Why I Hate Blog Memes

by Alisa on February 7, 2013

Plus Books You Will Want to Read

A meme used to be an idea that spread from person to person naturally, much like the flu virus. These days memes spread unnaturally, more like chain letters. One blogger decides on a topic, writes a post about it, and then tags five writers in a post, telling them to write about the same topic and then tag five more writers and so on and so forth until the idea is spread all over the Internet.

The problem: a lot of memes are boring. If the chain letter approach weren’t used, they wouldn’t spread at all. People like you come to blogs to read interesting posts. You don’t come to read posts that bloggers wrote only because they didn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings.

That’s why I, as a general rule, don’t participate in chain meme.

But today I’m making an exception. I wish I could say I’m making an exception because I’ve stumbled across the most awesome meme, one that is so interesting that it deserves to be spread like butter on fresh baked bread.

9781451636086That would be a lie. Rather I agreed to spread this meme because Jennifer Margulis, one of my dearest friends and a journalist that I respect and revere like Nellie Bly, asked me to. If I spread the meme, I help her to spread the word on her upcoming book—and her upcoming book is worth spreading. Called The Business of Baby, it’s an investigative expose of the childbirth and baby industry. The book shows how big business is behind how we birth and raise babies. It’s shocking, and it’s a book every new parent or parent-to-be should read if they want what’s best for their babies and their own bodies. For instance, did you know that some hospitals sell the foreskins from circumcised babies? Among other things, the tissue might have been used to make the anti-aging cream that you put on your face last night.

Say it with me: Ew.

That’s just one investigative finding of many. Jennifer followed the money trail, showing how big business and financial gain is behind everything from that first ultrasound to that final pull up.

How I’m Not the Next Big Thing

Now this is the part of the meme where I’m supposed to answer 10 questions about my upcoming book. I’m not going to do that for two reasons. One, if you got to the end of a 10 question post about my book writing, I wouldn’t consider you a saint. Rather I’d consider you a masochist. Second I don’t have an upcoming book.

Sure I’m working with a brilliant author on a business book that I will one day beg you to buy and tell all your friends about. It’s going to be an awesome book, but it’s a long time off.

I’m also finishing a second memoir, one based on my Karma Project. Even though I spent much of the past year writing it, I’m not convinced I want to publish it. Why? I’m terrified of ridicule and failure, and I’m still a bit exhausted from trying to promote Project: Happily Ever After. For me, writing memoirs is a joy right up there with watching beautiful sunsets, cuddling with my loved ones, and sitting in the motorized massage chair at the gym. Publishing and promoting a memoir, on the other hand, is thankless drudgery.

At the moment, I’m calling the second memoir Be Thankful for Vile People. In the comments you can tell me if that title captures your interest and whether you think I should keep the book hidden on my hard drive or release it as an Amazon single.

It’s also possible that I’ll, in the coming year, write a memoir about my dog Rhodes, too. It’s also possible that I won’t write a book about my dog. It all depends on whether I can find anything interesting to say.

The only question from the meme that I will answer is this one: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Tina Fey must play me in all movies. After all, she and I have the same hair color.

Authors Who Are the Next Big Thing

News From Heaven finalThis is the chain letter part of the meme where I mention five authors who I believe will pen the most important books of the year. I’m not going to do that for two reasons. One I don’t want to inflict this meme on anyone I love and admire. Two, Jennifer Margulis is one of the authors I would have mentioned here, and I already talked about her earlier in this post. And in her meme post, she already mentioned nearly all of the authors I would have mentioned, except for one.

Jennifer Haigh is a novelist who has a gift for telling stories from multiple perspectives. I read her first novel—Mrs. Kimble—solely because Jennifer and I once worked together, each of us part of a writing assembly line that produced encyclopedias with names like The Doctor’s Book of Herbal Remedies for Authors Who Would Rather Die Than Promote Themselves.

Okay, we never once wrote chapters for such a book, but we should have because I would take such a book off my shelf and read it now if I had it.

Mrs. Kimble engrossed me, and it haunted me, too. It was one of those rare books that I yearn to read over and over again. I’ve since read Baker Towers, The Condition, and Faith. In each book, Haigh creates characters who are so endearingly flawed and so well developed that I feel as if they are all members of my extended and somewhat colorful family. Years after reading her books, I find myself thinking about her characters, wanting to talk to them, hold their hands, and help them solve their problems.

