It’s that time of year again. The summer season features three of the largest diabetes conferences: ADA’s Scientific Sessions, CWD’s Friends For Life, and AADE’s Annual Meeting. Thousands of people converging to share new insights and experiences in living with and / or managing diabetes. It’s also become the time of year when more and more diabetes bloggers get the spotlight for the work they do in the Diabetes Online Community. This isn’t to say that spotlight isn’t on certain people the rest of the year. But with so many in person meetings happening between June and September, it seems that the variations of the phrase “famous diabetes bloggers” pop up more often.
And it drives me up the freaking wall.
I suppose it’s because I have a unique perspective. I started alongside — or even before — many of the well-know famous bloggers that everybody clamors to meet. Some might even say that I am one of those top bloggers, but I don’t personally feel that way. I’m not on any best blogger lists, I don’t get hundreds of emails, and I used to participate in blogger forums. But I’m not writing this to get pity or fish for compliments.
What I want to talk about is this hierarchy that I’ve seen develop in the Diabetes Online Community. I suppose I have the unique perspective because I’ve known the top bloggers that you — and I, of course — adore for many years. I knew them before they were famous. And I know how normal they are. I know how flawed they are. I know that they are simultaneously the nicest people you could ever meet, and I also know how stressed out and strapped for time they are. I know that there are so many diverse personalities in the DOC, I know that not all of us are besties, and I know that we all try very hard to be as inclusive as we can but we are sometimes trapped by the confines and habits of pre-existing friendships.
Did I destroy your illusions of the DOC upper class? Good.
When I hear recaps about people’s experiences at conferences, I always love hearing how people felt connected, how they learned so much for being with others or attending sessions with experts (who are also insanely normal and easy to talk to), and how they felt better and more hopeful about life with diabetes.
But what gets me every time is when people talk about how afraid they are to talk to the “big bloggers” of the DOC. And I just shake my head thinking “Whyyyyyy?” It kills me because I honestly know that each one of them wants to meet you. I know that these guys and gals are just doing their thang. And I also know that having the gift for communicating via the written word, or the time, energy and patience to create an online community of thousands, or the perseverance and strategic know-how to kick the FDA in the ass does not mean you are a better human being.
I know how easy it is to be shy and to think that people don’t want to talk to you. Even me, a quasi-big blogger (medium blogger?), sometimes gets tongue-tied and gun-shy around people. And I know what it’s like to admire people and be completely convinced that you are the tiniest, most insignificant speck in their world. When I was at the DHF fundraiser at the ADA Scientific Sessions, Ed Damiano recognized me. The guy who invented the bionic pancreas knew who I was without me having to tell him. And Aaron Kowalski waved at me too! And I was like “Whaaaa?” These guys meet about a billion people every year. How could they remember little old me? But that’s the whole thing that drives me nuts because then I think to myself, well, why wouldn’t they remember me? I’ve worked with them. I interviewed them. I’ve done stuff. I’m around. Why do I expect that no one remembers me?
When I see comments from some of the newer bloggers who say that they are shocked people know who they are, trust me, I’ve been there. And that’s why I want to reach out and give everyone a little boost of confidence when it comes to being a part of the DOC. Don’t let the idea of “big bloggers” fool you. They might have a larger readership but no one is better than you. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas of our lives that we decide to devote more time to. We all work hard at something that means a great deal to us. And sometimes we get lucky breaks.
While the division between type 1s and type 2s will always reign supreme, I feel like the division between “popular bloggers” and “everyone else” could ruin the fabric that is the Diabetes Online Community. It might seem harmless or unintentional, but I think this kind of “big” versus “small” blogger thinking is unhealthy. It’s not needed! I’m not saying we’re at risk for imminent destruction, but I see these comments pop up every so often and it worries me what people might really be thinking. I don’t want to see the DOC ruled by some artificial hierarchy.
When we elevate people far above what is called for, it’s disturbing. It can be soul-crushing for some people. It’s not fair to either side. While there are many people who deserve respect and admiration for what they do, they should not be idolized like gods. They are not superhuman, even when it seems that way. They are very much human. They are very much lovely people. And you are lovely too.