I’ve been thinking lately about the Big Bloggers and how they’ve managed to build such phenomenal fandoms.
Some people really work at promoting themselves. Take Noah’s Dad, for instance. It’s no secret that his biggest talent is self-promotion. He’s tirelessly spammed and pushed and shoved his way to Big Blogger status. He’s also stepped on a lot of people along the way, leaving a lot of people pissed off and creating a reputation for himself as a sleazy whore of the blogosphere.
Other Big Bloggers seem to have it all fall effortlessly into their laps. Kelle Hampton is one that comes to mind. She wrote a birth story and became the It Girl of the blogging community (not just the Down syndrome blogging community) virtually overnight. Since then, her already privileged life appears to have become even more privileged, with speaking engagements and interviews and even a book deal with a major publisher falling into her lap, and (almost) everyone wanting her magic fairy dust to rub off on them.
It seems like the Big Bloggers all have a gimmick, an angle, that makes them stand out from the crowd. Rick Smith has his daily one-minute videos, and Kelle Hampton has her photography. I seriously wonder if either of their writing would stand on its own without the gimmicks.
I’m not inspired by either one of them, frankly. My distaste for Rick Smith is pretty simple: he’s kind of a snake. And what makes him worse than your everyday garden variety snake is that he portrays himself as this hardcore Christian, but his methods sure don’t back that up.
My feelings about Kelle Hampton are a little more complicated. She’s not blatantly smarmy and offensive like Rick Smith. I just feel like she’s a lot of glitz and not a lot of substance. It seems that she is gradually becoming more willing to talk about Down syndrome, but I don’t feel that she really imparts any wisdom that the vast majority of we parents of children with Ds don’t come by all on our own eventually (and many of us actually have before she ever did). Sometimes there are hints that she’s becoming a little more willing to step out of her comfort zone and be, well, real. I wish she would open up more. I wish she would talk about who inspires her, instead of standing alone on the pedestal that’s been constructed for her, as if she’s figured it all out without the help and encouragement of those who went before her. I’m not inspired by pretty, because pretty isn’t earned. I’m not inspired by privileged lives, because it’s not something I can relate to, it’s not something I think most people can relate to, and it’s a shallow foundation upon which to stand as a role model. Kelle has raised a whole lot of money for NDSS, there’s no doubt about that (where that money actually goes, what exactly it’s spent on, dollar for dollar, is something of a mystery, but let’s assume it’s all well spent in ways every person touched by Down syndrome would be in favor of), and she’s managed to paint a prettier picture of Down syndrome than probably anyone else has ever managed to do on a large scale. Those are the biggest contributions she’s made to the Down syndrome community – and they are big things. But how has she actually inspired anyone beyond how to take fabulous photographs and throw fabulous parties and to always look one’s best, at least on camera?
What bothers me about these two Big Bloggers who seem to stand at the top of the heap of all the rest of us bloggers is that someone decided that they speak for all of us, that what they portray is what all the rest of us should be aspiring to – and they’ve gone along with it. And I think that if someone is going to enjoy that kind of status, they have a responsibility to be real advocates. To actually inspire people in meaningful ways.
What inspires me? People who are real. People who are honest about their struggles. People who face down real adversity and overcome. People who humbly give credit where credit is due. People who admit that they don’t have it all figured out. People who talk about not only the ups, but the downs, too. People who aren’t afraid to stumble, and acknowledge it.
So, what inspires you?