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Embracing Mediocrity

A hideous change has taken place in America. Perhaps it came with the popularity of reality TV. Someone believes we all want to see people just like us in the media, be it old or new.

I don’t want to see someone just like me. If I needed someone just like me to read the evening news, reporters would be a little doughy with stained shirts and they’d mispronounce common words while saying “um” a lot.

Folks just like me would not be hitting home runs or getting touchdowns. Cheerleaders would have razor stubble and smile much less.

Sarah Palin would be Vice President. Biden sorta makes this a bad analogy… sorry.

People would be promoted because they’re just average. CEO s would have an IQ of 100. Conferences would have women just like us speaking.

I hate celebrating being average. What didn’t work for me about BlogHer was the size. The panels were too long and the audience was self promoting. Though the panelists were bright and articulate, it’s imperative that moderators are strong.

I’m an elitist. I want to be in a room with people smarter than myself, folks with more integrity and a better value system. I want to stretch myself and work harder to do more.

I don’t want to see people just like me being celebrated in Mainstream or in New Media. I want to see people much better than average being given the spotlight. This has been a disappointing space.

30 thoughts on “Embracing Mediocrity”

  1. I think this is all a product of our postmodern times. Back in the day, our parents had bigger than life heroes to look up to with morals and values…and the media looked the other way when those same people made mistakes. Today, none of that happens. Every misstep is publicized to remind us (even if we don’t want to know) that they are human with flaws just like us.

    We tell our children they can be anything they want to be when we know that isn’t true–if EVERYONE could be a doctor, who would fix my car or mow my lawn (yes, my snobbish CA side is showing here.) If the kid can’t pass Chemistry with an A, why are we encouraging him to be a doctor? Do we really want C students operating on us?

    I’m sure other people can come up with more examples…I need more coffee…

    All of this contributes to the glamorization of “averageness”. I don’t see that changing any time soon…as long as we continue to think that EVERYONE is equal…(and i’m not talking about race here)…I don’t agree or disagree with ya Jessica because I feel differently about it depending on my mood…Ha! Just like a woman…always changing my mind!

  2. Far from a generalization, I love this post! Indeed we have become a nation, a niche and a group that accepts mediocity, and not just that celebrates it. We hold those in high esteem who cannot or will not take pride in themselves or their work. Who accept what they are being “sold” as gospel without question. Part of why I read your blog is that its a continual challenge. I don’t always agree, and comment less, but you always make me think. You make me stretch, and do the hard stuff. Thanks!

  3. You must realize that even though you may be considered one of the social media “elite” that not everyone is on your level.

    Someone who is attending a conference for the first time and who is just now beginning to understand how SM impacts the media, marketing, etc may WANT to see someone who is not out of their ballpark.

    If someone were to wave a wand and all of a sudden I had the foothold you have on SM as far as your SM influence, your Neilson stuff, your being a panelist here and there, I would run screaming into the night with my tail tucked. I’m not ready for that jelly, yet. I cannot strive to be you, that’s not on my radar. Not trying to feed an ego here or anything. But you (as a social media player) are not relatable to me. As a fellow mother, sure, and as a woman with opinions, sure. But as far as all things twitter, PR, blogosphere, and all that…nope.

    But say Melissa, above, was a panelist. She is someone I can relate to more. I could probably take something she has to say and use it as a tool that I can use NOW instead of 3 years down the road. I consider her to be in my scope and someone I can learn from at the present.

  4. We spend too much time trying to make everyone feel good. The reality is that not all ideologies are equal, some are morally superior.

    It is the sense of entitlement that pisses me off. About seven years or so ago I had a conversation with a colleague at work that stuck with me.

    She was 23 years-old and angry that she wasn’t making what friends of her made. She thought that it wasn’t fair that some people could make so much and she couldn’t.

    I never understood why she thought that just showing up for work meant you should be paid a hundred grand.

  5. This is part of the issue I had with blogher. Some of the panelists had only been blogging for 6 months and were suddenly “experts”?

    I thought the panels were too short though. By the time the panelists had introduced why they were “experts”, there was just enough time for a handful of questions. It was clear that some of the panels had NO advance prep and were just a q & A session. It was extremely annoying.
    I went to learn but didn’t really take much away. (not including the fun and friendships, those were worth the trip)

    so where can one go to actually learn about blogging, social media, etc?

  6. Really interesting post Jessica. I have to say, I don’t totally disagree, but like Leah, I reserve the right to change my mind depending on the situation/day :-) Not because I’m wishy washy, but because there is something about watching someone “average” do or achieve something that is above average that I feel inspired by…it gives me hope and creates connection. Besides, who’s to say “whom” is average? For all I know that’s what people say about me :-) Which is fine. However, when it comes to me attending events, panels, or whatever, I go because I want to LEARN something, I wan’t to be WOWED, I want to be hit their INCREDIBLENESS. That I agree with.

