I’ve been thinking about the internet and my role as an influencer on it for awhile now but could never articulate what I wanted to say. Though my example is with the Chinese niche aspect of my blog, the principles hold true to any industry you’re in.
In particular, I find that women – especially women of color – often feel as if there is a super small pie that we’re trying to get a slice of. And who can blame us? When many industry events seem to only have one or two women of color, we know that our allotted spots are even fewer than our white counterparts.
While representation of intersecting identities is important and a very real thing that needs to be addressed in our industry, I’m not going to focus on that part. Mainly because short of calling out brands and recommending WOC, we cannot control what and how companies ultimately proceed.
Instead, I’d like to talk about how we personally deal with our perceived competition.
Dealing with cOMPETITION
When I started blogging about Chinese stuff (how’s that for specificity) back in 2014, there were very few people in the game. I didn’t mean to write about teaching my kids Chinese. I only wrote about it because that’s what I was doing and I wanted to share my experiences because let’s face it. I’m a bit self-important.
Fast forward a few years and there are quite a few more folks blogging about this subject. When I first started seeing more people in this space, I admit it. I felt a little threatened. I wanted to say, “Hey! Get your own niche!” I constantly got angry at people who had different approaches and opinions than I had about the subject and railed about them with my friends in private. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m such a petty person.
But then one day, I realized I no longer felt this way.
WHy I am happy for more chinese blogs
In fact, I was GLAD for more blogs from other moms of the Chinese diaspora. The more the better! We are not monolith. Not everyone will relate to my posts. Not everyone will like me. Not everyone will agree with me. Not everyone will like my style and approach to both writing and life. (Who are these sad, incorrect humans?)
The more of our voices out there, the better the space is. Not only do we get more perspectives so we have a fuller understanding of all the ways kids learn Chinese, we also have more options. The more we see ourselves reflected online and in the world, the more we feel seen and acknowledged. The more resources we have, the more informed our decisions become. As a consumer of content, it’s great.The internet is vast. It is expanding at an astronomic pace. There is room for you. There is room for all the people who like the same things you do and who want to talk about the same things you do.
But the best thing for me (since it’s all about me, okay?) is the freedom I feel as a content creator to do and make the things I want to make.
I am so relieved that I don’t have to talk about all the different types of curriculum or books or pens or CDs. I know I used to write reviews about books and CDs and curriculum, but they seriously stressed me out. I hated it.
I don’t even like reading reviews, why was I writing them?
I’ll tell you why. I felt as if I had to. I felt obligated to my audience because people were always asking me what books my kids were reading and where to buy them. Guess what? I’m terrible at this stuff. Did I mind sponsored posts then? Not remotely! Why? Because they were paying me and I got to tell my audience about something that could benefit them. But reviews just for fun? NOPE.
Also, I’ll note that no one – as in ZERO PEOPLE – begged me to bring the reviews back. I would be hurt if I didn’t have a streak of self-preservation.
We need more of our voices
I’m all about inclusivity and representation. However. HOWEVER.
I was so sick of yet another white lady bragging about how fluent her kids were at Chinese.
People of the Chinese diaspora have been in the US since 1849. Passing on our language is not a new problem. Yes, yes. We weren’t allowed to stay and got kicked out and there were no women allowed, but my point is, we’ve been here a fucking long time.
Where were our families of Chinese descent? Why were we listening to someone who was not like us at all? Why did we let them co-opt our story? Why did we allow them to be the only story? Why shouldn’t we tell our own stories and our journeys as we try to force Chinese upon our children?
Look, there is a place for families of non-Chinese descent learning Chinese. There is also space for their stories because not everyone is like me. My point isn’t that these narratives shouldn’t exist; it’s that we also exist.
Plus, on a practical note, if there weren’t a widespread demand for the language, there wouldn’t be a supply of curriculum and materials. It’s a good thing for non-Chinese people and families learning Chinese – as well as other languages.
What I realized about the Internet
The internet is vast. It is expanding at an astronomic pace. There is room for you. There is room for all the people who like the same things you do and who want to talk about the same things you do.
It only feels like a small space because you’re immersed in it.
Okay. Fine. Learning Chinese really IS a niche topic.
But if you think about it further, it’s not. There are a billion Chinese people in China alone. They’re learning Chinese. Even in America, there are 3.8 MILLION people of Chinese descent. Even 1% of Chinese Americans would be 38,000 people. This does not include all the non-Chinese people who are interested in teaching their kids Chinese for political, business, or recreational reasons.
And if that weren’t enough, here’s the kicker: people read more than one blog at a time.
I know, right? RUDE.
Just like I do not only listen to BTS (and what a travesty it would be if they were the only band to ever exist), people do not only surf one site for a subject on the internet.
Look. It’s the eternal paradox of us being simultaneously unique and a statistic. Very rarely are we going to be completely original. But to the people who resonate with us and our voice, we become special.
When I was starting off as a financial advisor, one of the more experienced advisors told me that eventually, 80% of my book would end up looking like me. Even though I was only in the financial industry for a decade, I found it to be true.
This also applies to our audience and clients.
I realized I did not have to worry about other bloggers because I only needed to appeal to the people who would already naturally love me. (People of TASTE!) And surely, just as you love multiple writers, movies, bands, foods, shows, books, cities, people, and pork products, you can love more than one internet personality.
But Virginia, you say. You are amazing! Of COURSE people think you’re special.
Thank you, thank you. I know.
I have tricked you into thinking thus because you’re used to me. You’re one of my 80%. (And if you’re not, AHEM. THINK ABOUT YOUR LIFE CHOICES.)
Because I’m not worried about copying other people, I am free to be myself. And though I’d like to think that I impart good information, my readers stick around because they like who I am.
Know Who You Are
Looking back, I know why I was so upset about all these women writing about their kids learning Chinese. I was insecure. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and that my readers would jump to another site and never come back. (And quite possibly, a good number of people did.)
I coped by tearing other bloggers down. In private, of course. I’m not stupid.
But you know what? I didn’t like who I became. I didn’t like being a bitter, fearful person. I hated being someone who looked askance at other women in my space. I despised how what someone else did could wreck my entire day. I was sick of being a jealous person – coveting even what my friends gained.I realized I did not have to worry about other bloggers because I only needed to appeal to the people who would already naturally love me. (People of TASTE!) And surely, just as you love multiple writers, movies, bands, foods, shows, books, cities, people, and pork products, you can love more than one internet personality.
So I stopped.
I focused on what I wanted to do with my blog and my writing. I tried new things. I became more myself.
It helps that I’m a natural cheerleader of my friends anyway so that part didn’t really change. But the conscious choice to let go of my “competition” took a little effort. I chose to be kind to my Chinese blogger colleagues. I chose to support their work and promote their products.
A funny thing happened.
Some of the bloggers became my friends and it was no longer a hardship. And though I did not ask them to support me in return, they did. They encouraged me and highlighted my posts – not all of which were Chinese-related – in their feeds. In fact, my business and views increased versus shrinking as I had feared.
Now, I’m not saying that if you befriend other people in your space, you’ll magically get more business and make more money. Nor am I saying you should buddy up with people who are not good for or to you. In fact, run away from toxic people as fast as you can (while perhaps still being polite in public).
But even with the people I’m not a fan of, I see no reason to tear them down. I now accept that they also have a right to exist; they will find their people and there is enough bandwidth online that we don’t need ever to run into each other much at all.
Okie dokes. I have no quippy last line tonight. I just wanted to get this out of my brain and heart after so many years. Thanks for reading. I appreciate you!!