Sometimes, as a blogger, it’s easy to get caught up a blog storm without realizing how many people don’t even know it’s going on. After relating this story to some folks ED team members on the way to lunch, I thought I’d write it down. It’s a pretty good example of how the simple act of blogging can evolve into awareness and action that was probably not initially expected.
A blog storm doesn’t begin in any one place. One post on one blog can stir a few eddies here and there. Maybe they die down, or maybe the coalesce into something bigger and stronger. For me, it started Friday night, as I was going through my feeds in NetNewsWire before going to bed. It was already after midnight when I got to my feeds from LinkFilter. I came across a post there that stopped me in my tracks. It linked by to a MySpace blog by a 16-year-old Tennessee boy — Zach — who had recently come out to his parents, only to have them tell him they were sending him to Refuge: a camp run by an organization called Love In Action, where gay or possibly-gay kids are sent by their parents, for reparative therapy.
Zach posted about his parents telling him he would be enrolled at Refuge. He ran away, briefly, then returned. Afterwards, he posted his anguish when he came across an email is parents had received containing the rules of Refuge. I felt ill. I read Zach’s last post before starting the program, and realized he was already there. I knew that at the very least I had to blog about it, or I wouldn’t be able to sleep. So I did.
Zach’s last post had gotten hundreds of supportive comments, so I knew other people and found his story were responding too, but it was still on my mind when I woke up on Saturday. So, I decided to do something more. I sat down and copied my blog post everywhere I could. I emailed other (read, bigger, with more readership) bloggers, and made contacts until I got someone to post about it.
Only then did I look up and realize how many other people were doing the same thing, writing bout Zach’s story and linking to it. Here are a few.
Queer Action Coalition — a group in Memphis, TN, where Refuge is located — sprang up as a direct reaction to the spreading of Zach’s story the blog posts about it, and started blogging about it further, as well as holding daily protests outside Love In Action every day of Zach’s stay (internment?) at Refuge. Majikthise posted about it with a link back to my post. Crooks and Liars covered it, with a video link to local coverage of the protests. RawStory.Com picked it up, along with QueerDay. Other blogs, bloggers and journals covering the story include: MorganKissBoys, The Flypaper Theory, River City Mud Company, Pam’s House Blend, Cherry Blossom Special, Matt Thomas, Mike Ditto, Jesus’ General, Chris Geidner, Andrew Sullivan, Tennessee Guerilla Women, and Boi from Troy. There are countless others, who read Zach’s post, and probably had the same reaction I did, and at least posted about it. Probably some did the same kind of outreach I did.
Call it a blog storm, or the “long-tail effect,” but sometimes it’s not about how many links any one blog has, or how many links any one blog gets. Sometimes it’s about how far the story spreads from blog to blog, whether they’re blogs with tens or hundreds of readers. The effect is that a story spreads and grows, and if it’s compelling as Zach’s it works it’s way up the blogging food chain. Tools like the Conversation Tracker from BlogPulse are a great way of tracking how these things start and spread, whether it’s a post from a gay teenager, or the Downing Street Memo. Maybe it works its way into traditional media. Maybe it inspires someone to take action, whether it’s a protest outside of a reparative therapy clinic or a congressional hearing. People are moved, and then they move.
So, that’s where it stands for now. A lonely, scared, gay teenager in Tennessee dropped a post into the big blog pond, and cause ripples and then waves of support, awareness and action. How it will all end, no one can tell. Zach hasn’t blogged since he’s been at Refuge, and probably can’t. According to his blog, he’ll be there for at least one more day, and maybe a few more. When he gets out, returns home, and has had time to sort out his thoughts, He’ll probably blog about it. The difference is that there are a whole lot more of us listening now.