  7. She was an example because she’s here and in on the conversation.

    My point is that just because you cannot learn from them, doesn’t mean someone else cannot. There are many levels in learning in between the bottom and the top.

    And good groovy if I ever got to the point where someone might ask me to be on a panel for something, well I would probably die of fright. I’m a blogger for a reason, I’m not so good at the speaking to the public thing. Not even if I imagine them in their undies…then I’d just be incoherent and slightly horny.

  8. This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time. People have often told me I’m snotty but honestly I could care less what they think because they are mediocre ;)
    One of my favorite books of all time is In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry

  9. There is an anecdotal (but sadly true) story of an American politician several decades back who said in a campaign speech “and if I’m elected, I promise that I will work hard to ensure that everyone has an above-average salary!”

    The irony, no doubt, was lost on most of the audience.

    If you know me, you know that I’m an elitist. But I’ve been told at times that being so makes me “anti-American” (no really.)

    I just happen to think that while everyone has good qualities – that doesn’t mean that they can provide something of value to me. I just don’t waste much time on those who don’t.

  10. Please, correct me if I am wrong.

    First I agree with Lizz, I think I too would find relating more with Melissa (or the likes), but I know I could also learn from you Jessica. I guess I find much like learning in a school, I never related to my teachers, but they did teach me. I suppose it truly depends on the teacher, how they could relay the teach us in a way we could understand, instead of reciting from a book or paper in front of them. Of course, this is just how I feel.

    Secondly, I’m not quite sure, (again maybe I am understanding it wrong) but labeling yourself as an elitist doesn’t seem right. Isn’t that the beauty of America, the beauty of being human, is striving for excellence. If blogging, social media, media in general etc is your niche – then yes you should want more, strive for more and work your ass off to get there. That’s not being elite to me. That’s being passionate. That to me is awesome. Like your comparison of CEO’s, (though I don’t) if I made a snide or judgmental comment about the padding of their wallet (i.e. money) – I would have to remind myself that they worked their way up there. They struggled and fought for what they wanted.

    While it is hard to say who is best in blogging, PR, social media and the likes – there are those with experience and are someone we can relate to. I think everyone should have their voice heard, but not everyone can educate.

  11. This is an interesting post, but it troubles me a bit. I think part of the reason it does trouble me is that it has so much to do with class, though people will rarely acknowledge this fact. What is it, precisely, that makes a blogger “mediocre”? I have a lot of thoughts on this topic myself, but I expect that they differ from most of the blogosphere, if the popular conception of who is popular or worthy of respect is any indication.

    For me, it is like a bunch of different little markets. Perhaps we don’t understand a market of which we’re not a part, but does that necessarily mean it has no value? That it is inherently worthless?

  12. Some of the comments I think diverged a little from what I got out of the post, but I also feel they brought up some interesting points.

    While we may not want the C students operating on us, we can’t pretend that they are necessarily mediocre. Perhaps the learning environment was not right for them as people. As a person, the best doctor in the world is no more or less valuable than the person who throws your garbage into the back of a truck, and to each of them, their life is worth quite a bit.

    I suppose I get stuck too often in a sort of class difference mentality, but I also feel that too many people forget or even overlook the others. I get how hard the law student worked to achieve the knowledge, but I work hard as well. While I haven’t likely fed anyone commenting here I do feed people just like you on a daily basis. I work hard to make sure that every plate of food I send out is right, that my food is good, and I put up with a lot to do it, the achy knees and back, the cuts and burns. You don’t see me doing it, and that’s part of the point of eating out. I’m happy with it, and I love what I do, but I do wish it were easier to make a living at it.

    I suppose my issue is that too often people forget that there is honor in all work, that we should value each and every person, that most people deserve more money than they get.

    The guy taking your garbage away is doing something most of your commenters would never dream of doing, riding around in the sun and rain and cold, smelling your rotten food and dirty diapers. Yet if they stopped for even a week we’d certainly notice.

    And now I’ll climb down off my high horse. I need to make sure my oldest has soccer cleats that fit because his first practice of the season is tomorrow. Yay soccer season, something we can hopefully all agree on.

  13. Alas, this is why I only attended TWO BlogHer panels, and walked out of three. Women who have been blogging for five minutes and using the panel as a means of self promotion. No value in that for me.

