By now most of the internet world has heard of Blair Koenig, creator of the blog “STFU, Parents“. And most of those people also know by now that she recently released a book of the same name, resulting in a flurry of interviews and tv appearances full of the usual “tell me about your blog” and “but you don’t have kids” questions.
This week Blair took the time to participate in a different sort of interview with GOMIBLOG. Read on to find out why she remained anonymous for so long, why she feels “like an outcast sometimes”, and what has (and hasn’t) changed since her success.
1. Your book just came out, and some people aren’t fans of the ‘blog-to-book’ trend that’s been happening the last few years. Have you had any backlash about it?
I wouldn’t say backlash but I’ve heard a few comments like, “Why does this book even need to exist?”, which is actually a reasonable question. It’s easy to feel like another asshole with a book that stemmed from a blog. I always thought the blog worked because the topic was timely and other people weren’t talking about it when the site launched. Now, since so many more people have been eye-assaulted by their friends or read things they didn’t want to know in their newsfeeds, the discussion is technically more relevant than ever, but for longtime readers, the subject is four years old. That’s the difference between the internet and the media. The media tries to stay current, but ultimately they don’t report on something like “parent overshare” until it’s been deemed “legit.” So that’s been the hard part — bridging the gap between knowing that the book would’ve been more relevant for the blog audience a year or two ago, but that it’s more relevant to mainstream media now (and to new blog readers). The truth is, I’ve learned a lot about parent/baby stuff from running the blog, and I don’t think I was qualified to write the book until I wrote it last year. If I’d written it before that, I would have sounded even more ignorant about parenting than I already am (as a non-parent).
But back to the original question — I think I’ve felt some personal turmoil about doing blog-to-book, because I don’t want to be a lame person. However, I think the book is actually funny, and it’s 60% new material + new commentary for the most part, and I worked hard on it. I think everyone should work hard on whatever it is they do, even if it’s a blog or a book about diaper explosions. I’m personally proud of it and I think it came out well for the most part, and it’s a cohesive guide you can gift at baby showers which amuses me.
2. You recently decided to come out from your anonymity – was this for the purpose of book publicity or were you just ready to put your name and face on your blog? Were there other reasons?
I’d been ready to put my name and face to my blog, where I went by “B.”, for a couple of years. But I wanted to do a book and it didn’t make sense for me to “reveal” my identity until I announced the book (when that finally came together), because I didn’t want the focus of the blog to be about me for any reason. STFU, Parents is about overshare and the ridiculousness of that subject, and I’d rather just talk about mommyjacking and sanctimommies.
After a while, it started feeling like I’d set myself up. I was writing about how everything you post on Facebook is on the internet forever, and blah blah, but I wasn’t being transparent with my own audience. I was more than happy to talk about the blog with people I met in person, because as much as I like privacy, I’m not weird about what I write. I didn’t have a corporate job motivating me to keep my blogging identity a secret, and I’m a natural loudmouth. But when I started the site, posting screenshots from Facebook on a blog wasn’t really a “thing” yet — it was new — and I actually wanted the blog to be a way to get back into writing. I was afraid if I attached my name to it right away, people would just talk Crap about me rather than talk about what was on the blog. Then the anonymity status just kind of stuck. By the time I revealed who I am, some people didn’t want to know. Readers who knew “B.” weren’t interested in knowing what she looked like, which I personally thought was awesome. I don’t begrudge anyone who says, “I miss when you were anonymous.” Sometimes you don’t want to know certain things.
3. As the notoriety of your blog grew, did you find that people expect more from you as far as your behavior or your content, or even just holding you to a higher standard in general? If so, how do you feel about that?
Yes, this is a sensitive subject for me, and I’m guessing it’s that way for a lot of bloggers. A little back story: When I started STFUP, I’d never blogged before, nor am I an old school internet person. I never participated in AOL chats or old forums. My parents bought our first computer in 1999. So when people started criticizing me on the blog, it was hard to deal with. I didn’t know what trolls were until they made their way to my site. The hardest part was having to figure out that bloggers are not supposed to “connect” with readers all the time or explain themselves when attacked. If a commenter says, “You don’t care about your readers, you’re just doing this blog to get rich,” there is no good answer for that. The only good answer is, apparently, silence, which I kind of think sucks. But that’s the truth. Because if I respond and say, “I’ve never gotten rich off this blog, and my book deal was low, and I actually put way more into running this site than I get out of it in dollars, etc.,” then I sound like a defensive asshole. And some people even chime in and say things like, “UMM, get out of the comments! We’re having a discussion here,” like it’s not my own website. It feels like being in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” before the lawn mower runs over your face, except in this case the lawn mower is my blog.