I just downloaded News from Heaven, Haigh’s latest work, onto my Kindle, and I can’t wait to start it. It’s a series of interconnected short stories, all of them based on the same imagined world of Bakerton, Pennsylvania that Haigh wrote about in Baker Towers.

What makes Haigh’s writing big is this: through her characters, we see our own delusions. Her writing helps us to understand that the vast majority of conflict arises from misunderstandings caused by seeing people and situations solely from our own perspective. Much like Haigh’s characters, we’re tricked into feeling hurt or angry because we’ve only seen one facet of another person. It’s like seeing an iceberg and thinking that the part that is visible above water accounts for the entire mass.

As we all know, more ice is hidden beneath the surface than is visible above it, and this is true of every relationship we have.

We think we know people. In reality, we only know a small part of them. It’s my belief that, were we all able to see the world from every perspective, we would come to dearly love all the flawed beings in our lives, just as readers like me come to love all of Haigh’s characters.

I’ll be writing more about News From Heaven. Purchase it and read with me. If you purchase using the link below, it’s like giving me a nickel and telling me you love me.

 

A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Margulis February 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

This is hilarious. I laughed my way through every sentence. I don’t even know what a *meme* is (that’s how out of it I am, I guess). Instead of looking it up, I substituted the word “round-robin” in my post. Having said all that, I was once tagged in a 7 Things I Love About My Town round, um, I mean meme, and it was great fun to write.

Thank you, Alisa, for writing an anti-post post. I’ve never heard of News From Heaven but now I want to read it. So many good books to read! (I’m in the middle of Far From the Tree, which is 900 pages long, and also reading All The Presidents Men–an indication of just how far behind the times I am but an oldie but goodie…)

And you are only NOT the NEXT big thing because you are already hot stuff!

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Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart February 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

Clearly, I don’t get meme’s. I didn’t realize they were chain-letter blog posts. I thought they were viral graphics (with words) … in my niche, it would be the Can Haz model of promotion.

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Alisa February 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Roxanne–I think the visual graphics and the I Can Haz stuff are examples of memes that spread for a GOOD reason–people see them, love them, and can’t stop themselves from sharing and emulating. Then various people decided to try to force them to spread with this chain approach.

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Brette February 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I have not read Jennifer Haigh, but I am definitely going to now. I’ve read Jennifer Margulis’s book (I was lucky to see it in advance of pub date!) and it is a must-read for anyone who has had a baby or who wants to. And every OB/GYN and pediatrician ought to read it also. If you publish your book about vile people I want to read that too. I probably wouldn’t read your book about your dog because books about dogs always end badly and make me cry. Too much dog loss in my own life to relive other people’s. And as for hating to promote yourself, I hear you. It’s not a skill that goes hand in hand with being a natural born writer, that’s for sure.

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Sheryl February 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

You don’t need to promote yourself, Alisa – there are enough fans out there who will do it for you! I do look forward to reading your next memoir…love the title.

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Jane Boursaw February 7, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I can’t seem to wrap my head around memes, but I love what you’ve written above. I’ve avoided writing books partly because I can’t seem to figure out how to do it and pay the mortgage at the same time, and partly because the whole process sounds exhausting and, ok, a bit soul-sucking once you trudge through the marketing part of it. Can’t we just write and have people pay us? That’s not too much to ask, is it?

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ruth pennebaker February 8, 2013 at 10:54 am

Love this, Alisa. Give me a funny, to-the-point post any time instead of a meme.

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Vera Marie Badertscher February 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I’m not thankful for vile people, but I suppose you’ll explain why I should be. And when you explain something, it is always explained well. Maybe we should start a meme. Vile people who have inspired me.

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Irene S. Levine February 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I so admire anyone who has the guts to write a memoir—especially ones who write good ones like you~

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HeatherL February 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Finally a definition of meme that I understand. But I think there’s too much “me” in meme.

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Kerry February 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I’ve enjoyed your posts or your karma journey, Alisa, so I’d look forward to a book based on it — but I’m not wild about the title though I get why it’d work. I think you’ve got others in your story that’d work better though.

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Happy February 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

I would buy the book because you wrote it and I appreciate your words and you inspire me through all you do.

I’m not a fan of the title but see above, I’d still buy it ;)

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