How do we truly feel when people recognize us?
Bloggers build an online community. We interact with our followers online. We share stories to inspire others. Some of us share pictures that have been taken from the inside of our bedrooms. On my own blog, there are posts that include very personal feelings and opinions that my followers relate to or draw inspiration from.
READ MORE: Am I a mentally ill mom?
I have 36000+ followers in cyberspace. They are not 36k people physically sitting in a stadium and watching me. I am part of their online lives. Not their real lives. Our online lives transpire into real life, but they are not the same thing. Think of making a purchase in cyberspace with an online transaction and the product arrives at our door in real life. Our actions in cyberspace are part of real life but also very far from it. If I may put it in different words, our cyber lives and real lives overlap but they are very different.
The connection I have with my followers is a real connection, but it is a cyber connection. It is quite different to the connection I have with someone who sits on my couch and drinks coffee with me in real life.
When cyber meets reality
I was worried that there may be something wrong with me because I feel so awkward when a fan recognizes me. Maybe it’s because I can go benzies sometimes, but I don’t think it’s that because some others share similar feelings. I asked them.
I am proud of the content on my blog, but I actually feel shy when I see a fan in real life – it’s so contradicting. When I put content out in public I am behind a keyboard or smartphone screen. The public can’t see me. I could be sitting in my pyjamas and be without makeup.
I also do live videos on my platforms from time to time without makeup, when I’m braless and dressed poorly, so I know people can see the real version of me but face to face is extremely different, I tell you. When I am face to face with a fan, a stranger, in fact, I can feel terribly naked and vulnerable.
My personal reaction to being recognized by a fan in real life:
This largely depends on the circumstances and my mood but let me tell you about the last time this happened.
I was popping into Pick n’ Pay sporting a very comfortable pyjama-looking outfit with a messy mom bun and I was without makeup or a bra. My husband and child were with me. We were just quickly picking up some things on our way home from a weekend away.
Something caught my attention in the kids clothing section. I was kneeling on the floor looking at the Kids’ Wellington Boots when a strange voice came out of nowhere: “Aren’t you the Poppet Patch Mom?”
Me: Before I even looked up, I had a burning desire to dive into the gumboots display, lol. For a split second, I thought of all the places I could possibly hide, lol.
My husband replied on my behalf: (very enthusiastic and friendly) “Yes, she is.”
I looked up: (very shy) “Yeeeesss, that’s me.”
Lol, how embarrassing is that? I didn’t even get up from the floor!
Stranger Mom with Stroller: “I thought I recognized you” and then she just carried on walking. She probably walked away because she was shocked by my bizarre reaction.
Once she was out of sight I got up from the floor and told my husband: “OMG! How can I make a recovery???!!!. Help me???!!!” lol.
Thank goodness Stranger Mom with Stroller came to stand behind us at the checkout so I had an opportunity to recover. I managed some small talk about picking up some stuff from the shop on our way home, where we have been and the weather. She showed me her cute little baby in the stroller and told me she lives around the corner.
I felt a bit better after speaking to her but hearing her name took the feeling of vulnerability back up a notch. I didn’t recognize her unusual name at all from any cyber notifications, at all. She falls in the part of my audience that is classified as “reached audience” and not “engaged audience”. We have never ‘spoken’ to each other on any of my platforms. She’s never “liked” anything, commented on anything, asked me anything or sent me a private message. That is the true definition of someone who I have a cyber connection with and yet we have no connection at all.
Interacting with fans in real life at a public #PoppetPatchPlaydate
For me, self-doubt goes hand in hand with blogging and many other things in my life. I absolutely love hanging out with fans in real life at our playdates. I am a confident extrovert but interacting with fans at our play dates can also sometimes be a challenge for me.
Occasionally I find it difficult to engage in meaningful conversation as well as small talk with “strangers”. What goes through my mind when I’m face to face with a fan is this: “I don’t know what you have read about me and my life and I don’t know what you have seen. I don’t know what assumptions you have made and what your perception of me is. You may know some of my intimate feelings about a topic and you may have even seen the inside of my bedroom while I am only just hearing your name for the first time.”
