Thursday, January 22, 2015

When Your Hobby "Isn't Valid" | Sofia Speculates (1)

Welcome to the first ever episode of Sofia Speculates aka the feature I've been doing since I started blogging (rambling) that finally has a name. These speculations range from bookish to life to myself. So sit back, relax, and grab a cup of coffee, because I spend FOREVER sewing bits of my soul into the HTML brackets of this blog post discussing whatever topic is at hand.

I am here to discuss what it's like being Sofia Li and to reinforce the fact that I am not normal. I mean this in my usual blogging cadence but also with candor. I am a teenager, without a boyfriend, many friends, or organized sports/activities. That about sums of the GENERAL definition of having no social life.
This is me!
It's Friday night? The average teenager is probably getting ready to hang out with their friends, chow down on junk food, and relieve the stress of the week with cliche rom-coms everyone secretly loves. I'm getting ready to film a video telling people (I've never met) my opinions. I have the benefit of living with my best friend (there are posts to explain this - I'm not going off on this tangent) and I am 99% okay with this. I have a roof over my head, good food, a loving family, and the resources (such as the internet and the library) at my disposal to do the things I love. Do I wish I was a social butterfly with a ton of engagements and people texting me every moment of the day? No. Would I like to have a few more friends since moving to New York? Definitely.

Today, I am here to debunk all of these all of these myths, answer all of your questions, and generally explain how genuinely happy I am with the life I am living right now.
What Do I Get Out of Blogging/YouTube?
You Blog and YouTube? What does this mean?
Everyone from Christine Riccio's mother to Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner's now-husband, Will, to my very own parents don''t understand the freedom, the opportunities, and the salvation (to be extreme) that comes with putting yourself out there on the internet. Since the 10s began (I have no idea what to call this decade) YouTube and Blogging have begun seeming more and more like a legitimate career (not one I intend on pursuing professionally, but a valiant one for those who can make it). It's extremely hard to break into, find your personal niche, and all of that jazz. But I get something out of Blogging/YouTube that is unique and can't be found anywhere else because of its newness in the past years that no one (besides my generation) has ever experienced before.

Don't Lost Hope!

The Blogging and (more so) YouTube Cultures have become more and more of a an actual THING (to be as illiterate sounding as possible). The classic teenage response nowadays for why they are procrastinating is Tumblr or YouTube. You might think your content is crappy, but you HAVE to remember that SOMEONE out of the 7 (or is it 8 now) billion people on planet earth stood EXACTLY where you are at this very moment. Whether it's speculating as to whether or not you should take the plunge into one of these two of these communities, hanging on to the hundred or so followers you have and trying to grow your own brand, or being approached for a relationship between you and a company you have admired/loved since the very start.

Never Fear, The World is Big Enough For Us All.
ANYONE can be a content creator because EVERYONE is interested in something. If it's a common niche such as beauty or books, you are in luck. If you think you are the ONLY person in the world that likes something, the internet will most definitely surprise you. There will be people out there who will watch your videos/read your posts because no one else has experienced your life, no matter how boring it seems.

We Are Valid! 
I'm using Elsa.... THAT'S how strongly I feel about this
To others, especially in the 40+ range of adults (there are always exceptions ), this doesn't seem valid. They throw words like REAL and LEGITIMATE out there, wondering how GENUINE or HONEST either channel of self-expression could possibly be. You are basically selling yourself to the public, if not for money, but popularity or response. Yet, how different is that from an actor trying to land their first break-through role, an author attempting to query their 13th novel to reluctant agents, or a painter begging to have their piece displayed at a local gallery? Blogging and YouTube are daunting JUST because they're platforms with a possibly large audience and ANYONE with access to a computer can see.

Do you think I have earned a dime for ANY of this? 
The answer is the biggest, fattest, NO I can manage to type on this screen. This is 100% a labor of love. I'm going to spit out the usual disclaimer of "if you're Blogging/YouTubing to make money, you're doing it for the wrong reason." In future, there might be opportunities for monetization, and if it's something that helps me stay true to myself and the brand I have created, I will go for it. For now, every second of time I choose to spend or not spend on my greatest passion is my own.

The Best Part is.... I am my own Boss
You think I have a coach breathing down my back, ordering me to make my posts more grammatically correct (although, that would probably help)? You think my parents are telling me to churn out 4+ posts per week (when for the record, they have no idea what I talk about)? You think I'm letting down a team by deciding to watch Netflix instead of film (answering to myself is a lot harder of a job)? I make my own hours. I  carve out my own niche. I establish my own voice. I decide what I want to say. Basically, blogging/BookTubing is the best hobby EVER because I don't have to answer to anyone. The only people who are remotely effected by me not posting are my readers/viewers/friends.... who I have worked towards.

What's the point? 

