I have come to the realisation that bloggers are a bizarre breed of people and that blogging is the most peculiar pursuit. Let me explain why…
Two nights ago I was out with my friends, the Expat Felines, and every time they introduced me to their other friends, the phrase that followed the perfunctory introduction was:
“She is an amazing blogger! You need to read her blog!”
I know they do it because they love the blog and are proud of me but they also know that I cringe a little whenever this happens (and they love making me slightly uncomfortable). To be perfectly honest, I secretly wish that no one I know in real life would ever read this blog. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of bloggers say that they didn’t even share their blog with their families and friends when they started – some still haven’t.
Why didn’t I think of that?!
Every once and a while I’ll meet someone on a plane or at a party who seems really interested in my teaching and travels so they keep asking questions, and every once and a while I’ll eventually tell them that, actually, they can read more about it on my blog!
But I never say it without blushing slightly and scanning the room for a quick escape, because I know they’re about to ask what my blog address is, and I’m going to have to say “Expat Panda Dot Com.”
It is an odd thing- I put my words online hoping to reach people but when I do reach them, I feel so uncomfortable about it. This is why I feel like I am on a reality TV show. Just like reality TV, this blog provides endless fascination about my global adventures, cringeworthy confessionals and personal experiences. As a blogger I indulge voyeurism by inviting you into my home, travel backpack and even my classroom thorough my words. My candidness makes me feel like I am on Big Brother sometimes. Lets see if you agree with me about my 5 reasons about why being a blogger is like being on a never-ending reality TV show:
People treat you like a celebrity but… you’re not one
Most celebrities are famous because they have some sort of talent. For example, Russell Crowe is a great actor and Mariah Carey has an amazing voice. Naomi Campbell has a striking beauty and Lionel Messi is a fantastic soccer player. JK Rowling wrote the best books ever and Jamie Oliver is a whiz in the kitchen. I could go on but you get the picture. However, as bloggers what exactly is our talent? Are we proud of the fact that we are simply sharing our THOUGHTS? I had a good think about this after a recent episode where I was in the middle of a street food festival and a person approached me:
Stranger: Hey! Expat Panda! I follow your blog!
Me: Um… thanks?
Stranger: You are so cool!
I am not naturally a socially awkward person; I do want to respond better but I don’t know how! So here I am, feeling like a celebrity because I am being recognised but I honestly don’t think I deserve the attention. All I do is write my thoughts…
But then again…. being approached is the same as being appreciated. Here are people who have been touched enough by your words and thoughts to bravely approach you in public without even being sure that you’re the face behind the blog. Its taken me some time but I am learning to value these personal encounters.
2. People expect you to take an avid interest in their life… because they are invested in yours
When I observe how invested people are in the Kardashian’s lives, it always surprises me. In my opinion, they don’t have a lot to offer the world (no discernible talents or redeeming qualities) yet people know the names of their kids and how much weight Khloe Kardashian lost sometime in the past. As a blogger, I feel like this too. People are so invested in my life (Panda, please write about your school experience/housing/trip to Croatia) that they automatically want to share their lives with me too.
Every Wednesday evening, I take an hour to sit down and go through my Expat Panda email account (I can’t be the only person with 5 separate email accounts?). If you have emailed me before, you know that you may not get the answer within the same day (bloody hell, sometimes I might even take a week to reply), however there will be an answer eventually. But sometimes they may not be the responses you are looking for because well… I am not all-knowing. Here are some the things I have been asked:
– Do you think I can be a KG teacher? I have taught grade 6 for the last 10 years and don’t know if I could switch.
How would I know that? I have never been in a classroom with you.
-My German friends want to visit Oman… do they require a visa?
I am NOT an embassy, therefore I do not have information on all nationalities and their passport limitations.
-Do you think my boyfriend and I should get married before moving to the Middle East?
Um… Marriage is a big commitment, how can I answer that?
-I am currently 98kgs… Do you recommend that I lose about 20kgs before moving to Kuwait?
Wait, what? What does your weight have to do with me?
Sometimes people send me long emails outlining their travel itineraries and asking me if I approve of them. Each person travels differently and wants to achieve different things from their holiday. I don’t know what would work best for you!
But then again… for every question that boggles my mind, there will be at least 4 heartwarming comments that make my day!
3. Alliances will form
Your blog will allow you to interact with people. At first, only your mother will read your posts but a year later, you won’t have time to reply to all of the comments and interaction thats thrown at you! Between comments on the blog, discussion on Instagram and sometimes even Facebook comments, you are bound to meet people. Perhaps those alliances are simply virtual at first; there is definitely a group of bloggers whose posts I would prioritise reading, even though we have never met and even if I have no interest in the topic, purely because we have been engaging with each other online for ages so I love to read what they write.
