Thank you

As a student I met famous atheists who struck me as pompous.  I would watch some of them give talks and then disappear.  These things disgusted me.  They were a real reason behind the structure of Skepticon which did not have a green room so it forced the speakers to mingle and share time with the people who make them celebrities. (Oddly, some of the most famous atheists I’ve met, like PZ, Ed, and Greta, are also the most amazingly humble)

As I have become more popular, I am realizing that the prospect of niche fame is a weird beast.  It’s something I both want and don’t want.  I want the utility.  I want to be able to have my voice heard.  I want to be able to organize people.  In short, I want to be able to change the world.

On the other hand, I don’t ever want to feel like I’m above anybody else for being well-known (I’m fine with feeling better than some others for other less superficial reasons).  I don’t want the temptation to be pompous or any of the other qualities I grew to hate in other “celebrity” atheists.  Despite those close to me telling me I should own it, I’ve endeavored to never think of myself as even slightly “famous” (it sounds dirty even saying that word).  In short, I want to feel like just another young person in the crowd who is lucky enough to get on stage every now and again.  So far I’ve managed it.

However, this weekend I was confronted with how things have changed.  My boss had to boot me away from the SSA table at the Reason Rally because so many people were coming by who wanted to meet me.  I went out into the crowd and was stopped constantly for pictures.

I just…had no idea that so many people read this thing.  So many of them told me that I had impacted their lives in some serious way.

I’m flattered.  Indescribably flattered.  Not just by the attention, but that so many people confirmed for me that I had made a difference.  I really don’t care about the popularity (though it does make me blush with gratitude), but I very much care about making a better world.  Thank you all so much for that.  It means the world to me.

I go to conferences to see you guys.  *hug*

  • Kaito

    I wish I could have been there. I don’t comment often, but I read every post and love most of the blogs on FTB, with yours being the one I gravitate to the most.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Saturday morning I was going downstairs at the hotel to have breakfast before going to the Reason Rally and a woman in the elevator with me said, “You are very famous, aren’t you? My husband reads your writings every day.” And I thought, famous? Hardly. I like your phrase “niche fame,” though. Within a tiny subset of people (relative to the population), I’m relatively well known, I suppose. But I always find it really weird to be treated like I’m a celebrity. At the same time, like you, I’m always happy when someone comes up to me, as happened many times at the Reason Rally, and says hi and tells me that they read my blog. When I travel, I always try to make time for a meetup with blog readers in that city, not because I expect adulation but because I really enjoy meeting them. I consider my blog a very cool intentional community and I always like to meet the people in that community in real life. It’s led to some great friendships over the years.

  • https://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole

    I apologize if I helped you get kicked off your post at the SSA table. I made it a point to pull my butt out of the rain and into the tent (even though I didn’t want to miss any speakers) because I really felt that I had to tell you that you’ve been a very positive influence in my life.

    Thanks for a genuine hug and smile.

    I think when you’ve done something as big as the Skepticon talk on mental health, and it impacts someone’s ability to get their anxiety ridden ass to overcome that illness (at least for a day) to get out and travel to D.C. and become part of history, that is HUGE.

    I know it can be odd when you are an influentual voice in a niche community. I’ve had the feeling on a much smaller scale in the zine community. But it is nice at the same time.

    Seriously, try to own it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Oh trust me, I didn’t get into trouble. :)

      Thanks for coming in for the hug! I’m sure you noticed, but I can’t get enough of ‘em. :D

  • http://mamamara.wordpress.com Mara

    ::waves:: I’m one of those people :) In fact, I would be the babbling social anxiety-ridden one who got her act together long enough to say hi and get a much-appreciated hug. I chickened out of saying hi the first time but when I saw you again I knew I had to do it. And I only had a *tiny* nervous breakdown later, so go me.

    I don’t think you have to be “famous,” if you (understandably) dislike the term. Say you’ve become well-known in the community. There’s nothing to be ashamed of there!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Ack! No nervous breakdowns! You should always track me down for hugs/chat whenever we’re in the same place. :)

  • https://profiles.google.com/UCIcaarus/about Icaarus

    In a better world, you would not be famous, neither would Jessica, or Natalie, and PZ would just be an older prof, teaching and staring down retirement.

    It is those people who, while knowing that in the better world, there would be no need for them to do what they do, strive to do it anyway.

    You, and all the authors here, and a great many more people, deserve and have respect. Fame won through purpose, not fashion. Thank you

    • http://pervasivegoodness.com Donovanable

      I was scrolling down to write my own response and stumbled over this. Now I really don’t have anything more I could possibly add. Well written, sir (or ma’am)
      And JT? Abounding thanks and an internet hug.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      /salute

  • David Yeomans

    Hey,

    I just want to thank you again for all that you have done for me and many others in pushing us to get help for our mental disorders through the retelling of your story. It was mostly because of you that I was able to admit to myself and my dad that I have depression. I am now getting help and I really want to thank you. I was the one who walked up to you at the concession stand and thanked you.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It means so much to me to hear that.

