One Year: GrokNation Editorial Reflections

Esther shares some of her favorite things about GN's first year
By Esther Kustanowitz  Published on 08/09/2016 at 5:04 PM EDT

Time is a funny thing. You start off thinking that new projects will never change, and day by day, they grow from something with dull, ill-defined edges into a real, living thing, that’s important to people. And all of a sudden, those early days become a year that’s already in the rearview mirror.  So, during GrokNation’s first birthday week, I thought I’d do a little kvelling – or nachas-shepping, or if you prefer English (as you most likely do!), crowing or remembering with pride – sharing my reflections. Here are six things I’ve loved about GrokNation in the past year. 🙂

  1. You did want to Grok with us!  I admit that one of my early fears was that people who like Mayim’s work on TV might not want to see her get serious, or intellectual, or sad, or honest. I watched as some of the earlier posts about The Big Bang Theory or about women on TV gained steadily in popularity. But soon, we started to see more active engagement and higher numbers on Mayim’s posts that had nothing to do with Hollywood; our readers wanted to read about the things that make Mayim a real person – her stories of grief and life after loss, her struggles to protect her children from the world’s madness as long as possible, her devotion to faith and modesty, to being a bleeding-heart liberal as well as a social conservative, to being a feminist…throughout her posts, her authenticity and complexity shone through, and your curiosity and empathy followed suit. I was proud of both our founder (also my friend and, at that point, our only writer), and of you Grokites. I am sorry that I ever doubted you. 🙂
  2. Our GrokNation comments section restores my faith in the internet! There have been a few times pre-posting when I’ve thought to myself, “This is the post that’s going to blow up the comments section with negativity and judgment.” And it didn’t. Instead of an explosion, there was positivity, support, respect and curiosity: dissent was marked by intellectual inquiry in an attempt to understand a different opinion. It was impressive. True, the comments section has occasionally had its share of people who were not there for the respectful conversation (one or two conversations surrounding abortion and sexual assault crossed a few lines and required some intervention), but compared to other websites I’ve seen, GrokNation is a bastion of supportive and respectful commenters. It’s rare, it’s appreciated, and it’s a point I’m particularly proud of.
  3. Increased Grokite awareness of the big issues, especially women’s safety and mental health awareness! The profiles of important efforts in big-issue arenas and of the change-makers who are creating a better world through their work are making a real impact. And the personal essays we’ve posted from people who are actively experiencing trauma or helping to combat it have been very moving. I’ve read many of your emails and Tweets and Facebook messages expressing gratitude, empathy, curiosity and support for the topics we’ve raised. We haven’t cured anything, but all of us are bringing new awareness to these issues as we will to others in the future!
  4. grokgirlPosts that came to us from Grokites! You’re a vocal bunch, and some of you have shared some of your voices with us through posts on the site that started as letters to the editor and which we then worked together to expand into more fully-formed pieces. While some of you have written pieces for the site itself, a number of others of you have been engaging in some longer-form blogging on sites that you maintain on Tumblr, WordPress or other platforms, taking our “Grok With Us” questions as writing prompts for self-discovery or sharing other notes of inspiration they have gleaned from Mayim and GrokNation. (Special shoutout to Marion, who’s the first to ever imagine me as a cartoon character – see above right – WITH A LIGHTSABER and a Star of David bat-belt, both of which are the icing on that particular cake. :))
  5. Grokites who found each other. I’m aware of a few stories, and will link to others here as I find them, but I know that people have been meeting and falling in “friend-like” with each other since our earliest weeks. I remember one conversation – after our first series of mental health-related posts – in which readers spontaneously offered help over Twitter to those who were suffering and couldn’t seek out a therapist. We believe that therapy/professional treatment is a vital component of mental health awareness, and we repeatedly state that and provide links to NAMI in our mental health-related posts, but the gesture of strangers reaching out to strangers so they didn’t have to be alone was very moving. We also know of a number of you who have met in person, which is also awesome. (One such story coming later this week…)
  6. Our varied GrokNation guest posts expanding the range of voices on our site! Mayim is GrokNation’s founder, and still our most prolific writer. (We don’t understand how she does it either.) But we’re very pleased that our founder has also charged me with finding new writers and new stories to share on this platform. (Also, the fact that we pay our writers a small fee for their work is VERY important to the world of online content – not everyone pays writers, but this is one of our values.) I’m glad that the pieces I’ve helped to facilitate have brought in a few different perspectives and styles: from a singer/actress writing about her decision to freeze her eggs to a lawyer/yogi-turned-Jewish-nonprofit professional sharing tips about how to keep our friends and sanity during the election season; from a stay-at-home dad to a writer who struggled with her body image…these are GrokNation stories, and we will have many more serious, funny, thought-provoking posts from guests in the weeks and months ahead. (Interested in pitching us? Guidelines are here.)

That’s six things I’m loving about our site, our community, this space we built and continue to build together. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to help this website become the GrokNation we’d dreamed it would become. I wish I could mention by name all of you who have been so supportive, but here are just a representative few of you who have written to us or for us, or who have been so great about circulating or reacting to our content: Aurelie, Marion, Sarah, Angie, Regina, Sabrina, Tamara, Kazzie, Joe, Aubrey & Lisa. Thank you.

In the next year, I hope we will have many more opportunities to grok life’s challenging issues with you!

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