Most of the time, I still feel like I’m 17 years old. Which is hilarious, because I’m actually 37 years old. It’s been MORE than 17 years since I WAS 17. Yet still, the mindset that I’m going to one day get abruptly called out for being an adult impostor doesn’t escape me. Which again, is hilarious, especially considering I look every minute of 37 years old (these crows feet brought to you by two sleepless babies and a solid decade of quarter-life-crisis).
For example, today I had to run to the grocery store to get a plethora of things. Among them: children’s cold medicine. The littlest one – who constantly reminds me that “littlest” isn’t a word – seemingly has a touch of the
plague cold that I had for the last week. I went to the self checkout, because I am one of those people who is neither vehemently for or against self checkouts (seriously, talk about a polarizing topic), and there was simply no line. When I scanned the cold medicine, an alert came up on the screen saying that I needed approval to purchase this item.
I stared at the “is this customer over age 18” message on the screen and genuinely wondered if the self checkout attendant would believe that I was indeed over the age of 18. Would she study my I.D. wondering if it was fake? Would she try to make small talk while looking me up and down, making sure I truly was who I said I was (the mom of a sick eleven year old)? I could feel my heart rate increase and a tiny sense of panic beginning to veil my body.
As it would turn out, the self checkout attendant did none of the above. In fact, I don’t even think she looked at me when she came over, punched her approval code onto the computer screen, and walked away with nary a moment of doubt, leaving me to complete my purchase.
The list of situations where this adult-impostor syndrome presents itself includes, but is not limited to: parent teacher conferences at my children’s school, voting, ordering a drink at a bar, and speaking to the mechanic about my car. It probably doesn’t help that I essentially spend all day, every day, in “gym class” clothing and get paid to play on social media. I wouldn’t even know what to do with a pair of heels and a power suit.
It’s silly, I realize, but it’s just one of those idiosyncrasies that makes me who I am. Recently though, there’s been something in my life that has finally made me realize that perhaps I’m skipping from 17 to curmudgeonly old woman. We’re talking a “get off my lawn” type of status. Something that has made me scoff and say things like “kids these days” while wanting to simultaneously wave a cane in the air and wanting to eat dinner at 4 pm. Under an afghan in front of my “program” on the television, of course.
(If you’re wondering, I’m definitely a Wheel of Fortune girl over Jeopardy, but I wouldn’t turn down either.)
And that’s the world of blogging. And social media. And I guess the internet as a whole. But mostly blogging.
In short (and in typical old lady fashion): I don’t like change.
When I first stumbled upon this hobby, long before it turned into a somewhat viable career (up for debate, based upon your personal standard of living) the blog world was all about the art of story telling. I used to pour over other people’s blog posts, sharing stories about motherhood, training, racing, and life in general. The people who made me feel like I was in the room with them, or who held my attention for so long I could mindlessly scroll through thousands of words without looking up, were my favorite. In turn I shared plenty of my own stories and life experiences. From my first attempt at Yasso 800’s to cleaning up baby poop off the floor in a jump-a-roo session gone very wrong, to juggling full time school and motherhood, to devastating heartbreak, and so much more. I shared it all.
Back then I was never short on words, but I was more often than not short on in-person ears to listen to my stories. Motherhood during the toddler years can be very isolating. But the blog was the virtual equivalent of a blank page, the internet an endless plethora of listening ears.
I loved it.
But a lot has changed since 2009. Blogging, as a profession, has evolved from story telling to knowledge sharing. Blogs are now a source of information for the reader, who comes to the blog looking for answers to their questions. Sprinkled in there is a healthy dose of marketing and capitalism. This, as a whole, I am not opposed to. In addition to stories, I have a lot of experiences and knowledge to share. Especially in my niche, the running industry. After all, my technical profession is “certified exercise physiologist”. I am an educated fitness professional who thrives on helping people, and happens to run a lot herself. I’m thrilled that my corner of the internet has become a source of knowledge sharing, answering questions for those who seek answers.
“So what’s your problem, old lady?” you’re probably thinking at this point. Don’t you worry, I’m going to share. IN DETAIL. That’s what I created this second blog for anyway, right?
