual.  With orgasm you get a spike in dopamine.  Dopamine is associated with romantic love, then you get a real rush of oxytocin associated with attachment.  There is a sense of cosmic union after you make love.
  • Helen Fisher believes we’re not meant to be happy, we’re meant to reproduce, so the happiness we do find we make ourselves.
  • Why do you fall in love with one person rather than another?  Timing; proximity; mystery – you fall in love with somebody who’s somewhat mysterious in part because mystery elevates dopamine in the brain, which could push you over that threshold to fall in love; he/she fits in to your “love map” – an unconscious list of traits you build in childhood as you grow up; you gravitate to complimentary brain systems.

I find the whole concept of how are brains and emotions interact fascinating.  Is love something magical, or is it just a series of brain systems and chemical reactions?  Or maybe it can be both?  How do we find love in the city if there are always a hundred other choices out there that will create different reactions in our brain?  It’s probably why many of my friends have a hard time finding a partner.

TMI Award

I want to start off with a short story.  During my vegan month I posted a list of vegan travel websites and blogs that I found useful, with a short commentary on what to expect from each site.  For one of the sites, I made a comment about how that particular site had great information, but to beware that it was hard to navigate and ugly to look at.  The owner of the site sent me a very long e-mail saying, among many other comments:

I’ve never seen a blogger criticize the layout of other people’s sites. That goes outside the scope of what bloggers do…
Bloggers should promote positivity!

She goes on to say “I feel really hurt that you would post such a negative comment about my site when you do not even know me” and “bloggers usually just post comments about helpful info or their own experiences.”

I agree bloggers promoting positivity should be valued, but I also agree that being honest is just as valuable.  Constructive criticism and  talking about topics openly and critically are important.  I’ve never been one to shy away from the truth of how I feel, and people can either love me or hate me for that.  My blog is also structured to be read by everyone – not just vegans or bloggers, and I was offering advice of other useful websites to use to find out more information, with the pros and cons of the sites.  (We left the whole exchange on good terms after a couple of e-mails, by the way)

Before I get into my concerns with the TMI Award, I want to say specifically to Pink that I am not ungrateful for your mention of me –  I just think it’s important that these things are not just accepted as what is in the “scope of what bloggers do” and are critically discussed.  Pink Ninjabi you are an amazing, supportive person and blogger.  Your comments (among a couple of other people, including the eloquent Barry Sullivan) have helped push me forward while writing this book and I appreciate it more than you know.

For those of you not in the blogging community, the TMI award is passed around between bloggers to honour those “blogs that discuss everything in detail and do it well. These bloggers aren’t afraid to discuss their most awkward, embarrassing and intimate experiences with honesty, humor and little to no filter.”  There are rules to it: thank and link back to the person who nominated you, share an awkward, embarrassing and intimate story in 250 words or less, and present the award to 5-10 other deserving blog.  It’s a way for bloggers to support each other within the community and direct readers to other blogs of interest.  I think this is great and important to help each other along.  And I am proof that I wouldn’t have been able to get through my year and the writing I’m doing now without the encouragement of my readers.

I am a little worried, though, that the TMI Award has become more of a blogger spam than a way to support each other.   It’s been around the blogging community so often, I think everyone has received it and I’m not sure it has value anymore.  I’m sorry to all you bloggers out there who like this award – I do sincerely love that you are brave and can really share your lives with the world.  And I do think promoting other like-minded blogs to your own is important.  But I’m not one for passing on things “just because” or for not sharing my honest opinion.  I worry that it excludes those readers who are not bloggers themselves, and makes blogging less inclusive and more elitist.  Perhaps it’s time for a revamp of the TMI chain?

I totally agree with promoting others bloggers, though, so below are a few blogs that I find interesting, exciting, informative, or just fun, and I recommend reading.  Those of you I’ve mentioned, continue the TMI Award trend or don’t – it’s up to you.  Those of you bloggers reading this, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get in trouble with you.  I’d love to hear your opinion and have an open discussion about the TMI Award system.  I am always up for hearing others people’s opinions and adapting my own.  Sometimes we all only see one side of the story and more knowledge helps open us up to see the other side of the coin.

The Traveling Waitress – love her!  So much information on traveling as a woman.  And she blogs too.

Personally Speaking – a personal blog by Marlo Van Mackelberg, who’s been through a lot and has come out on top.  She’s also a beautiful writer who openly shares her heart and often brings a tear to my eye.

What’s Past is Prologue – my favourite photography blog, sharing his life in New York City through photographs.

Oh She Glows – I can’t go without a mention of my favourite vegan food blog.  I know I mention this site way too often, but I just love the food, and I love that she shares her ups and downs of cooking and life along with it.

One Tiny Starfish – I also can’t go without mentioning my cousin’s blog.  She is the first person I knew personally to take blogging seriously, and now devotes her life to helping people in need around the world.  I remember my mother often telling me to read my cousin’s blog because she shared so many personal details about her life.  I always said I’d never be that open online, and look where I am now.  Thanks Nik.

