Mommy Bloggers to Insta Influencers: American Motherhood on the Internet

Heather Armstrong began blogging in 2001, when she was a 25-year-old graduate in English with a new job at a start-up in L.A.1 (Her name was then Heather Hamilton.) Unlike most blogs of the early 2000s, which were intended as updates for far-away friends and family, Heather’s blog was primarily her journal, her way to write creatively while blowing off some steam from the day. She named it “Dooce,” based on an inside joke on the word “dude.” And blow steam she did—so much so that she was fired in 2002 for writing about her employer on her blog. She married, and she and her husband, Jon, moved to Salt Lake City. She kept blog­ging, right up through her pregnancy and the birth of her first child. The blog had grown steadily throughout this period of Heather’s life, averaging about 6,500 hits per day by the time she announced her pregnancy. After giving birth to a daughter, however, Heather’s mental health suffered. She spiraled downward into a severe case of postpartum depression. The breaking point came one morning when she was watch­ing her husband get ready for work. She told him that he couldn’t leave, that if he didn’t hospitalize her, she would take her life by the end of the day. After four days in the hospital under heavy doses of antipsychotic drugs, Heather recovered enough to go home, and she eventually began to blog about her experience with postpartum depression. Her posts on this highly common but underreported experience resonated with thou­sands of women, and Dooce skyrocketed in popularity. Before too long, Heather and her husband recognized the increasing popularity of the blog and began accepting limited advertising, and Jon quit his job to work full-time on the blog. Before long, the Armstrongs partnered with an ad agency that actively sought display ads, which made Dooce the first personal website to gain significant advertising revenue. At the blog’s height, the Armstrongs had an estimated annual income of over $1 m
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