      No lie, that talk took a LOT out of me. I’m glad to hear good came out of it. *hug*

      And I’m especially happy to hear you’re on the mend!

  • Talynknight

    I’m so glad I was able to at least say high and shake your hand when you were at the SSA table. I love reading your blog and although I didn’t want to take up too much of your time on Saturday, I will say now that even though I was not a very vocal or involved atheist in high school or college, seeing the great work you and the SSA does for high school and college students makes me proud to include it in the short list of worthy causes that I donate to.

    Keep up the great work. :-)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      We appreciate the donation!

      Take up as much of my time as you like, donation or not.

  • TV200

    Let me just start by saying it was a pleasure to meet you. It was difficult for me to introduce myself. But, I was not intimidated by you, per se, rather by an innate social anxiety that has plagued me my entire life. It’s getting better as I get older, and I try not to let it stop me anymore. But it really does lead to a great deal of inner turmoil, I feel like an idiot every time I do so.

    As far as your “fame” goes, you may just have to face it. Yes, it is certainly a niche “fame”. It means that you make a difference, and that people like and respect the effort you put into our movement. That is completely different than a “celebrity fame”. When someone is as passionate and honest as you are, it has a way of creeping up. I think the fact that it makes you a bit uncomfortable is probably a good thing. There are far too many people who seek it out, by any means.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I think your last two sentences hit the nail on the head.

      Promise the next time we’re in the same place you’ll come say hi again? :)

  • http://sites.google.com/site/sunmosthigh/ Steve

    I don’t understand how you can say such wonderful and good things, but then present yourself in pics with your tongue sticking out, which is a widely-known sign of disrespect toward your viewers. I guess I just don’t get it.

    • Pteryxx

      *not sure if troll*

      *sprinkles on extra sarcasm to taste* Mmm, much better. >_>

      • http://sites.google.com/site/sunmosthigh/ Steve

        I wish I understood what those 2 comments mean. Guess I’m clueless.

        • http://mamamara.wordpress.com Mara

          Pteryx found your comment rude and couldn’t decide if you were serious or just saying it to stir up trouble (which is known as trolling).

          I’m not sure either, but for the moment assuming you’re not a troll: Of all the crimes a blogger has ever committed, thinking it’s funny to stick his tongue out at a camera is pretty low on the list.

          I mean, really? Complaining about that is like the tone argument’s boring younger brother.

          (Besides, as my 7-year-old would be happy to explain, EVERYBODY knows that sticking your tongue out at the camera is a sign of disrespect for the photographer, not anybody else. Jeez louise.)

          • http://sites.google.com/site/sunmosthigh/ Steve

            No, I’m not a troll. But why would you label the tongue thing a crime? I sure never thought of it that way. Seems kinda over-the-top dramatic to label it that. I’m just saying (my own opinion) that I’d rather see a pic of him that doesn’t look so disrespectful – not so much for myself personally, but because of the message his blog relates to his readers. Maybe everyone but me finds his pic funny/acceptable. So be it.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

    I’m glad I found you in the tent, then! I probably would have missed you in the crowd and been sad not to have gotten a hug. Even though I really couldn’t stay to chat long (kids to tend to), I was thrilled just to meet you. Give the bear a hug for me too.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I’ll give him two hugs. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000901366667 marybierbaum

    My daughter and I wandered into the tent to get out of the rain and she mentioned that she was interested in starting a secular club at school (inspired by the speeches) and I directed her to your table where you handed her a bag and she filled out an information card. But she was inspired to do this despite her packed schedule and you helped. Thanks. Couldn’t have done it without you.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      And we can’t change things on the high school level without her. Teamwork! :)

  • tomk

    As one of the people who came to the SSA table mostly to meet you, I apologize for getting you into pseudo-trouble.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      No trouble at all. :)

  • dfl42

    “None of you all seem to understand. You’re not in here for me; I’m in here for you.”

    <3

    • https://twitter.com/#!/AlexEmerald3 Alex Emerald

      That’s something I didn’t think I’d ever see. Well done, dfl42, well done.

      • dfl42

        *grin* thanks!

  • b-lar

    “I really don’t care about the popularity (though it does make me blush with gratitude), but I very much care about making a better world. Thank you all so much for that. It means the world to me.”

    This is why we <3 JT. Rock the mike.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I love you back. :)

  • http://jbzero.blogspot.com J.B.

    I could be totally projecting here, but don’t be too quick to paint people who have a gregarious public persona, but have a hard time talking to people in smaller groups. Lots of introverts (myself included) are like that. I can present in front of hundreds without issue (I prepare like the mythological devil in order to feel comfortable) but get me in a group.. or even one on one with people I don’t know and I am completely useless.
    More on the subject here:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

    Just a different perspective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zlorentz zacharylorentz

    Thank you for hanging out with the people waiting outside the dinner party at the convention. I thought that was a really cool and fun moment. Sorry if we interrupted your preparing time.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Holy cow, that was a blast! Totally the right decision to leave the dinner and hang out with you guys!

  • Aliasalpha

    Oh come on JT, just once you have to do the “up yourself prima donna celebrity who the universe revolves around” bit, just to see what its like


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