Let me tell you a little story…
Back in 2009 I was an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom with a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. I was blogging regularly as a means of having an outlet…a connection to something other than motherhood. I was relying on the stories, the advice, and the friendships I was forming with women I had never met. It was a rather valuable comfort in those days when the hours ran together in a mix of hardness and love.
One Tuesday in the Spring of 2009 I was sitting around thinking about how incredible this blogging this was to me as a mother. In that moment – on a crazy whim – I applied to a PhD program. I never actually thought I’d be accepted to the program, but I had this idea in my head that it might be really cool to dig deeper into blogging and understand a bit more about why so many mothers choose that specific outlet. Never gonna happen though, right?
Wrong. Surprise – I was accepted. This is what I was doing at the exact moment I opened the email telling me I was accepted into the PhD program. Something told me I needed to remember that moment…
But there I was – a stay at home mom with three little babies who was suddenly faced with the prospect of returning to school to become a Doctor all because of a silly whim on a Tuesday afternoon. Reality sank in at that moment. I had two choices: I could return to school and give it a try or I could totally pretend I wasn’t accepted and never actually have to face the fear of returning to school (again!) to get a degree I’d probably never use. I chose option one.
That Fall I started working on my PhD. I entered into the program as essentially the only person with any social media or blogging experience. The whole world of new media was foreign to them…and I was there to study it. From Fall 2009 until May 2012 I busted my ass. I took class after class after class. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I studied every possible thing I could about blogging. Every class that required a project or paper gave me another chance to examine another angle of this phenomenon. And this whole hunch I had about there being “something more” to blogging came together in the form of my dissertation – still possibly the only dissertation ever to focus specifically on mommy bloggers.
I graduated in May and felt…indifferent. Sure, I had accomplished something I wasn’t even sure I wanted. But, there needed to be something more. See, the problem I saw with academics was pretty clear almost instantly. Academics live in a bubble. They research and draw understandings about anything and everything. Then they write about those understandings for different publications that are only read by other academics. Academics tend to live in a world that is almost untouchable to anyone not living within the bubble. I felt like there was little practicality in existing in that world beyond graduation. I didn’t want to research and write and gain understandings that would not somehow transfer outside of that bubble. I didn’t want to study blogging if my understandings would never reach the bloggers clicking away at their computers each and every day.
Thus Project: Underblog was born…
I learned through my research that, no matter how big (or small) your blog may be, each one of us craves a space for our voices to be heard. We want the catharsis that comes from sharing our triumphs and our failures. We crave ownership and voice of our words, our feelings, our stories. We thrive on the relationships and validation that comes from putting our stories “out there.” And, we are motivated to push ourselves and understand ourselves better based on the communities we form online.
In a small hotel room in NYC I shared my idea for Project: Underblog with a couple of friends. I explained to them that I wanted a space online that never questions a person’s reach, but celebrates the value of their voices. I told them how blogging has become too focused on stats, SEO reach, followers, numbers, and gaining “popularity” when it should be focused on building the bonds of community…a community that values and supports you and shares camaraderie with you when you succeed or fail. I shared how I wanted a place where the voice and the community mattered above all else…where a person’s popularity would never shadow the greatness of their words.
With a little encouragement they convinced me to move forward with my little idea. And in October of 2012 we launched. We’ve give a space for the otherwise ignored to be heard. We’ve provided support and community for those struggling to find it on their own. We’ve place power in the hands of the small and mighty. And, for the first time since I graduated I feel like I might just be stretching and bursting the boundaries of the academic bubble.
I wanted to write this today because I wanted us all to have a little reminder of why we are here. I wanted us all to take a minute and think about the awesomeness that is slowly and surely growing on our little site. I wanted to remind myself that all of this matters. All of you matter. Every single day. Every word we write, every story we share, every comment and moment of support we throw at someone matters. We are all small and mighty…and we all matter. So…thank you!