While I have nothing to hide and have no regrets I feel terribly exposed. I feel that my behaviour is weird. I just feel awkward. After a playdate, I analyze and over think my actions. It’s just so strange, laughable actually.
The feeling of severe amnesia (LOL – I haven’t really forgotten anything, I don’t think)
This often happens to me when I’m talking to people at our play dates (read more about our Poppet Patch events here), but it has also happened at private gatherings. I could meet a friend of a friend for the first time and they will strike up a conversation about a topic or something that I have mentioned in post ages ago. Somebody will know something about me and I feel like I may have forgotten about a conversation that I’ve had with them in person. I guess it’s an ideal icebreaker but it’s a bit strange at first. I feel like I need to search some files in my brain before I know what the person is talking about. Once we’re on the same page, it’s pretty cool but it does take a while to find my feet.
Sometimes my own mother will even start talking about something that I’ve posted on my platforms and we’ve never even spoken about it. It kinda knocks me out a bit but it’s also great because I feel like we’ve had a “catch up” about so many more things since the last time I saw her.
When my husband meets people who follow my blog:
My husband is totally proud of my parenting blog and doesn’t have any awkward feelings in common with me. It’s happened on more than one occasion that my husband has come home and told me he met with someone who “knew all about us.” It feels so weird.
READ MORE: We’re going to be grandparents!
I asked some other South African bloggers and public figures:
Sharon Van Wyk from The Blessed Bareness
“I love getting recognized. For me, it’s such incredible validation! My absolute best story was when we were at the airport. I saw a couple in the check-in queue in front of us with a lot of luggage, baby bag and travel system with no baby in sight. When the woman spotted me, she rushed over and asked if I was The Blessed Bareness. She excitedly told us that they’d been inspired by my blog to pursue adoption after a long struggle with infertility. They were on their way to Cape Town for their adoption placement and to bring their baby home. I think I cried more than they did. It was beautiful!”
Carla Gabriella Smith from The Fitness Expert and Mum and Baby Wellness
“I still feel naked when people recognize me. I was the fitness expert for Herbex Health and PerformHer sports brand for a few years and assisted hundreds of women. Worse is people having high expectations that trainers don’t ever get a cheat day off. I got noticed while eating a slice of cake on my off day. Worst feeling ever.”
Maz Halliday from Caffeine & Fairydust and The Image Consultant
“I am just awkward. And I’m always shocked, and then overly nice and then I spend about a week thinking about how weird I must have seemed.”
Carly Crawford from Mom of Two Little Girls and Blue Media Edit
“One day a mom at school stopped me at the gate and asked, are you the blogger Mom Of Two Little Girls. I felt like a deer in the headlights. I honestly didn’t know what to say. She was super excited to have put two and two together and that was that. I think since then a lot more people know I blog, but I still keep it quiet. A part of me does miss the anonymity.”
Nadia from The Non-Adventures of a Stay-at-home Mum
“I arrived at a private gathering and met a friend of a friend. She said: “Oh Nadia, yes I know all about you. I follow your blog and was waiting to meet you” … I died. I don’t even know what I said but I made a quick exit under the ruse of making the baby sleep then literally waited in the room pretending my tiny tot was sleeping on my chest until she left. The things I write are so personal that the only way I can write is by convincing myself that no one reads it. So meeting a stranger who knew my most personal thoughts, struggles, emotions was just not an easy thing to handle for me.”
Jonelle du Pont from Tyranny of Pink
“I feel embarrassed and get really shy. It’s a weird feeling because I’m really proud but also I don’t know how to react.”
