This month marks my fifth year blogging and being actively involved in social media.
My intent and focus has always been the same: Telling our story through words and photos. Instagram is my youngest social platform, as I resisted following the craze for what felt to me like a long time. Interestingly enough, it's because of my Instagram account that our lives changed overnight.
Social media has had a positive influence on my life in so many ways, beginning long before my photos of Theo and Beau went viral.
Three months after we moved to New York City, my 2-year-old landed us in the emergency room with a severe allergic reaction to pistachios. Without any family, friends or neighbors to call, my husband stayed home with our youngest while I literally ran my wheezing, hive-covered baby through the rain to the NYU ER. Over the seven hours that Jack and I spent in that sterile, packed little curtained-off corner while he received round after round of steroids and oxygen, I turned to Twitter and found that I wasn't, in fact, alone. There was a community of mothers and fathers there to virtually hold my hand, sharing their experiences and advice with me. Mostly they assured me that it was OK to be scared, but that my baby would also be OK. That was the first time I realized that this community is so much more than a bunch of strangers behind computer screens -- this is a lifeline. These are my friends.
This incredible group of socially conscious and connected peers would prove immeasurably valuable over the next five years, but never more so than when my instagram photos went viral last November.
We adopted Theo from the Santa Cruz SPCA in late November of last year. He was 7 weeks young when we brought him home with us, and I'm quite sure he was sharing the nerves and anticipation that we were feeling.
Theo found the most comfort in my son Beau, and they immediately bonded as buddies, partners in crime, and even as brothers. He began napping with Beau, who wasn't quite 2, the day after he came to live with us. I shared my delight with my husband via text first, then on Instagram.
They napped together day after day, and after a few naps I realized this wasn't going to change anytime soon -- so I gave them their own hashtag, and wrote about their lovely little ritual on my blog. The Huffington Post published an article about them next day, and by that night I had a slew of new followers and a deluge of media requests. Realizing what was happening without really registering it consciously, I stayed up for two nights fielding requests and handling agent emails and talk show inquiries. The local news crews were on our doorstep that weekend, and we even went to San Francisco in the middle of the night to film Fox & Friends. Good Morning America set up shop in our living room one evening the following week, and we started appearing in print all over the world.
Everyone said that I had "hit the lottery" and told me to enjoy my five minutes of fame. I couldn't connect with that whatsoever, because in the midst of all of that attention, my baby's face was appearing all over the world and my anxiety was eating me alive. It was mostly positive, though of course with the rapid attention and millions of eyeballs came the naysayers and Internet grumps. I've dealt with my share of negativity from strangers on the Internet, but those instances pale in comparison to the hundreds of emails and thousands of supportive comments from people all over the world.
I've heard stories of love and loss and how the photos of Theo and Beau bring peace and reassurance and hope to all kinds of people in all different situations. Above all else, this has been the largest bounty. The amount of love we've received in many different forms and several different languages has left me forever humbled.
My commitment to using social media for good had also presented itself in the most obvious way: turning the attention to our local Santa Cruz SPCA. We've raised over $10,000 towards their goal of building a new facility, and with a portion of the proceeds from my book going toward it as well, I'm confident they'll meet that goal. Philanthropy has always been my anchor, and it's kept me grounded throughout this experience.
The past five months have been some of the most intense of my entire life. I've rapidly learned all about Internet property, copyright and trademarks, and more broadly, the infinite arms of the Internet -- how vast that span is and yet how wildly unhinged it can be, too.
In my most frantic and dire moments of stress, my online community was there for me again. Far from the emergency room, yet feeling stranded all the same, I received unsolicited emails and notes of advice and support from some of the most successful and knowledgeable pioneers in this business: women and men whom I am hugely proud to call my friends. I battened down the hatches by hiring a team of heroes: lawyers, agents, publicists, a rock star to handle my sponsorship opportunities, and even a babysitter and a house cleaner. What was once a loosely run online lifestyle journal is now a full-time commitment, and I still get to be at home with my kids fulfilling my number one goal and priority of raising my children.
This means that I'm taking conference calls at the playgrounds, Little League games, and even my obstetrician's waiting room. I may be enjoying far fewer morning trips to the beach than originally planned upon our move to Santa Cruz, but I'm earning a living of my own and am able to help support my family as well as climb the ladder of dental school debt.
I'm incredibly proud to announce that Naptime with Theo and Beau is now available for pre-order. I am also incredibly thrilled to release the very first video that I've been working on with Anna Mayer, which was shot soon after we brought Theo home. It's been a wonderful journey, and it's apparent that our story is only beginning.
Theo & Beau Film courtesy of Milwaukee videographer Anna Mayer.
Follow Jessica Shyba on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MommasGoneCity