Once that negativity creeps into my brain, I DO get defensive, sometimes very defensive. But the thing that drives me nuts is that, like back in November when GOMIBLOG had a forum thread about me (that I read, but never participated in), it was in reference to this post I’d put up. I’d been feeling frustrated because after I revealed my identity I wasn’t prepared for the amount of discussion that would be about my childlessness. I naively thought it would be about the crowning birth photos people post on Facebook that are on the blog. After the media circus started up, I tried to engage in the discussion from my own vantage point on the blog, and a lot of people were instantly like, “Get back to blogging about overshare. STFU, STFU, Parents.” One person tweeted at me, “Post something funny. I don’t give a Crap about Blair Koenig.” And as a naturally defensive person, I felt like writing back (and sometimes did), “Hey asshole, this is MY blog. I’ll get back to posting placenta pictures in two days.” Then when I was out of town for Thanksgiving, the final straw was getting this email from a “fan.” I’d been sick for over a week, flown down to Atlanta to be with family, and the day I got there, my editor sent me the first pages of the book and said, “If you have any creative concerns or changes, I need them by 9am Monday.” Well, that sucked, because I did have ideas (which are in the book), and it took me forever to get that stuff done. Then I took a shower, and by the time I got out, I’d received an email from someone saying how “disappointed” she was in my blogging habits and all this other invasive bullCrap. It just burned me up.
That said, and this speaks to your question, I probably should have been smarter about how I’d handled it. In the past, and since starting the blog, I occasionally “shamed” people who acted like jerks by posting their emails or doling out a Crapty diaper in their honor. Not all the time, only maybe 10 posts out of 1500. One woman got a placenta cake. One person became a running joke. And once, to switch up the vibe of that type of post, I gave an emailer a Gold Star. So I thought when I posted that email just before Thanksgiving, it would be my typical sassy (and defensive) method of saying “STFU,” as well a reason to explain that I couldn’t keep up with work and had been sick. But wow, that Crap got messed up. First on my own site, which caused me lash out and get very upset, and then over here on GOMIBLOG, a site that I love and whose readers I consider some of the smartest on the internet. Reading the forum page was like watching a nail-biting episode of Breaking Bad. I sort of wish I’d done it with a nitrous tank at the ready. Some of the comments were just gossip, but many were like, “This b***h is crazy,” and for a short period of time there, that was true. Maybe the spirit with which I’d posted those other emails in the past was different. Or maybe I was unaware that I had to live up to some sort of expectation to be nicer, or just post more screenshots and shut my mouth. I don’t know…I mean, if I wasn’t an asshole I wouldn’t be running a snarky blog, but I’ve never personally berated a blogger that I liked during what appeared to be a bad time. I wasn’t ready for that kind of vitriol, and I still don’t know how to deal with it except to remember that ignoring it always seems to work better than going on the attack.
4. Sometimes when bloggers become successful their readers turn on them. Have you experienced this, and why do you think this happens?
Based on all of the above, yes! But I think it’s for a combination of reasons. I don’t think it’s fair to turn on a blogger just because of speculation. If you think I’m “different” just because I went on a TV show to talk about the blog, that’s not cool. I’m not different. I’m the same. I think some of the reaction to the blog’s success (and I use that word loosely, because there are WAY bigger blogs out there) has turned people off. They feel uncomfortable seeing a little blog they like in a major newspaper or on a morning show. And while I understand that feeling, and have felt it many times myself, I also feel Crapty about it. I want to think we’re all in on this joke that’s managed to get some exposure and laugh about it. I want people to know that I’m not different than they are, or making some big profit off this project. But instead I feel like an outcast sometimes. And when I’m insecure, I’m not funny, which means for every nasty comment someone leaves, I get a little more deflated. By the time I hit that wall of anxiety, I’m like, “f**k this, I’m just not going to blog for a few days.” Being a blogger definitely requires growing a thicker skin and realizing that your fans may not always be your fans. It can be hard to let go of certain readers that I once thought of as “friends,” but it’s something that happens. I’m working on tempering my reactions to people who are rude and being more zen about negative comments.
5. Do you have anything in general you would like to address or say to everyone reading?
I guess I just want to say thanks, Alice, for writing a kick-ass site and speaking your mind, and you have some of the wittiest readers (with access to the best GIFs) on the internet. As much as it sucks to read negative things on a personal level, like in that forum thread, the checks-and-balances provided on GOMIBLOG are in line with what I’m trying to do with my site, too. And not everyone is going to like it, but it’s an important service to provide, not to mention good entertainment. I don’t know if other bloggers have gleaned what I have from reading the GOMIBLOG forum board, but reading that particular thread was both demoralizing and educational. It was a lesson that I appreciate. I do get irritated when my own readers, or any internet readers, say stuff to bloggers/”content creators” like, “Without your readership, you’re nothing. Your blog and book wouldn’t be possible without people like me, you dumb b***h,” (I’m paraphrasing here), but there is truth to that, too. I need to remember not to get carried away and be so defensive. It can be hard to admit when you’re wrong.
So, yeah, thanks for this site (and to the hams who are reading, thanks for commenting in this place), because it’s a melting pot of snark, logic, and salacious gossip. I hope that STFU, Parents (the blog and the book) live up to the same standards of awesomeness.
Thanks to Blair for taking the time to respond to my questions. Her book, “STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare” is available here, or if you prefer to go indie you can find it here.