I used to wonder what was wrong with me. I mean, I always had friends, but I never was the chick those friends invited to their parties or sleepovers. I was the crazy one that was on the outside, invited in from time to time for a little comic relief.
Then I made it to college. (Ya know, the one year I went and flunked out? Yeah, that.) It took me awhile, but I made the Friends Who Get Invited to Parties list. And I was ecstatic! And drunk. I was pretty much always drunk. But really, who cares, right? I was IN!
Then life rolled on and I got caught in the undertow and dragged along with it. I was now a mother, a wife, and back on the univited list. But by then, I was too busy chasing babies to really give a shit.
Life kept suckin’ me along and I kept draggin’ ass with it, until I arrived at that place called middle age. My babies no longer needed chased, I had a LOT of time on my hands, and I was standing at a personal crossroads.
What do you do when you wake up and realize you’ve spent most of your life in that outside loop? Do you freak and start scrambling like a mutha fucka to find a way to move up in the Buddy Ranks? Do you say, “Fuck it!” and keep on doin’ what you’re doin’, figuring someone will eventually “get you,” or do you get all bitter about it and tell the Universe that you don’t need anyone anyway?
Did you turn to the online world, because cliquish crap doesn’t exist there?
Lately I’ve come across more and more posts from folks bemoaning the cliquish behavior of some of the online groups. They’ve spoken of how much it hurts to be pushed to the outer circle or even excluded altogether.
At first I was pretty dismissive, since I always thought that popularity and cliques were things that only belonged to the realm of high school. Then I took a step back and tried to look at it all subjectively. Suddenly I realized the cool kids’ table did kinda follows us all through life, with only the occasional change in details.
In my time I’ve encountered some pretty special groups that were worthy of their own WBC Series; groups like Mean Mommies, The Homeschoolers, The Co-Workers Club, Desperately Seeking Sickies, and The Onliners. No matter how ya slice it, cliques survive and thrive. And ya know what? There’s a legitimate reason for that.
We humans are at our most basic level, herd animals. An enlightening article I recently read (Ed Fisher: Why humans join groups) claimed people join groups to help us define ourselves and up the numbers on our self-esteem meter, to stave off fear with the sense of meaningful existence a group of like-minded people can provide, and to reduce our uncertainty about our place in this world. Plainly put, we do it so we won’t feel alone and afraid.
That got me to thinking, one of the common reasons bloggers give for opening this whole can of worms, is to feel less alone. They start writing in hopes of finding a group of like minded folks (Tribe seems to be the current catch-phrase for it) who understand what they’re going through. Hell, I’ve said it myself. Repeatedly!
What happens when the hopes of fitting in meets up with the fantasy of making it big?
When you dip your toe in the social media water and find out you need to start in the kiddie pool, folks can get frustrated. It’s infuriating as hell when you knock on the door of a long standing clubhouse, only to be told that membership is currently closed.
It can be downright demoralizing to meet your idols with the idea that they’ll love you on sight and see you as the talented, kindred spirit you know you are, only to walk away feeling snubbed. (Some interesting research I found stated that the emotions brought up by being rejected or excluded involves the same region of the brain involved in physical pain.)
If you’re looking for a how-to article for breaking through any of those barriers, sorry, but this ain’t it. Here’s why- I’ve made my peace with hangin’ in the outside lane. Granted, it’s sometimes an uneasy peace, since the last time I checked I’m still human, but it’s my peace.
When I stopped worrying about being part of some inner circle, it left me free from the pressure to follow anyone else’s lead. I’m free to speak my truth in whatever way I choose, without worrying about being bumped down any real or imagined list. (Unless it’s Google. Cause we all worry about THAT list.)
I mix-n-mingle with bloggers from several different interweb tables in the online cafeteria. Sometimes we’ll agree about something and there’s this momentary bonding thing and sometimes we disagree.
I have some pretty strong, personal thoughts on common online practices that I’m not willing to compromise about. Because I’m not a member of any club, I don’t feel the pressure to have to. To me, that’s one of the best parts of being the goose at the table of ducks.
If you need to belong to a tribe, you’ll eventually find your fit.
Remember that the people you may look at and view as the cool kids started from post #1, the same as you. They all worked their way up the blogging food chain, just like you’re doin’. Nobody (save a celeb or two) hit the blogging world a pre-made Super Star.
In the end, only you can decide if a little rejection will push you, as both a writer and a person, to be better or bitter.
For me, I’ve finally realized that I’m happy where I’m at. My personal truth may not be everyones cup of coffee, but statistics tells me it’ll inevitably resonate with someone. Meanwhile, I get to do what it is I love most, and that’s simply write my story, my way and have fun while I’m doin’ it.