Tracey Monique Grammer Porter from The Milk Memoirs
“I get super awkward! And am honestly still trying to figure out how is the best way to react, but mostly awkward is the current auto response. My husband also gets approached often, and I think he’s even less prepared for it. I’m wondering how one could talk about it in your series that’s less awkward. But I have to say, when someone comes up to share how much a post of mine has helped them through something, as awkward as I may be, I feel renewed in my purpose for writing!”
I think the last sentence that Tracey said above summarizes how I feel. I wasn’t considering ways to talk about it that’s less awkward, I don’t really know how to make it less awkward for myself – because it’s a refreshing and renewing awkward, as Tracey says.
Kerishnie Naiker – International Speaker & MC, Health Activist, Model, Miss South Africa 1997
I spoke to Kerishnie Naiker to guide us on this one. She has more than two decades of experience in being spotted. She also shares some personal insight from Nelson Mandela himself.
“I must admit that twenty-one years after the fact, I still get surprised that people recognize me as easily, I can’t even go to the grocery store without being recognized. I attribute it to my hair being exactly the same.
It’s a pleasant, warm, fuzzy, heart-warming feeling. It’s wonderful to know that somebody feels inspired by you. I don’t think that we need to necessarily occupy public platforms in order to inspire others. But when we know that we have in some way fractionally contributed to somebody else’s life favourably, it is, of course, a wonderful feeling.
Like Nelson Mandela said to me, when people recognize you and approach you, it is just a day in their life. I will always remember that, and I do take pictures when I am asked.
The one feeling that I know becomes thought-provoking is that very often people believe that they know you. Some genuinely feel that they know you just from what they have read. They know of you, but they don’t know you.
When you get recognized by people it’s good to take the time to get to know each other in that particular meeting, however, it’s not always possible. When you are running into the grocery store to just get milk with the hope that you’re going to run back out it doesn’t always work out. Suddenly you get stopped and somebody then believes that you’re being hasty or impatient or not very welcoming but it’s not the case at all.
The thing is that you get so caught up in your errands and day-to-day life that when you pop in somewhere to pick something up en route to a meeting, you’re not expecting to be recognized. You don’t allocate time for that. In those circumstances I find it trying and challenging but other times it’s very pleasant.”
So now what?
I haven’t been spotted since I spoke to Kerishnie. However, our next #PoppetPatchPlaydate is less than a month away so I’m going to try to implement this advice. I hope this can help many others who get recognized.
It is also my aspiration to give some insight to people who recognize bloggers and public figures. I want to remind people in general that we are all just the same. We are all different, and that is what makes us the same.
Personally, I think Kerishnie still looks exactly the same, I don’t think it’s only her hair. She also said that it’s an extra special feeling when aspiring teenage models approach her and she said she hugs them all. It’s so cute. I think she is an incredibly inspirational woman and mother.
I could have this completely wrong but my understanding of Mandela’s input on the topic is that it’s no big deal. When a person stops us, says, “Hi”, or even just stares at us a little bit, it really is just another day in their life.
That will be my mantra …
“Just another day, for both of us”.
I’m so grateful for my followers. I love it when someone does recognize me. It somehow pats me on the back. It’s just that I am so bloody awkward. If you see me, please say “Hi”, but please also know that you’ve been warned about the potential weirdness, lol.
Special thanks to Stranger Mom with Stroller who inspired this blog post. I would be lying if I said that I can remember your real name, but I really hope I get to meet you again. Hopefully I can react a little bit better next time.
With Love and Gratitude,
*This is not a sponsored blog post
ABOUT POPPET PATCH:
Poppet Patch is a South African parenting blog by Laetitia Corder.
“My daughter, Sidney Grace (known as Poppet) and I started this blogging journey together after I had a complication with a spinal block procedure during an emergency C section.
A Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak (CSF Leak) occurred causing my spinal fluid and fluid surrounding my brain to leak during her delivery. We only discovered this when she was already 7 weeks old. This left me with a brain injury and severely impaired speech so I turned to social media for expression of my creativity in an attempt to achieve the quickest possible recovery. That is how Poppet Patch was born and I recovered in record time.”