by Rob Anderson
When Briana Campbell landed a job interview recently, she immediately signed onto Facebook. “Yours truly has a job interview on Monday!” she posted. “Researching company, figuring out outfit and keeping my fingers crossed!” Over the next few hours, 12 of Campbell’s Facebook friends responded to her update. “Good luck!” replied Patricia Jones.
When Monday rolled around, Jones returned to Campbell’s Facebook page and asked: “How was your job interview?” Campbell said she appreciated the support, but, she added, “I have no idea who Patricia Jones is.”
Welcome to unemployment in the 21st century, where the jobless can still afford Internet access and blog rolls are more common than breadlines. Campbell has been unemployed for ten months, and has been blogging about it at Unemployed Brooklyn for eight. Since the economy took a turn for the worse, blogs written by unemployed people, for unemployed people have become popular–especially in New York. One blog is Your Unemployed Daughter, an online chronicle written by a former magazine editor. Another, 405 Club, bills itself as “New York’s Official Unemployment Network.” There, readers can search job listings, browse recession-related t-shirts, and submit personal unemployment stories. Then there are blogs like The Skint and Brokelyn that help New York residents find cheap or free things to do and eat.
When she first started blogging, Campbell used her site mostly as an online journal. She had been laid off from a position at a start-up cosmetics company in Manhattan in November. It was the first time since graduating from Brandeis University in 1997 that she didn’t have a job. She hated it. “It was the dead of winter and the whole day would be gray and I’d have nothing to do and no where to go and no one to talk to. It was just so depressing,” she said.
So in February, after having no luck with her job search, Campbell decided to start Unemployed Brooklyn. “I just figured my friends had had enough of hearing my thoughts on unemployment, but I still wanted to get it off my chest,” she said. She thought only a handful of close friends would read it.
She said she was shocked when people she didn’t know began emailing her and leaving comments on her blog. “So many people would just say, ‘Thanks for writing this. I’m unemployed and I feel the exact same way.'”
Through Unemployed Brooklyn and its companion Facebook and Twitter pages, Campbell reaches approximately 300 people every time she hits the publish button. These days, the blog is more than just her personal musings. As well as writing about her love life, Campbell posts interesting job openings, recession-friendly recipes, and unemployment news. She also rails against the culture of unpaid internships. In one recent post she explained why she believes many of New York’s unpaid positions border on illegal, citing laws and court cases. Plus, she said, “asking a skilled person to work for free is simply not the way to run a business.”
After building a community online, Campbell decided to organize a real-life meet up for her unemployed readers. She thinks it’s important for “unemployeds,” as she calls them, to find support from people in similar situations. You need someone “who’s kind of like a workout buddy,” she said. “Someone to kick your ass into gear and ask ‘Did you do this today?'”
Campbell knows of at least one person who got a job because of an opening she publicized on her blog. “She wrote me the nicest thank-you letter. She said, ‘I never would have found out about this if it wasn’t for you.’ I almost wanted to cry,” Campbell said.
Blogging hasn’t helped Campbell find employment herself, but she’s waiting to hear back from the company she interviewed with recently. Of course, when her potential boss asked for her references, Campbell updated her Facebook page, excited to let everyone know. About a dozen of her friends left comments reassuring her that that was a promising sign.