What happens next?

Wednesday February 29th, 6:33 PM.  My heart started racing and I couldn’t stop starring at the screen.  I was frozen for a second, then I started to laugh, walk around the room, talk to myself.  If anyone was filming me, they would think I had gone crazy – really lost my mind.  It had been three hours since I posted my 366th post and I had gone for a walk around Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world and where I was visiting my boyfriend, who is working there for the month.  I came back with cheap bubbly and rosy cheeks from the cold and thought I’d pour myself a little glass and check my e-mail while I was waiting for my bf to be done work.  But when I turned on my e-mail it was full of messages from WordPress (the blogging site I use, for those who don’t know) saying that I had comments and “likes” from my final post – lots and lots of them.  I check my stats on the blog: 3,411 views in three hours!!!!  And that’s when I went crazy…

As I put up my last post earlier that day, I was a little disappointed I hadn’t reached 1,000 views in one day.  I have a regular group of readers, but never did hit the thousand mark.  Now I was over 3,000!  And it kept going up.  Six thousand views by 8:00. 11,185 by the end of the day.  Over 35,000 two days later.  I am still in shock – although I’ve stopped talking to myself, spontaneously laughing out loud for no apparent reason, and speaking so fast my mouth can’t keep up with my brain!

And the comments just kept coming.  So many encouraging, lovely messages from other writers and bloggers who enjoyed what I did.  I was so proud of myself for accomplishing my goal and getting through the 366 days of ups and downs, documenting it all the way through.  Now there were all these other people who I’d never met proud of me too!  Thank you so much to everyone out there who have inspired me to keep going.  I tried to respond personally to each of you, but it got a little much for a bit there (especially since I was also trying to enjoy my mini-break in Montreal).  I appreciate the comments and support so much.

I never really understood the power of the “Freshly Pressed” section of the WordPress homepage (for the non-bloggers out there, it’s the “best of” blogs from the day) until a few days ago.  It was the fact that my 366th post was featured in the Freshly Pressed section that caused all the other bloggers to see it, the chain reaction and all the views and comments.  For those of you who enjoy reading blogs, it’s a great way to check out some of the best reads of the moment.  (I made a screen shot of my post next to the “Freshly Pressed” sign because I was so excited)

The point of me writing all this (besides because I feel I need to write it and say it out loud to believe it’s real), is to thank you for all your support and to say that I am now going to have to keep blogging.  The momentum is pushing me forward and giving me all sorts of ideas of new projects to do and new adventures to take.  For now, though, I have to write this book…

To all of you:

 

Three hundred and forty-five

The blogosphere

One of the most fascinating things about this year has been how each month has connected with a different audience.  Of course there are those readers who have stuck with me through the more and less exciting times (thanks mom).  However, there are those people who join in for a month at a time.  There were the extreme couponers who gave me advice and offered support in March.  There were the voyeurs who enjoyed reading about my many attempts to push myself out of my comfort zone (that porn cinema still haunts me) in August or my crazy date a day in May.  There were the travellers who followed along in September and the chefs and foodies in June and October.  Finally there are the photographers that are joining the discussion this month.

What’s really interesting is how the blogosphere has helped this interaction along.  I’m only now realizing the important role of connecting between blogs plays.  I wish I had done more of this connecting during my earlier months.

I’ve had a few fellow photographer bloggers follow my blog over the past few days.  Their sites and photos are beautiful, so I thought I should give a little shout out to them.  If you’re interested in seeing some great photos, check these blogs out:

DailyPropoganda.com – photography by Kurt Wahlgren

Skedazzles.com – Travel/Photography/Design/Inspiration by Susan K. Edel (and she has one of my favourite quotes on her blog: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” -Eleanor Roosevelt)

HappyMomemts365.wordpress.com – a year-long project by Daphne posting a happy moment every day, with some great photography as well

PhotoLord.com – Photography by photojournalist Matthew George.

ShootAbout.com – photography blog by Arley Seth

ClaireJAtkinson.wordpress.com – photography blog by Claire Atkinson based in Manchester, England

Mathotoole.wordpress.com – photography blog by Matthew O’Toole based out of Liverpool. Lots of travel photography.

TravellingArtist.wordpress.com – Photography and travel interests, places and things.

ScribblingSummer.wordpress.com – lots of photos of the cutest dog ever

Skww.wordpress.com – “Personal Perceptions – an attempt to capture the world around me” – photoblog by Stefan Knoflach, photographer in Vienna, Austria

There are some really talented photographers and bloggers out there!

Ok, on to my photo of the day…

“Street Art”

I just love photographing street art.  The talent is amazing.  I love the colours and the shapes.  There’s no real story to this (although I’m pretty sure I referenced it during art month in April), only that it inspired me to take a photo, and it inspires me just looking at it.