For once, I've actually remembered my bloggiversary in time to write about it on the day itself. And it coincides with another nice round number. Five years and five hundred posts ago I started this blog (I'm not very impressed with five hundred posts in five years. A hundred a year? One every 3.6 days? Must try harder). I had already been a participant in the bloggisphere for some time in the form of comments, but I realised as I read other blogs that when I read a comment I liked I clicked on the name to read more of what they thought and what they were experiencing, yet I wasn't allowing others to do the same for me. So why should people who wrote these blogs care what I thought in their comments if I wasn't similarly sharing my own thoughts? At the same time, we had some difficulties in our marriage that I couldn't talk about in real life, and I wanted a safe space to discuss them, a space where nobody knew my name.
In the five years since I have been writing the size of the infertile bloggisphere has exploded. At the time I started I think I'm safe in saying that we were all connected by, at most, two degrees (e.g., I read Julie, who read Cecily. Although I didn't read Cecily to start off with, a post at Julie's alerted me to the loss of Cecily's boys, which allowed me to connect to Cecily's experience. And add her to my list of blogs I read.). And we were all connected by the famous 'big list of blogs' at Julie's place, which allowed everyone to at least have the opportunity to 'know' everyone.
Nowadays I'm sure that despite Mel's efforts, we are not even all connected through the Stirrup Queens portal. There are simply too many people in the world blogging about infertility and infant loss, and increasingly many of them are not blogging in English and so don't naturally hook into the big US-UK-(some parts of mainland Europe)-Australia-New Zealand-Canada cabal. As new people join the infertile bloggisphere, us old ones often stick around (although sadly others don't), swelling the ranks further.
For me, this means that a sense of community is harder. First because it's simply too big. The very good programme shown recently on BBC1 - 'Virtual Revolution' - shared some research on this. Basically in every primate society there is a natural group size of between 60 and 150. Beyond 150 groups tend to fragment into smaller units, as it's impossible to maintain the intense 1:1 interactions that are required for the group to maintain its identity. Despite the ease of online interaction, it turns out we still tend to stick to communities of less than 100. On facebook, the average number of friends is around 65. This community is much, much bigger than 150 - probably back in 2005 we had already exceeded this limit.
What's happened? We've become a social network experiment. If you analysed our connections my guess it we'd look something like this
Picture from here, thank you
Lots of relatively tightly linked groups, connected by less tight and dense links to other similar groups. Except that our links would continue to link those outside the picture. It's not a perfect illustration, but it will do.
Does it matter? Not really. People seem to still find the connection and supoprt they need (although I wonder if that's always true for someone blogging in, say, Hungarian or Tamil. And where are those blogging in Mandarin about infertility? There must be some, mustn't there? Do you think there is a Chinese equivalent of Tertia or Julia leading the way and making connections?). It does make the groups that do exist perhaps a bit less closely knit. The linkages are not so intense because there are more people sharing them. The need for support is a bit less obvious - we know the community is big, we assume someone else will make that comment. But it is what it is. It's much bigger and it's getting bigger.
And perhaps naturally, therefore, I cherish the links that have been with me since the beginning or almost beginning even more, even when those people have disappeared from my life. So I thank Sandy and Nico, who left my very first comments. I thank Grrl, whose blog was the first infertility blog I found. I thank Julie, for being the original glue. And I won't go on because inevitably I will forget someone and I always have hurt feelings when I read similar posts on other blogs and they haven't mentioned me! But I do thank all of you. For the 11,927 comments on my 500 posts. For getting me through it. For understanding when no one in real life did. For becoming real friends. I am so glad I didn't have to go through it without you.