Social media numbers grew. Subscriber numbers grew. Relationships with other bloggers grew (at least on a surface level). Income grew. And traffic went through the roof to numbers I only dreamed I would one day see.
Other bloggers and even real-life friends began putting me on a pedestal. People said things like:
“You have built an empire!”
I even had people stop me in real life and say: “Are you Erin from the internet?”
Some people felt guilty or like they didn’t measure up when comparing themselves with their online image of me:
“Mmkay, I want to know how you run your blog, maintain a social media presence, work on a book proposal, cook all real food for your family, homeschool part of the week, read five books AND rest,” a college friend commented on one of my Facebook posts one day. “I really hope that’s what your book is about!”
When I look back over my 2014 blogging goals, I met them all.
But I began to feel empty.
By the end of the year, I was longing for deeper, more intentional real-life community.
When my blogging mentor–who is one of the top bloggers in the industry–told me she had not met many of her business goals for 2014 but had more margin in her life, deeming the year a home run success, I longed for what she described.
So for 2015, I designated my one word to be “deeper.”
Deeper online relationships (really pouring into a few specific online friends instead of the masses of acquaintances).
Deeper real-life community.
And, most of all, going deeper with my family and my faith.
This sentiment was only strengthened during my family’s time in Costa Rica. Although we were just there for five fast weeks, we embedded ourselves with the people. We lived with a Costa Rican woman for part of the trip, and we embraced the culture and the language.
Coming home has been difficult and a bit disillusioning, if I am honest.
Costa Ricans, like much of the world, don’t live with the stress that comes with the desire for more and more and more. Their lives are simple. The vast majority get by with the basics.
Yet, with little material possessions compared to their North American counterparts, they are happier than most U.S. citizens who live in excess.
I’m tired of the American rat race for more money and more stuff.
It’s not a problem isolated to the corporate world and suburbs. The pursuit of more things at the expense of relationships, health, and sanity has infiltrated every aspect of our culture, including blogging.
When I started this blog 4 1/2 years ago, the entire online atmosphere was different.
It was about community and encouragement. It was a whole lot more personable. Yes, plenty of bloggers were making money at the time, but they did not cheapen their work or disregard their dignity in order to do so.
They were real.
The blogosphere has taken a shift in recent years. The focus now is on more pageviews, more money, more fame.
Rich content has been replaced with cheap copycat round-ups.
Deep connections have been replaced with quick click-throughs.
Encouragement and ministry have been replaced with more money-making ventures.
As I listened to the keynote speaker at a blogging conference a couple years back, I cringed as she stated: “So what if I’m not the mom who bakes muffins with my kids? I can laugh at those moms because I’m making 6 figures on my blog.”
God has provided more financially through this blog than I ever imagined possible, but I ask myself: “When is enough enough?”
I can always make more money, but I can never regain this precious time with my girls. They are growing up fast, and I don’t want their childhood memories clouded by their mother’s laptop and her index finger held up, saying: “Just one more minute. I have to answer one more email or respond to one more comment on Facebook.”
I have not kept it secret that my family runs this blog as a business (and, for now, we will continue to do so), but I have purposely distanced myself from those bloggers who see their platforms as nothing more than wealth-building stages.
I’ve left Facebook groups and have narrowed my circle of influence to those who share my same value system and who place God first, families second, and readers next–knowing that it’s the Lord who provides the income from our work.
I want to see people over pageviews, moms in the trenches over money.
I don’t want to keep building an empire as if this relative success comes from me. When I’m in the spotlight, God takes a backseat. This should not be.
I’m not abandoning blogging all together, but I’m praying hard about how this next season will look. My firstborn is about to enter 1st grade, and my younger two are not far behind her.
These little years are so fleeting, and after this summer, I am more convinced than ever that strong familial relationships start now–not when they are teenagers.
I will continue to write. And I will continue to run a business to generate an income for my family and to bring God glory.
I don’t pretend to have heard God’s voice audibly, but perhaps one of the closest I’ve ever got was in the newspaper office of my college campus during my senior year. I told God: “I want to be a foreign missionary.” Immediately, I felt Him impress upon me: “Erin, you will reach more through writing.”
And so, I write.
I don’t know exactly what that writing will look like from here on out, but I do know this: I am done with the rat race. My desire is to sink my roots in deeper to this community, leave the empire building to others.
Have you felt a shift in the online world in the past few years? How can we grow deeper communities in the internet age?
Earlier this summer, I watched this video clip of Joanna Gaines of the TV show “Fixer Upper.” In it, she talks about God’s hand in her life and business. I hope it will encourage you–no matter your season in life.