“Best Dressed” and Writing Online

A little over a year ago, I wrote a piece for CNN on my daughter. It was the first piece I had written that hit a truly mass audience – well over two hundred thousand clicks, 32K facebook shares, incalculable tweets (because CNN does things with their URLs that makes it hard to count them). I did my first radio interview. I turned down a radio interview with a right-wing misogynist. It was an exciting week that motivated me to keep writing about gender for a mass audience.

Two days ago, I started getting feedback on twitter and Facebook about the piece again. I know that “A Mighty Girl,” a hugely influential Facebook group, shared the piece, but I am not sure why. Who read it and decided to post it? Did someone important tweet it out? Did it just percolate around the net for the last year, landing on the page of a decision-maker who then hit share? I’m endlessly curious about such things, but they don’t really matter. I’m gratified the piece is getting a fresh wave of readers, 15K more shares, and so forth, because I still think the message is important.

Here’s the interesting thing for me – In another era, an op-ed like this would have been written for a magazine or newspaper, even a highly influential one, read perhaps, then done, resident only in libraries and basement boxes of hoarders. Online, even if the internet proves more ephemeral than we believe, pieces have the potential for long afterlives, hooking a reader via search engines, social media, and suddenly gathering steam to live again.

I’ve seen it happen with Lisa Bloom’s excellent, “How to Talk to Little Girls” – Now up to 81K shares, nearly 600K likes, and surely millions of readers. It’s from 2011, but every so often it pops up excitedly in my social media feeds. This is a good thing as it makes a great argument, and if you haven’t read it, you should. My piece is nowhere near her numbers, and frankly, just between you and me, I’m not sure my piece is anywhere near as good. She is offering direct advice; I am explicating a problem. Advice > explication.

Still, I am struck by the power of internet publishing to spur something into a new pool of readers over 11 months after it’s published. I wonder if there are ways to do this intentionally (I’m sure the media savvy folks do it all the time) or if I, at least, just have to let events and the random game of link-sharing propel pieces worth sharing through the internet, waiting until they burst out again.

It’s enough to give a writer hope, it is.

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