  14. I don’t know that copying and pasting of press releases is actually happening–maybe it is, I haven’t followed the whole situation closely enough. But for argument’s sake, let’s say somebody is doing that, and maintaining an audience, well–in that market, to that group of people, there is value, no? It’s not valuable to me, but it’s valuable to them. What they do has no bearing on what I do, or what I’m willing to do, or what I’m willing to be paid to do something.

    It’s like actors who work on scale versus movie stars. Do you honestly think that Angelina Jolie is pissed off that there are extras who work for minimum wage? Of course not. Because she doesn’t have to. The market will pay you what you are worth, regardless of what other people will or will not do for free.

  15. Since the world works on a bell curve and I can’t find a colony of quantum physicists that would lower themselves enough to hang out with me and talk shop, the average (or slightly above-average) is all I’ve got to choose from.

    That being said, I’ll take 100 average people without entitlement complexes ANY day of the week over rooms full of people who think they’re worth 100 times more than they really are – and that the world owes them something – simply by virtue of them getting through a trauma, being able to get on the internet, or being able to withstand four years of college and thinking that guarantees them a job.

  16. Interesting take on Blogher. I didn’t go. I’m not really a mommy blogger and the whole concept of a blogging conference only about women bugs me. Sort of seperate but equal…I think having a blogging conference that includes all would be much more interesting – except maybe to the marketers who were prevalent.

  17. Perhaps the issue is that Blogher hasn’t decided what it is? A conference for bloggers of varying levels all of whom are interested in being the best at whatever it is they are or a gathering of virtual friends, some of whom happen to have things to sell and promote?

    I went to a writing conference in the spring and attended a panel on blogging that was conducted by three people who really didn’t blog. Well, one of them sort of blogged and another was a magazine editor who oversaw a blog but admitted she paid scant attention to it. The misinformation level was high. After listening to the panelists and then the Q&A, I concluded that I was probably the most experience blogger in the room and I am not even mid-level in terms of the pack. My time was wasted.

    If I shell out money to travel and attend a conference, I want to come away jazzed by new ideas and inspired by the people I’ve met. The next conference is in NYC. Not cheap. Why should I expend time, money and energy to sit in on panels of bloggers who really don’t write? Who give good reviews regardless (I do book reviews and good reviews for shite books is common among the bigger book bloggers)? Or who have been blogging for a nanosecond?

    On the other hand, why do I want to go to a conference where there is a hierarchy that seems very high school in its nature and impenetrability too? One that is not based on one’s ability to write.

    Interesting as always, Jessica.

  18. This year for me is about accepting my own mediocrity. it is all classist at this point. Exposure, money, drive all come from somewhere else. So embracing mediocrity for me is freeing. Not other people’s mind you, just mine.

    Hard to learn from those who rank at the same level or below. Celebrating us lowly peasants could only bring more of the same, then what would the elite do? They’d have to create a new medium for exposure.

    Blogher and other conferences are more about meeting people like you than about learning how to blog or participate in social media. I would have appreciated an escape from my life right now, but am not sorry i missed the panels. Missed the party yes!

  19. i only went to 2 blogher panels. and the two i went to were fabulous. BUT. they needed to be smaller. more intimate. to really be able to get something out of them.
    which is why i’m looking so forward to that smaller one in october. to learn something. and to not be one of the sheep.
    maybe if you’re there, i’ll discuss with you what i have up my sleeve and maybe you can figure out what to do with it.

  20. Jessica, I just want to thank you for your part in trying to give some bloggers (like me) more exposure. I really appreciate your support, and you are a class act!

  21. I would like to see more people just like me on TV. They would all be healthy, curvy, beautiful people with open minds and lots of love.

    Why do you see yourself as mediocre?

  22. Some of the panels I saw at BlogHer had fabulous panelists and I wished the audience would shut-up and let the panelist do the talking. I wanted to hear more from those women and less self-promotion from the audience.

    Some other ones that I went to had mediocre panelists, but fabulously interesting comments from the audience.

    I agree that strong moderators are key and perhaps that is what was lacking in some panels.

  23. Thanks for articulating what’s been lurking in the recesses of my conscience since BlogHer. I really need someone to coach me/teach me how to take my blog to the next level, and I was hoping to get some of that at BlogHer, but I’m not convinced it did it for me.

  24. I’m not sure if it was on purpose or by accident that the irony of this post seems to have escaped you.

    While you may truly want to be with people smarter than yourself, to improve yourself you don’t seem to be using the platform you do have to achieve any of that (as far as I can see).

    BlogHer and similar “conferences” are about promoting people to sell stuff. It’s not about sharing ideas or public debate or initiating change in communities – it’s ultimately about selling. To complain that some of them were doing it badly by copying press releases is silly. There is no value added to product if a person sells it well or if they sell it poorly. If the product is crap, it will stay crap when the person brings it home & uses it.

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