Sunday, April 24, 2016

Going Viral: Lessons Learned

I feel scummy saying I went viral: to me, "viral" is a term best used to describe funny videos of kittens or Buzzfeed articles that everyone is sharing on their timeline. But I guess when Ashton Kutcher shares an opinion post you wrote with his 17 million Facebook followers, viral is the most appropriate word to use.

While my latest post, "I Dressed Like a 'Style Icon' to Prove a Point About Fashion," generated so much more buzz than I could've ever perceived, I definitely knew I was onto something when I got the idea. I had a feeling the post would be marginally more popular than those I had written previously, but there's no way I could've imagined the scope of the response. Because I mean, who can predict that type of thing? Who has a feeling something like that is about to happen? I thought the fact that my post got 1,000 views in its first 24 hours post-publication was my blog's peak, so you can imagine my surprise when I was contacted by A Plus to syndicate the post, only to have it's co-founder (that's Ashton Kutcher, if you're keeping up) share it to his Facebook feed. Needless to say, in the course of the last week I've learned quite a lot and I want to share it with you.

Lesson One: There's Room for My Voice
As a journalism student, 98% of the classroom dialogue surrounds the morning news or the front page of the New York Times. My professors are quick to assume that every student wants to be a broadcaster or a hard news reporter--I don't, and for a while I was feeling really stupid and lesser because of it. While my classmates were practically salivating over the idea of getting a byline on the front page above the fold or reading today's top stories live on the air, I was thinking up ideas for blog posts or opinion pieces in which I could share my feminist thoughts. I can write a good lede or a kitschy hed (that's reporter talk for "lead" or "headline"), but that's not really what I want to do. And turns out, that's okay. People have time for opinions and are ready to engage with my lifestyle pieces, even though it's not necessarily breaking news.

Lesson Two: Ideas are Currency
As a writer, the most important lesson I learned in regards to my craft is to pay attention to my ideas, because they truly are my best asset going forward in my career. I could've easily thought to myself "is 'fashionable' just another word for 'thin'?" and continued on with my day without pausing to flesh out the article in question, but choosing to dig deeper is what truly changed the game. Much like an athlete needs to weight train or a chemist needs to conduct experiments, I need to pay attention to my thoughts and observations as they relate to the pieces I'm writing. Some of my friends who are also writers have asked me for advice in the wake of this piece garnering so much attention, and I guess that's my one piece of advice: treat your ideas like currency. Your ideas have value and they will pay off if you cash them in.

Lesson Three: We love BUZZWORDS!
I'm not going to delve in deep and address every hate comment I've received in the past week: one, because I think that's reductive,  and two, because there's a lot of them and I don't have the time to wade through them all. But just know I have read a few, and they seem to boil down to a few key points: people are mad that I can't afford to dress like a Kardashian, people think my legs look JUST FINE (thanks, I guess), and people think I'm skinny shaming. Look, as a feminist I love that we're thinking critically about the things we read, but we gotta stop assuming every critique that's ever raised in rooted in internalized misogyny. I have thick skin, so it doesn't really faze me when people say I need to "lay off the bagels, fatty" or that I don't understand the intricacies of fashion, but to claim I don't respect my fellow woman is where I draw the line. Before we throw around buzzwords like feminism or skinny shaming, let's understand what they mean. And I promise, I really don't mean that to be patronizing, and I apologize if that's how it comes across. But really: feminism is much more than "women supporting other women." That is a huge facet, yes, but my brand of socially aware, intersectional feminism looks more like this: championing equality for people of all genders, sexes, races, socioeconomic status, and SIZE. Me stating the obvious--that thin, pretty women are granted privileges that other women aren't--isn't me shaming thin, pretty women. If anything, it's me shaming the society that champions them over everyone else.  Because the truth is: all women are great! The thin and pretty ones, too! I'm just raising the point that women who aren't modelesque don't get the privilege of being called fashionable when wearing simple outfits. Not thin shaming the Kendalls, Gigis, and Alexas of the world: seriously, check out my Tumblr or Instagram feed, I fangirl over those three women on the reg. I thought that point was pretty clearly articulated, but never underestimate the Internet's ability to throw around the latest buzzwords, even when they don't really apply. (But seriously, the silver lining here is I do love this new trend of being critical of media; as a media student, I think that's really important and a sign that media is enduring and effective.)

