Hi everyone! Since Top Ten Tuesday is taking a break this week, and I didn’t want to leave you without your weekly Tuesday post, and as it is the last day of the month, it’s about time for another Jo Talks post anyway! I was amazed by the response to my last discussion post, I was so pleased that the post seemed to resonate with so many of you and that I had so many positive responses to it. But anyway, on to today’s topic, I’m going to be talking about bloggers, specifically actual young adult bloggers in this community. There has been a lot of noise on Twitter about teen bloggers being afraid to speak out, feeling undervalued by the community that is meant to serve them, feeling outnumbered by older bloggers, cut out of conversations, not listened to and so I wanted to talk to some young bloggers myself, to find out what they had to say about it.
First off though, I’m going to talk a little about my own experience as a YA in the YA blogging community. I was 17 when I first started my blog back in 2014 (though it was the year I turned 18) and I have to admit, I was slightly overwhelmed at first. My first year of blogging, I didn’t really interact with the community much at all. I mean I think part of this was being a new blogger and just feeling a bit nervous to get involved, but I think another part of it was that I was surrounded by bloggers who were quite a bit older than me and had been doing it for a lot longer and it was all a little intimidating.
However, when I actually did start really interacting with the community, in 2015, I realised several things. First, that the community was not as scary a place as I had originally thought, that the older bloggers who I had felt intimidated by were actually incredibly friendly and welcoming people but also that it did seem the majority of the YA blogging community were adult bloggers.
I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve become more active on Twitter in the last few years, but I have noticed more young bloggers now than there seemed to be when I first started blogging, which is a wonderful thing. After all the YA community is for them, their voices should be heard. However, sadly, I have also noticed more young bloggers feeling sidelined and afraid to voice their opinions in their own community, which is not what should be happening.
So I decided to speak to a group of young bloggers about their experiences in the YA blogging community, in particular their experiences of Twitter, to see how they felt and I was actually pleasantly surprised with the responses I got, the bloggers I spoke to all seemed to feel that the community was a very welcoming place to be and that adult bloggers were welcoming and willing to listen to their opinions. Here are some of the responses I got:
“I definitely feel like adults in the community listen to me. Whenever I’ve spoken to bloggers older than me, they’ve all been very lovely and helpful. But then again, I haven’t spoken to all adult bloggers and I think that some teen bloggers may not listen to what you’re saying. I think it depends on the person more than the age” -Jemima, 17
“I have noticed that (to me) some adults seem more welcoming to the community than some teens (not all though, as most teens and adults are equally lovely)” -Megan, 18
“I think the adults in the community are really lovely and inclusive to teens. I’ve chatted to and met quite a few, and they’ve all been very friendly” -Jess, late teens
“I do think that adults have a say as well, teens do listen to us (depending on how big the age gap is)” -Rebecca, 21
I also found that none of the bloggers I spoke to felt like they couldn’t voice their opinions, they all said that they felt they had a voice in the community, they felt welcome to share their own opinions online and that adult bloggers were very encouraging and they all felt very comfortable discussing books on Twitter. That is not to say that there aren’t young bloggers out there who don’t feel willing or able to share their views with the community, there are, but I did find it encouraging that the teens I spoke to feel like they do have a voice in their own community.
I also asked them about the adult/teen proportions in the blogging community and if they felt like they were outnumbered in the community and their responses were very interesting:
“I feel more teens are getting into blogging, but it does seem predominantly adult. I assume however that’s because many adults started out as teens and have stayed blogging” -Megan, 18
“To be fair, I see a lot of teens blogging and have made friends with lots of teen bloggers. I think it’s good that young people are gaining more of an independent voice and interacting with their peers, most of whom they would have never met otherwise. But adults should be involved in the YA community, particularly if they are younger as they are inherently young adults, but also so that adults can engage more in what younger people are thinking and discussing. I’ve never got the feeling that the YA community is overcrowded with adults” -Jemima, 17
“Yes, while the adults are great, I do think the adult/teen balance is probably weighted a bit more towards the adults. Obviously I wouldn’t want to get rid of anyone, so the obvious solution to me would be to get more teens blogging about YA! I do like to know teens opinions on books, being a teenager myself” -Jess, late teens
I found Jemima’s response particularly interesting, as at 20, I am an adult, but I’m closer in age to a lot of teen bloggers than I am most adult bloggers, which has always left me wondering a little what my place in all this is, so it was interesting to see her response about younger adults role in the community, it really resonated with me.
Speaking to Jemima, Jess, Megan and Rebecca had me both encouraged, as well as realizing that there is a lot of work still to do. It is great that these young bloggers feel involved in their community and that they are listened to and respected, but there are still young bloggers out there who don’t feel this way. Twitter is a great place for connecting over books, but at the same time, it can be a very toxic place sometimes as well. Discussions can get incredibly heated and it can be scary to speak out. Especially over the last year or so, I have noticed the atmosphere on Twitter getting increasingly negative and people getting attacked over their favourite books and authors.
The common thread in Jemima, Jess and Megan’s responses is that they’d all love to see more teen bloggers in the community. I would also love that, for the teens now, who deserve to have their voices strongly represented and heard and also for the teen I was when I started blogging, who didn’t have other teen blogger friends to connect with. It seems like having Twitter is an integral part of being involved in the blogging community, but we are not going to encourage more teens to take up blogging if we continue with the negativity that has been going on in the last year. We need to be the welcoming community that Jemima, Jess and Megan became a part of, not a community that teens are scared to speak out in.
That is obviously not to say that everyone in the Twitter community is nasty, there are lovely bloggers out there, wonderful people who make being part of the community worthwhile. But there has been an awful lot of negativity on Twitter in the past year, and whilst this negativity is linked to important discussions about diversity and problematic books, I can’t help but feel like there are better ways to have these conversations. Ways that wouldn’t mean some teens feeling scared to voice their opinions and feeling ostracised from a community that is meant to be for them. We should be having these important discussions, yes, but we should be allowing teens to be included, we shouldn’t be scaring any of them away from voicing their opinions. We should make Book Twitter a safe place to be and shouldn’t villainize anyone for their love of particular books. By all means, point out their problems, but don’t villainize the people who do like them.
We want to be the community that Jemima, Jess and Megan have seen. The community that I saw when I first joined. We want to be welcoming and accepting of different views and we need to make sure that the teens in this community do not feel afraid to speak out. This community is a wonderful place, it was so welcoming and encouraging when I first started out and it saddens me that there has been so much negativity around of late. We owe it to the teens of the community, to be a positive place, where they feel free to voice their opinions, in a world that increasingly devalues the opinions of teens, to be a space where their voices are valued, appreciated and respected, and where they feel free to speak out. It is only by doing this that we will get more teens involved in the community.
I will have another Jo Talks post, my first of March (though this will technically be published in March, as it’s after midnight as I’m writing this, but I wrote most of it whilst it was still February, so I’m counting it as a February post), hopefully soon, but I’m not sure what I’m going to write about yet. If there’s anything that you would like to see me cover in my Jo Talks posts this year, then by all means, let me know! In the meantime however, I will have a new #RockMyTBR update for February up very soon, so stay tuned for that!