:: Make and Meaning : Lots of People Are Not Like Us

Written for Make and Meaning by MEETMEATMIKES on DECEMBER 5, 2009

We web publishers and bloggers face an interesting reality each day.  We have our regular lives and our internet lives – and the two operate in unison pretty seamlessly and with pretty fantastic personal rewards. It’s really second nature to us, as we navigate blogging, social media, research and more without a second glance.  It’s our language, it’s our domain… it’s our Kingdom.
I think that often we assume that everyone is making, eveyone is reading, everyone is blogging.  We assume that everyone is a lot like us.  That everyone ‘gets it’.  That everyone is finding their way around and speaking our language.  Kinda fair assumption.  There’s a huge community that IS just like us.  But despite this huge-ness, we’re still a sub-culture.  We’re not really the norm.  And we need to understand that lots of people are new to this Kingdom.  They don’t think like we do, they don’t behave the way we do,  they don’t  shop the way we shop, they’re not walking our walk.  They’re not integrating the internet into their creative lives in quite the same way as we are.  They’d probably like a bit of a look in though, and there are lots of people ripe for conversion methinks!
The online Craft Community is a bit like the Vampire Fancying Community, I suppose.  Vocal, visible, heavily populated, pale at times, fashionable even, but not everyone’s cup of tea, and not a part of everyone’s life.   I’m not a Vampire Fancier, but I am part of the Craft Community.  I’m a bit pale too.  I write a daily craft blog centered around our bricks and mortar store in Melbourne, and I work in our store. I often get chatting about  creative pursuits with my customers.   I love that face to face exchange and I love to talk about craft.   Sometimes I direct these chatty customers over to our blog.  (I think it’s a good springboard to the rest of the crafty internet, with plenty of great links and tutorials to follow.)   It’s at this point that they look both excited and confused.  I’m speaking some strange language, apparently.  In fact, about  7 times out of 10, when I’m writing out our web address, I discover that the person I’m steering  towards the creative blogging community
a) has never heard of our blog or any other blogs
b) thinks that  blogs are weird and
c) is amazed to learn that the internet is great resource for all things creative, and is not at odds with a handmade kind of lifestyle
These are not people you’d pick out in a line-up as technologically or creatively challenged.  They are the General Public.  They have Blackberries and IPhones.  They are sometimes wearing the felt brooches they whipped up in front of the telly.  Some of them are wearing felt brooches they bought at a craft market – and are instead expressing a desire to make something similar themselves.  They are smart, nice, switched on people.
The  interesting thing is that they just don’t think of using the internet for hands-on stuff.  Perhaps they head to their local fabric store when they want to make something.  They write long-hand in a journal.  They watch the How-To Channel.    They don’t move in the sort of crazy, web-connected, crafty circles that we do.  (I see it as my mission to change that, I should point out!)
I think it’s important to realise that a lot of  people are not using the internet in the way that we  crafters are.  Lots of people are not like us!  These people are using the internet  for social networking, eBaying, looking at nudey pictures, downloading music, travel bookings… that kind of stuff.  But they are  not aware of the possibilities that exist online for gaining instruction, skills, collaboration and inspiration of the crafty persuasion. For free.  Did you know that lots of people have never heard of Etsy.  It’s really true!  I see it every day in my store!
I think the tide  is turning, though and we bloggers and publishers all need to get out our oars and start paddling.    I think these  ‘lots ofs’ need just a tiny prod in the right direction and they are away, adding fresh minds and hands to this amazing craft revival.  I think they need some friends like us, friends with paddles.  I think this is really where the non-virtual world comes in, because we can turn these people on to some really great creative, life changing stuff!  We can talk  about the things we are doing,  How the online Craft Community is a movement, not a club.  We can include and encourage them,  demystifying the blogging world and teaching them about our favourite online resources and other new-fashioned ways of sharing.  We can show them how to blog, use Flickr, Etsy and the like.  We can  open up our world to them.
Other forms of media, like magazines, books, radio and even tv can act as complimentary companions and helpful referrers.  We can show them the smooth seams between our regular life and our online life – and encourage them to explore their own creativity via the Internet.  If we can first recognize that our language may not be quite as universal as we think, and is often a bit daunting or exclusive,  then we can make our blogs  more accessible and less cliquey and share the benefits.  We can  lay out the welcome mat for newbies, and open ourselves up to new readers and new inspiration too.  Lots of people are not like us.  But we can change them.  And maybe ourselves in the process.
xx Pip
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