Lesson Four: Fakers Gonna Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake
I know how this is going to sound; there's no way to say this without coming across like an asshole, so I just have to say it and accept the douchy tone: everyone who knows me knows about the article. AHH, I KNOW, RIGHT?! Such a douche. But really: whether people found the article via social media or word of mouth, my network of friends, family and acquaintances were all at least aware of the article's success. I had people from high school messaging me about it, kids in class I rarely talked to were bringing it up, my boss at work shared the article on Facebook. So that said, it became very apparent to me that some people in my life were actively choosing not to acknowledge the post or were choosing only to focus on the negative aspects. There are people in my life who I interact with regularly who have only chosen to mention the article in order to mention how many hate comments its attracted, without even alluding to the article's impact or scope. That bums me out a little. It's a very telling learning lesson to see which people in my life have actively chosen not to be supportive during this celebratory time in my young adult career and has also modeled for me how not to behave next time one of my loved ones experiences professional success. Again, there's no way for that to not sound patronizing, which I guess is just a drawback of the written word.

Lesson Five: There's so many reasons to smile.
Ending on a positive note that strays far away from negative comments, this experience has shown me how many amazing supportive people I have in my life. I've been feeling warm and fuzzy all week not because an article I wrote got a lot of views, but because my loved ones are just so stinkin' wonderful. More people told me they were proud of me and excited for me than I can count, and that's not something I take for granted. I hope every single one of you has a network of people who will be genuinely excited for you when something goes your way, because it's the best feeling. Trust me, I've had friends in the past who will only celebrate one of my achievements so they can top it with two of theirs, and to be rid of that negative energy is a god damn blessing. This week of my life has proven to me that your loved ones will poke their heads out from all over the place to give you a thumbs-up. Thank you specifically to my marketing fam, my cousins, my grandparents, my teachers, my mentors, and my friends. You're all so special to me and have more love for you than Ashton Kutcher has followers on Facebook.

7 comments :

  1. Honestly, you pull off the styles far better than the 'fashionable' people that have been classed 'celebrity' by dint of being more well-known than the general populous. I'm glad that modern media lets us 'normal people' have a voice which spans the gap traditionally separating us from 'them'. Good on you, girl, and keep up the writing.

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  2. Love this follow up even MORE than the viral one. Great advice and perspective.

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  3. This is simply brilliant! And I agree with the comment above. This article is even more kick ass than your original article, simply because you sat down to break it down!! Such a fabulous follow-up. Congranulations on your article, going viral, being a true equalitarian feminist, and for your gratitude to your tribe. Sending you a virtual high-five, and keep up the great work!!!

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  4. I didn't get the skinny shaming at all - I only came across the article because a skinny friend on Facebook was offended. Why do you do so much fat shaming? Yikes, I ate a bagel - oh the shame hide my belly and how dare I have estrogen that stores necessary fat on my lower body. Not cool. Not "good" feminism if there even is such a thing. My biggest take-away? Contradiction and/or inauthenticity.

    Have you bought into the idea that we need to be fashionable, to look a certain way, to present ourselves in a way others consider acceptable/fashionable? I'm likely a bit older than you, so I'm sure my opinion won't count for much but I can tell you that for as long as you compare/contrast yourself to external measures like fashion icons, you'll never be "good enough" in your own mind - where it matters most and solely. Ultimately the article to me dripped with self fat-shaming. This is not a criticism, just an observation. Oh, and also something I wish women would/could stop doing!

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  5. Hi! first, i'm sorry about my bad english, i'm from Mexico so my first language is spanish, not english, so you have been warned! lol, jk.

    I read about you in another site, i don't remember wich one but it had a link to your blog, i think you look good dressed like a "celebrity", my favorite one was the alexa one, you look effortless chic, even if you don't feel like that.

    And i don't get all the hate you recive, i mean, is just a buch of photos of you dressed like someone else dress every day, is that a sin? my mom told me if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say a word, why spend time writing a bunch of shit about someone you don't even know?! is crazy! and i don't think your post was skinny shaming, why noowdays everybody find everything "shaming"? jeez, i wish we all take just 3 seconds to think before start to write/speak bullshit.

    Well, that were my two cents, lol, greetings from Mexico!

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  6. Loved your original post, love the follow up! It's so true, people love to cling to a buzzword and just spit it out at everything, and a lot of the time when someone asks them to explain their stance they get defensive and can't give one!

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  7. Lesson 4 is SO REAL. Dump that negative energy, girl. You don't need ANY of it :)

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