Most people read your blog and they feel like they know you but sometimes the feeling is so strong that they invite you to hang out with them in real life. When you meet, you are blown away because its like you’ve known them for years! If you’re lucky and they are a blogger too then its never a blind date because off you go to scour their blog first to find out whether you’re dealing with someone you actually want to meet. I’ve been SO incredibly fortunate to meet people who found my blog and approached me to hang out. A few of those bloggers have become exceptionally good friends to me and you can find their blogs here, here and here.
Do you know there are entire articles online about how to make friends through your blog but here I am, fortunate enough to have people gravitate toward me without any effort on my part?!
But then again… once in a while you will meet someone and you’re just like, “Are you even the same person who writes that blog?!” They seem so open minded and interesting through their Instagram photos but when you meet them in real life, you’re left wondering who actually writes their witty captions on Instagram…
4. You will do things you never thought you would do… for the blog
I remember watching people eat insects on Survivor, shaving their heads on The Amazing Race (the only reality TV show I enjoy) and throwing themselves at men on The Bachelor. I know that these people would never do these things in reality but the fact that they were on this show, competing for a prize, drove them to doing outrageous things. I feel like this about my blog. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep in but I will drag myself off to eat breakfast at an interesting cafe because I know, that in 3 months time, I want to publish a post about the best breakfasts in Kuwait .
Oh wait- you thought that bloggers just wake up in the morning, scribble a few thoughts, publish and thats how a post is made? Seriously?
I never in a million years thought I would visit places like Serbia, Tanzania and Swaziland. Yet, the off the beaten path destinations attract a lot of interest on the blog and this challenges me to find new and more intriguing destinations. The blog pushes me to spend less time sitting around my apartment watching Brooklyn Nine Nine, and more time exploring my surroundings.
But then again… sometimes its a constant battle of- am I going to blog about this experience? If so, I need to look presentable and tame my hair. That means I need to take my camera. Wait which camera- the GoPro or the Sony? Let me just pop both in my handbag after I charge them quickly while I change out of these terrible clothes. Oh and where is my tripod?! The worst is when you look great, have all your gear with you and the whole experience is so disappointing that you don’t end up putting it on Instagram never mind the blog.
5. You will be judged
If you’ve ever watched any reality shows, you have probably been guilty of judging the people who compete in them. You have your favourites (oh he is so handsome!), the ones you can’t stand (why does she always have her cleavage on display?), the ones you identify with (he is doing exactly what I would do!) and oh so many more opinions. Being a blogger is similar- putting your views on the web mean that people will have an opinion about you and often… it isn’t what you want to hear.
When I wrote about my trip to Serbia, people sent me messages telling me how I ‘advocate genocide’ because I enjoyed my time there. When I write about the times I experience racism while traveling or living abroad, white people leave comments such as “We get it, you’re not white. Write about something more relevant”. Some of the other things I have heard from people are:
˝Stop wasting your time.˝
˝Why are you doing this, you´re never gonna make it.˝
˝All your blog does is make people feel bad about their lives.˝
˝You think any of your readers actually takes you seriously?!˝
¨Bloggers are just a bunch of spoiled brats who only care about their next post.˝
˝If you love kids and teaching so much why don’t you have your own children!?˝
Truthfully, when I read and hear comments like this, I start to wonder if the blog is even worth the effort I put into it. You see, although some might think blogging is the easiest thing in the world, there is more to it than meets the eye. It can be quite time-consuming. The photo taking, the writing, the editing of both the photos and the text…it all takes hours to put together (especially because I am a perfectionist) and fitting it all in next to your busy schedule sometimes feels nearly impossible.
But then again… you will soon remember that your blog is amazing and there’s a whole community of bloggers and readers who are there for you- even when your personal life is falling apart and you’ve had the worst day ever, just opening up my slice of the internet reminds me that I am not alone!
Ultimately, I blog for fun and as a writer, I find it an effective way to get thoughts out of my chaotic mind and into the world. I stopped thinking about the stats after I hit 20,00 and I definitely don’t lie awake at night wondering how to optimise search engine terms or whatever all that is about. For me that’s not what keeps me blogging. What I do love about blogging is that my little blog is not alone. But rather, it is privileged to be in the good company of literally hundreds of thousands of other blogs that are written by amazing, smart, diverse, bold, talented people all around the world who are courageously sharing their thoughts on the web each day too. You can find them blogging about everything from parenting to politics to pasta to Prada to persuasion to profitability and everything in between. And you can catch a glimpse into any of their worlds with just one click. ONE CLICK.
The Information Age is here, no doubt. Although opening up yourself and your life to the world wide web can seem overwhelming, it’s also wild and wonderful. I’m so thankful that it has carved a little space within it for my blog to make its home and that it has connected to you my amazing readers 🙂
Do you also feel like a reality TV show star as a blogger or do these crazy things only happen to me? Share your experience in the comments below!