Hi! Who are you exactly? Yeah, you. And why are you here?
I don’t think I will ever be able to fully comprehend the grandiosity of having an online audience. Quite literally anyone from anywhere with access to the internet could be my audience. Yet constructing the idea in my head of the people, an entire population, a grand scale group that Warner (2002) discusses as “the public,” as my audience seems far too big to wrap my head around.
Obviously, for handfuls of reasons, my website is not reaching the entire public. While it is available to the public, it may only be reaching an incredibly small group of people. To further break it down, among that group that my site is reaching, my website is only impacting select people, resulting in a subgroup (of the already very small group) of people that consume my content in any sort of meaningful way. It is accessible to the public, but recruits engagement more specifically from a public (Warner, 2002).
So, who is that exactly?
When building jellylift, I began thinking about what an incredibly specific and niche concept it was, as weightlifting and plushies are such opposite and unrelated ideas… why on earth would they ever end up in the same cyberspace? In fact, when I texted the link to jellylift to a friend she said:
“!!!!???? WHAT IS THIS !!”
(I proceed to tell her it’s the blog I had literally just talked to her about like 3 days prior)
“OHHHSDBFHSDHFB ITS YOURS!?? I thought you had somehow just magically found this incredibly niche site that was hyper specific to your interests💀💀“
It made me think… Oh. Yeah. It is incredibly niche and specific to my interests. So, who on earth am I appealing to? Who is my audience? What is my public? Who’s there, on the other side of this screen? When I think about it, jellylift is ridiculous in the most charming way. I might say that it, as a concept, almost falls into the category of post-ironic content. When I think about my audience, I think of a group of people who are reading my posts and keeping up with jellylift out of irony. Not because I don’t believe I have a “real” audience that values my work, but because I don’t believe jellylift is intended for a “real” unironic audience. With that in mind, I will still say that jellylift’s primary demographic is youth – weightlifters and the occasional plushie connoisseur.
The content I produce speaks for itself. While the obvious audience would be those in the gym community and anyone who owns a Jellycat plushie, the style in which I choose to write and share posts attracts a certain group of people on its own. There is no need for me to write on the homepage “Welcome to my blog! Anyone who loves lifting, plushies, or post-irony is more than welcome to stick around!” in order to assemble my public. First of all, I actively avoided using the phrase “welcome to my blog!” anywhere on my site. [Click here if you care to know why] And secondly, throwing up a statement like that would go against the grain of the nature of what I’m posting. Stating the presence of a public that is meant to be an unspoken identity and assembled through self-organization (Warner, 2002), would not only deter that public, but would defeat the purpose of trying to appeal to that public. The people who it’s meant for know it’s meant for them… but stating that it is meant for them, makes it no longer meant for them. It’s paradoxical in a way. A brain twister and has a sort of, as Warner (2002) puts it, “chicken-and-egg circularity” (p. 413). While he puts this concept in a different context in terms of the nature of a public and its existence among its speaker, his discussion of the endless loop of how a public is addressed is both relevant and similar to what I am discussing in this post.
I won’t say that jellylift is a complete joke. There are individual posts and concepts discussed across my blog which hold merit and are of real value – but I also won’t say it is entirely serious and unironic. Take Oh My God, She’s Mine, for example. If you are unable to identify what pieces of this post are ironic and what parts are me simply enjoying something silly, you are probably not part of my “public.”
This idea ties into Habermas’ (1974) discussion of public sphere, a concept heavily discussed in Communications studies. While Habermas’ public sphere is a rather extensive text, reading between the lines reveals the inherent exclusivity of the public sphere. I think, in relation to Warner’s (2002) conversation, “the public sphere” is a public in itself. It calls for a group of people bound together by a discourse, allowing only eligible participants. This is something which can be applied to not only my, but all of our blogs. While it appears accessible to all, only certain members (the target audience, perhaps?) are actually capable of authentically participating.
I will not deny that there are, without a doubt, aspects of jellylift that accurately reflect my passions. Lifting is a huge part of my identity, and growing up with stuffed animals who still sit on my bed is something that brings me real, genuine, wholesome happiness. With jellylift, I cater to a group with similar interests and simultaneously hope to offer them the same happiness that lifting and stuffies offer me, in addition to the ebullient and absurd whimsy brought from combining the two.