These last couple of weeks have certainly been interesting. If you are reading this, you likely already know that my blog post about my daughter (and her facial birthmark) has gone viral. The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, Inside Edition, US Weekly and People are just a few of the outlets, globally, that have published stories on it. It has been a crazy whirlwind of emotions. I never anticipated that this story would reach so many. Many bloggers dream of “going viral” to attract more readers to their blog. They wonder what it’s like and glamorize it in their minds. My blogger friends have been asking about the ins and outs of it all. I’m going to break down what it’s been like for me and my particular story, beginning with the negative.
A LOT of people completely miss your point.
It is abundantly clear that they missed your point when they leave comments or send messages. This is the most frustrating part. My post was 100% about normalizing differences in appearances and being careful about your thoughts and statements regarding people with an unusual quality. If you read the comments around the internet, though, you might think I wrote the post to debate personal health decisions, seek medical advice, or attempt formally educate people on the biology of hemangiomas. Some people wasted time writing out exactly how they would medically treat Charlie and why we are making poor decisions. So, while they were busy being a Facebook doctor and looking for ways to judge us, the lesson went directly over their head. The medical specifics of her hemangioma and our course of action are irrelevant, and actually have ZERO to do with my message.
You are now wide open for Internet Bullies/Judgies
(*Judgy -noun : The sanctimonious, passive aggressive version of a bully.*) –> I made that up.
As a writer, our publications are our babies. Sometimes we spend months cultivating a piece that we think appropriately conveys what we were feeling at the time. Then, when we have edited and re-edited, we click publish and bare our souls. Often times, we are writing about something personal such as our children or another important relationship. As a blogger in a niche like mine (Motherhood/Lifestyle), I can normally assume that my audience (generally) knows my voice and shares my viewpoint on most things and that is why they follow me. After you go viral, it’s a free for all. All of a sudden there is a TON of traffic and no trend with who your audience is anymore. Which means, while you are viral, there is no more tribe mentality. There is an invitation to every cruel person on the internet to come to your site and rip you to shreds.
It is impossible to keep up with the correspondence.
Physically. Impossible. Believe me, I have tried. I have a personal Facebook inbox, a blog Facebook inbox, my blog email address, Instagram direct messaging, Twitter direct messaging and comment forums on ALL social media. I have received HUNDREDS of messages from people who can relate and want to tell me their story from all over the world in many different languages. This is absolutely positive (which I will get to), but there is no way I can respond to everyone, which is stressful for me. I WANT to engage with everyone and I just can’t. This doesn’t even include all the media outlets that are emailing me for photo credit info, interview requests, and story permission.
When you think it has died down, it hasn’t.
It ebbs and flows. I will think it is starting to fade away and I am not in the fish bowl anymore and then all of a sudden I get 200 Instagram followers in an hour. That’s actually my red flag that something has been posted somewhere. I am not sure how long it will be until it fizzles, but I can tell you it’s up and down until it does.
You have little to no control over people who write ABOUT your story.
The only people who have interviewed me were: ABC, The Huffington Post, NBC, CBS, People, and US Weekly. Any other website who published a piece about me wrote their own opinion. Sometimes, this is not great, primarily because of some of the “click-bait” titles that have circulated. Headlines like “Mom is Sick of People Staring at Her Baby” or “Angry Mom Shuts Down Prayers” are just bogus incentives to entice people to click. It irritates me because #1- it’s extremely misleading and a far cry from what my message is, and #2- it invites a ton of spammy hate messages from people who ONLY read the headline and looked at photos. Not cool.
Alas, here is the silver lining. I saved these for last because they truly are incredible, at least in my case. I am constantly reminding myself that the positive side of this is totally worth the annoyances I mentioned above.
Raised awareness for your message, whatever it is.
I knew that there wasn’t a ton of awareness about my type of story on the internet, because I never found much through internet searches. I could tell from stares, that people didn’t even know what they were looking at. So, one big plus of going viral has been the ability to reach a HUGE amount of people with some basic information. Regardless of whether they think Charlie is a pitiful soul, or a beautiful human being- they have read the article, and they can’t “un-know” what they read. Boom. More people are just a little more knowledgeable about something.
Thought/action provoking conversation.
In that same vein, my story has sparked a conversation. The same hateful people who are criticizing me online are exactly the people that needed to hear my message! How they react to me is something I can’t control, but, they care enough to discuss it and THAT is important. Maybe they are reacting with judgment and anger because it sparked regret in them. Maybe they are projecting their own insecurities about the definition of beauty. Either way, that part isn’t my concern. The conversation is on the table now. Kids are asking their parents about it. People are giving something a second thought.
This has been the most beautiful thing to watch unfold. I could tear up thinking about it. I have received hundreds emails from people from ages 14-80. They are either the parent of someone who had a large hemangioma (or other malformation), or someone who has one themselves. Not ONE negative response has come from someone who has actually been there. Every five minutes I have a new message encouraging me to keep doing what I am doing and assuring me that Charlie is in good hands with me as her mother. I have loved watched people connect with each other in the comment section of my blog. It leaves me speechless. I can’t put into words how much every single story from a reader has inspired me.
My blog isn’t only about Charlie. It isn’t even only about my kids! I am a lifestyle blogger that happens to be a mom. I write about all of my interests and share a lot of my photography. I try to keep everything authentic, honest, and funny. That is what my “voice” is. An obvious benefit to going viral is that lots of moms who might appreciate my blog for any number of reasons, found me just a little bit faster. I am hoping that I will retain new readers because they stumbled upon my blog through reading that sample of my writing. My blog views are astronomical right now, but I will keep you posted on how much they drop when life goes back to normal!
I have been contacted by other bloggers and organizations who believe what I believe. I have been invited to write for other publications and guest post for different blogs. Virility has given me a huge platform to be noticed by like minded people that I can potentially build relationships with. The internet is huge, and it can be difficult to connect with people. It’s a blessing, as a writer, to have been put out there and open for community building opportunities. No doubt.
There you have it. Going viral is a blessing and a curse. As with anything, stay focused on the positive and remember that if you changed one mind, helped one person, or shed any light at ALL into the vile world we live in, it’s worth it.