My beef is that these days, successful blogging seems to be about figuring out – or even better – “beating” the system. It no longer matters if you can captivate your audience – it simply matters that you can crack the internet code correctly in order to make people click on your blog before they click on another site.
It’s about search engine optimization. Finding a magical combination of keywords that people are searching for, but not many other people have bothered to answer (yet). Using that magical combination of keywords just enough – but not too much – in your post, in order to make the search engines (in reality: only Google) happy. Making sure your blog font is big enough (but not too big!) and that your site speed is fast enough, and that the plugins designed to make user experience better are not actually bloating and slowing down your site, thus making user experience worse.
*takes a deep breath, and continues*
It’s about creating endless visually stimulating pins because in addition to keeping Google happy, you have to keep Pinterest happy. But you have to make sure the pins are not just worthy of saving, you have to make people want to click on them. And then you have to find the right combination and interval of sharing your pins in addition to other peoples pins, to make sure you stay relevant. But be careful not to share too much or not too often! Because that, too, will piss off the Pinterest gods and send your referral traffic into the dumpster, or worse, you’ll get banned. Oh, and don’t forget to SEO the hell out of those pins, too. Because SEO is EVERYTHING.
But wait! There’s more! (There’s always more!) You’ve got to stay relevant by having a presence on Facebook, and Instagram, and YouTube, and SnapChat, and did you get a TikTok account yet? And make sure you post at the right time of day, with the proper number of hashtags, and if you don’t gain traction with your post within a certain immediate window, you might as well kiss that effort goodbye.
Don’t forget: email subscribers and creating videos and podcasts and creating your own courses to teach people to do what you do! Diversify!
And because all of these things are seemingly impossible to keep up with, you pay for endless subscriptions to services who are supposed to help, but you are constantly contemplating if they are only making things worse. And you pay for courses from experts to teach you how to do things right. And you pay other experts to implement the things the previous experts told you to do. And you pay even more experts to fix the things you have messed up because website coding is absolutely a foreign language. Eventually, you think you get to a point where you have this all under control…
…and then google gives you a big ol’ “thanks for playing, but we’re gonna go ahead and do an algorithm update that’s gonna change everything you think you knew about how this all works. Oh and kiss your traffic goodbye. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” leaving you back at square one.
When really, all you ever wanted to do was tell stories.
I won’t lie, sometimes I look back at posts from 2009/2010, the posts that all of the SEO experts tell me I should delete and redirect, because they add zero value to my site, and I mourn for those blogging days of the past. Those posts weren’t for clicks or google rankings. Those stories were my reality. They are a part of who I am.
But nevertheless, I adapt.
Because change is absolutely inevitable, in all aspects of life. And while I’m not 17 years old anymore, I’m definitely not 80, and I’d like to stay in this blog-o-sphere for many more decades, if it will have me. I conform, and write the things that I hope will answer readers questions, and they will find useful. I comply to the new industry standards, and pay for the people who know what they are doing, and the subscriptions that will help me find the magical combination of words to help ensure people will click on my blog before they click on another site (when the truth is, you know I want to name all of my posts after 70’s Yacht Rock song lyrics). And when Google and Pinterest and all of the other internet deities deem my work suddenly doesn’t comply with their new updates (even though it did yesterday, what is this tomfoolery!), I take a deep breath, put my head down, and work harder.
And I accept it all, because at the end of the day, I still think it’s so cool that I’ve somehow turned this hobby into a viable (again, totally based on your standard of living – we share a car and sleep on the floor) career. Complaining seems like the epitome of first world problems. I really am so incredible fortunate to have stumbled into this opportunity.
But all of that said, it’s not going to stop me from escaping to this new corner of the internet, where at least for today, I don’t give a rats ass about search engine optimization or if the smiley face buttons on the Yoast plugin are frowning at me. At least for today. Tomorrow I might optimize this corner, and find myself a new url where I can gripe about “back in my day”.
Now, pass me my tea and hand me the remote, I think my program is about to come on.