Books, Reading, Writing, and Expressing Myself are my greatest passions in life. I will choose the bookstore over Barnes and Nobles ANY day of the week. I will blow all my money on BookOutlet, then go shopping at the Strand INSTEAD of H&M and Abercrombie. The point, is that this is ME. 100% genuinely who I am. I get to read books AND have people stroke my ego with views/comments in the process? Hell Yes! I get to talk to others who enjoy literature just as much as I do AND have thought-provoking conversations and learn different perspectives about the world? Yes, Please! (As Amy Poehler would say).

You cannot imagine how appreciative I am that I was born in a day and age where all of this is possible. With the move and the events of the past months, blogging/YouTube has been my life raft, my tug boat, my anchor. It's the ONE thing that never changes and will always be constant. We're of course disregarding the fact that people change and the internet is progressing every moment. But you catch my drift.

Why do I pour my heart and soul out if only a few people see it? 
The most FAQ question and IMMEDIATE impulse of people who I am discussing my blogging/BookTubing with is How many followers do you have? Out of ALL of the cliche, standard questions a person could ask, they question how many people follow or subscribe. I don't even need to mention that followers are the most crystalline sign of "legitimacy" out there.

Why is this so important?
For someone that isn't engrossed in this industry, it's a quantifier, a marker, something simple and easy to make a judgement on. This isn't even the most FAQ from peers my age, but adults. Plenty of my parents friends jump the gun and ask this question. Instead of "How did you get into blogging? What's the best part of it?" Out of all of the cookie-cutter questions adults have to ask, it's this one.

Obviously, the better content you have, the more followers you get. Someone filming with their iPhone against their living room wall obviously doesn't have the same quality as another with a DSLR, microphone, and ring lights. But, this doesn't mean that what you have to say, what you can give to people, is any less just because your following isn't as large. You can love something and be just as committed as the person with 100,000 followers versus your 100. It has taken me over a year to become more confident with my abilities, but every second of time I spend is worth it.

How do I know these people on the internet who watch my content aren't pedophiles?
Directed to parents 
This is the moment of truth for all the adults waiting and wondering what their children are doing on the internet. As teenagers, we don’t know. As adults, we don’t know. Internet safety is something extremely important and valued amongst the general populace. There are stalkers, there are bad people. What you really need to do is be responsible and make your own judgements on what you disclose on the internet. There are vloggers that tell us every aspect of their daily lives, and then there are people we love to watch, but don’t know a thing about other than the content they produce. It’s an entirely personal decision as to how much you choose to disclose. My number one piece of advice for parents is to trust yourselves that you have raised your children to be safe on the internet. 

Did you know that you can have friends online?
On the topic of interaction and “internet friends” it’s a lot easier to judge whether or not a person is who they say they are if you know of them through YouTube. With BookTubing, it’s impossible not to show your face or reveal at least a little about yourself. I consider book blogging a generally safe niche to be in when comparing to the beauty community or technology reviewers. With books, you actually have to read the darn thing and have general knowledge of books. I highly doubt a stalker is going to sit through Anna and the French Kiss, then compose a feels-filled review about Etienne St. Clair. Book Blogging is NOT the area you should be in if you want to be a stalker, too much work.

What's my experience with this?
I’ve never been contacted by someone illegitimate (that I know of) through my blog, youtube channel, or twitter account, but if I were…. it would become pretty clear pretty fast that someone was a faker. My twitter friends and I talk about books/book-related subjects 98% of the time and the other 2% is complaining about the weather and school. So to answer parent’s hesitation, no we don’t know…. but trust yourself that you have taught your kids good judgement.

You actually do things?
You want to come over here and tell me I don't do anything? You will get a one way ticket to the Arena, Erudite Headquarters, or the Batalla Hall prison cells (we’re just going to ignore the fact that those are all REAL places in America and going there will serve you no consequences). Blogging and YouTube are WAY more than filming, drafting posts, editing, and uploading. There is scheduling, time management, reading, prioritizing, networking, publicizing, responding to comments and emails, and sitting down in front of a computer to review a book is the tip of the ice berg my friend.

Looking at blogging and BookTubing with that perspective, the hours are truly endless, especially if you quantify them in comparison to a sport, instrument, or any other extra-curricular. I’ve heard a ton of bloggers say that its like a full-time job without getting paid. In the most literal sense, you’re running a business consisting of only yourself. *Ends rant* My point is not to put-down the value of what other people do as their past-times, but just to stake my claim that my hobby is 100% valid.

If you made it ’til the end of this blog post, I congratulate you! It took me way longer to compose than it should have and it’s a lot of work to read and take in all of my (caffeine induced) advice.

Now I want to know your opinions. Feel free to answer any of the points I make in the comments because I want to know your personal experience with this entire wonderful, crazy, tight-knit community.

Disclaimer: I used the typewriter image from FreePix on this website. All images, except for the parchment/quill are not my own, nor do I claim them to be.

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