I suffer from the common, though rather irritating affliction, of wanting to be liked. Other than during some rather self-destructive phases, when I am in what I like to call ‘fire starter’ mode, I prefer to avoid offending anyone, and I run a mile from confrontation. And so it is with quite some trepidation that I embark upon this post, on the subject of blog awards. I have a mental vision of losing all my followers at a rate of knots – I almost wrote ‘in droves’, and then realised that that would give you a somewhat inflated notion of my popularity. I really don’t want to risk offending even one or two, but the subject has been on my mind for a little while, and part of me feels driven to give it an airing, nervous though that makes me feel.
As bloggers, we write for many different reasons. We write for ourselves; we write for others; we write for healing, and for expression; we write for understanding and for support, both to give and to receive. We write because we need to; we write because we must. But regardless of the reasons why we write, I believe that most of us would like our writing to mean something to somebody, and until someone tells us that that’s the case, we dare not hope that it is true.
A few weeks ago I was incredibly honoured to be nominated for two blog awards within the space of a few days. ‘The Bipolar Bum’ nominated me for a ‘Very Inspiring Blogger’ award, and ‘Nonsense and Shenanigans’ nominated me for a ‘Most Influential Blogger’ award. I have thanked them both for their nominations, but I haven’t managed to post the awards on my blog, or indeed to ‘officially accept’ the awards by following the rules associated with them.
Before I go any further, please let me say this. I don’t disapprove of blog awards. I don’t think they’re a bad thing. I don’t think they’re silly, frivolous, or pointless. In fact, quite the opposite. I believe that blog awards are an enormous compliment, and believe me, I’m a huge fan of compliments. I went on a course once where one of the ‘bonding’ exercises involved giving each other compliments, and out of all the courses I have ever been on, it’s the one thing that’s stuck. I like to give them, genuinely, as often as I can. Not to get into anybody’s good books. Not to get something in return. But because I think that it’s an important thing to do. It’s far too easy to fall into the habit of only speaking up when there’s something to criticise, and forgetting to say anything when there’s something to admire or praise. So when seen and taken as compliments, blog awards can be immensely important – they can touch, motivate, build up and inspire.
But I do have some concerns about the ‘chain-letter’ aspects of blog awards, and about the number of ‘rules’ attached to them. Perhaps this is just a function of my anxiety, perfectionism and rather obsessive nature – but I know I’m not the only one. I have seen a number of bloggers either gracefully decline an award, or express some anxiety over the nomination, and in many cases, it tends to come down to a similar set of reasons, a key one being time.
I was completely surprised, and absolutely thrilled, to receive my first nomination. But almost immediately, the thrill started to be moderated by an anxiety, bubbling below the surface, about finding the time to reply and act on the nomination. Many blog awards are accompanied by a list of rules that most often include answering a number of questions about oneself, and listing a number of other bloggers (sometimes up to fifteen) who you wish to nominate. You may have noticed that I have a problem being brief. Try as I might, I can’t use one word where ten would do. I used to use twenty where one would do, but blogging is teaching me the art of self-editing. I’m still learning.
Given that fact, and my compulsion towards perfectionism, I know that I would spend a great deal of time both thinking through and writing, the answers to the questions involved in these nominations. And then there’s the rule about nominating a handful of other bloggers for the award. How could I possibly choose? For someone suffering from the aforementioned ‘wanting to be liked’ affliction, the idea of naming some and omitting others, can cause not-insignificant discomfort and uncertainty. I was incredibly thankful when ‘The Bipolar Bum’ replied to my concerns about the fact that it might take me a while to ‘pay the award forward’, by telling me not to worry, and to simply take it as the compliment it was meant to be. I heaved a huge internal sigh of relief, as my anxieties started to dissipate. I certainly had not wanted to offend the very person who had expressed their appreciation for my blog, in this way.
To paraphrase the other part of ‘The Bipolar Bum’s’ message to me, I don’t believe that the nomination of an award should place a burden on anybody. I don’t believe that it should put anybody under pressure, or cause anyone anxiety. I know that these things are the very opposite of what the awards are designed to do. I’m also sure that these things are the very opposite of the feelings that those making the nominations, would want the recipients to feel. At the end of the day, I know that my responses, while valid, are perhaps towards one end of a normal distribution (in the strictly statistical sense!), and are a function of my mental health difficulties, which no one else should feel responsible for. However, I can’t help a wry smile at the irony of the situation – these are blogging awards given by and for those with mental health difficulties. Perhaps then, we in particular should be mindful both of the importance and of the potential impact of the awards.
So for anyone thinking of creating a new blog award – may I make a small and very personal plea?
First and foremost, please make it clear that it’s a compliment – freely given, to be freely received. A compliment is a gift. Please make your award a gift – no strings attached, no rules to follow. An award recognises what has already been done and achieved, it is not conditional on what is still to be done. There is so much that we have to do in our day to day lives, from the routine, to the mundane, to the extraordinary, where the extraordinary could mean simply living through another day. Please make it clear when nominating someone, that nothing more needs to be done. By all means, give ideas or suggestions for how the nominee could mark receipt of the award, if they wished. They could put a logo on their page; they could write a blog post about what the award means to them, or about some aspect of blogging; they could share a favourite song. You could encourage them to nominate at least one other blogger for the award, if they so wished, and perhaps to say why they had chosen that nomination. But you could equally encourage them by reassuring them that it is fine to just accept the award, and do nothing.
If I were allowed one ‘rule’ (or at least a strong encouragement!), it would be this. ‘Please thank the person who nominated you for the award’. The ‘thank you’ doesn’t need to take a particular form. It doesn’t have to be public, or linked to a blog post. It can be via email, or via a comment on another post. If, in addition, you would like to do something to help to share the blog of the person who nominated you, consider re-blogging one of their posts that has struck a chord with you; or consider linking to their blog, from one of your posts.
Finally, I think it’s worth saying the following. They say it’s the thought that counts. I know that that’s true, but how many of us would deny that we don’t enjoy receiving a gift, even though we know it’s less valuable than the thought behind it? Nominations for blog awards are wonderful – by all means keep them coming! But it’s the fact that you thought of me, and thought I was deserving, that really counts. It’s the fact that something I wrote touched you, moved you, helped you feel less alone, helped you understand yourself or others better – that’s what really matters.
Blog nominations are heart-warming to receive – I love to know that you like my writing. But I love getting to know you, more. So keep those comments on posts coming as well – not just on my posts, but on others too. Blog awards provide recognition; comments start a dialogue and build bonds. Comments let me see you, and allow you to see me in a more immediate and informal way than the posts themselves allow, however real, personal and revealing they are (and I hope that mine are all of those things).
I will always treasure the words of those who nominated me for those two awards, and I am humbled by them . The nominations themselves were just the icing on the cake. There is definitely a place for icing, don’t get me wrong, but we mustn’t forget the cake. The icing gives us a sugar rush and leaves us high, but the cake fills and sustains.
Until the next time we need cake. Which I think, for me, is right about now.