Earlier this year I read Brene Brown’s fantastic book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. As soon as I started reading the book, I felt like I needed to take notes and re-read it all over again. I love books written by researchers who have spent years working on ideas which change the way we can see the world.

If you haven’t seen her TED talk on vulnerability, I also highly recommend it as an introduction to her work. Or, if twenty minutes is too long to sit through, here’s a less-than-three-minutes short clip which adds a lovely animation to her explanation of empathy vs sympathy:

I read a whole lot of blogs and continue to write on a bunch as well as working with bloggers daily. I recently did a little Blogging Your Way course run by Holly Becker of Decor8 fame. I do all this because I still am passionate about the power of blogging and I want to stay grounded and connected to other bloggers.

When I first discovered blogs back in 2002 (!), blogging was largely uncharted territory. It felt like a new gold rush where people quickly came in to stake their claim on a piece of the internet and to try and build up a name for themselves. It felt like the blogging world was countable, knowable and very finite.

Today, everything is different and yet it’s the same. It’s different because it’s impossible to read every blog there is, or even have an overall feel for every genre of blog – the landscape feels so vast and full of overwhelming and competing options. However, it’s the still the same. There were a lot of bloggers who were heady with dreams inspired by The Cluetrain Manifesto which begins:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.”

A recurring theme and tension for bloggers and their readers is authenticity… vulnerability… honesty… the human voice…

Earlier this year, Seth Godin touched on this when he blogged:

“The next time you feel lonely, disconnected or unappreciated, consider that unlike many other maladies, this one hits everyone. And unlike other challenges, this one is easily overcome by realizing that you can cure the problem by connecting, appreciating and leading.

The minute we realize that the person sitting next to us needs us… we’re able to extinguish their aloneness as well as ours.

When you shine a light, both of you can see better.”

Tomasz Tungz touches on empathy and honesty in his excellent post What I’ve Learned About Blogging In 3 Years:

“The most successful posts tend either to create an emotional connection through a personal story or share some detailed tactical advice. The best posts enable readers to see a reflection of themselves in the story because they have or are living through something similar.

Blog readers respond to strong individual voices. The whole point of a blog is to hear a real human voice. I try to write the first draft the way I might speak and edit that output. Hemingway is my inspiration for human tone.”

Victoria of SFGirl by Bay has a large following, but seems to normally get less than ten comments per blog post. However, when she opened up in her long post Pressures of Social Media: she received nearly 300 comments.

“while what’s going on out there in social media is very often truly quite fun and so inspiring — what we might wish for it to be in its best possible light — what is also going on is kind of a faux reality. and i think it’s making people feel badly. about themselves, their lives and about other people. and i’m hoping for a little clarity here today on my little slice of the internet…

my life is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. it is, for the most part very, very good, yes, and there are lots of wonderful things in my life — some i’ve worked really hard for, and some that are simply the benefit of living in a beautiful place, and having some lovely friends. but there’s some not so ideal stuff, too. i am, as you may have recently read, going on 54 this year, and, oops, i forgot to get married. and i am not in a relationship. i was semi-engaged once and he broke up with me over the phone. i’ve had some really hurtful relationships and so now i don’t even bother. so there’s that – and that is a big one. so, often i feel like i don’t have someone special to share the happy stuff with, which sometimes makes the happy stuff kinda sad. and that blows. i spend a considerable amount of time alone, and sometimes i’m quite content with my own company, and sometimes not. i am only telling you this because i want to share something personal that will illuminate you about my life and hopefully, if i have ever made you feel left out in anyway, you will understand that i am often left out myself. i feel ya. i decided to be extra personal today, because i’m probably going to continue to post lots of pretty images on instagram and tweet the madcap, great sides of life — a party here or there, a lifestyle that includes sharing idyllic san francisco spaces — the good times. but i want you to remember when i share them, that they are just snapshots. they are not the whole picture. they are a slice of life that in that moment, yes, is quite lovely. but real life is just not always like that and these moments are fleeting. of course there are lots of crazy happy moments, i’m not saying they don’t exist, but it’s always a balance and i wanted to present that in an honest light.

my hope is that i will never make you feel excluded because you’ve seen a brief joyous moment in time captured on my small portion of the internet. even though you probably rationally know this, if you’re feeling down it’s easy to forget that life is very often much more complicated than you could ever imagine. not just for me, but for all of us. i think most of us must battle something that’s not ideal, but there’s pressure to put out all this perfection. and don’t get me wrong, i love all the pretty pictures and i want to keep seeing them, but there are literally days when i don’t even want to be near the internet because i feel like i just can’t live up to it, or it makes me feel extremely left out. i thought you might be having days like this too, so i decided to share, to maybe put things in perspective.”

Holly Becker opened up on her blog earlier this year too about the human voice element of blogging in What Blogging Means To Me Now + Tomorrow and received over 120 comments:

“I’ve seen a lot of blogs go pro and those blog authors change. Their blogs are like infomercials and peppered with links and sponsored everything (without bothering to disclose it) and while that works for them, I don’t read blogs like that because their voices have changed…we have to remember why blogging became so successful in the first place…

Bloggers became popular for ONE reason. Sincere, honest reviews. Before bloggers were deemed cool and lonnnng before sponsored posts, ads and affiliate links, we just wrote stuff from the heart and sometimes, we even bitched and moaned about things we didn’t like which then motivated a lot of large companies to stop playing around with the little guy and to listen more to their consumers. Blogging is my absolute joy. It’s where I can always be spontaneous, where I can be me, and where I have never cared what advertisers or sponsors wanted from me – and this will never change.”

And, most recently, the hugely successful and influential Joy Cho of Oh Joy was very open and honest in her post That Juggling Thing:

“I’ll be honest, guys, I’m exhausted. My life—both work and personal—has changed so much in the past year, and the juggle has gotten much harder. I’ve since taken on a staff (salaries to pay), a studio space (another rent to pay), a bunch of large projects coming out (which means I place more expectations on myself), and I have a toddler who needs and wants more from me in ways that I love, but also make me feel more torn… I just feel guilty all the time.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I get asked all the time how I do it all, and I just had to say that I don’t. I try my best, I ask for help, I choose my battles, I love the people in my life as much as I can—sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail—but mostly, I am still just figuring it out.”

She had almost 200 comments in response to her post and later said:

“Thanks again all your amazing support, comments and responses on Monday’s post. It means more to me than you know, and we really are all in this together…”

It would be remiss of me not to mention Momastery when mentioning vulnerability and openness: her blog is full to the brim of it. Her 114,000 Facebook followers must find something of value in it too.

Empathy. Vulnerability. This is why I love blogs. We’re all in this together.

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