Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If only Justin Bieber had eczema

If you want a blog to succeed, it's not enough just to write it--this has to be obvious to anyone who's tried. It's not enough to find a compelling topic and write thoughtful essays or even pop-eyed political rants. You have to connect to your audience and sell your blog.

I find self-promotion is about as fun as standing up in front of the class in sixth grade to give a presentation on newts. Fortunately, technology has made it slightly easier for people like me. There's Twitter, my main marketing tool until Google and Technorati finally register my existence. I tweet every post to this blog. And on Twitter, you get followers in a sort of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps method: you follow other people and hope they follow you back. To find people who might be interested in this stuff, I search for Twitterers whose posts include the word "eczema."

About 80% of these posts are from news outlets still regurgitating the cats-vs-dogs story of a couple weeks ago, or from sites claiming to have the miracle cure that will banish your eczema forever if only you dose yourself with primrose oil or cod livers or some homeopathic bullshit. There are people out there, though, who are bold enough to announce their current eczematous state to their 1,200 friends. (I should be so lucky to have 1,200 friends.) Most of these people are evidently aged 16-20, based on their tweetline: "Lord what my teacher talking about now"; "I am living in the library. Again :o/"; "Math homework can go away forever" and updates about the haircut of some guy named Justin Bieber.

And at least half of them are African-American. Possibly not the ones tweeting about Justin Bieber. This was a surprise to me. I'm Caucasian, of Swiss-German descent, and naturally, thinking it's all about me, I assumed that Swiss Germans had some monopoly on eczema. I've never seen an African-American with eczema. But then-- I rarely see anyone with eczema. Is this because we all cover up or stay home when we have flare-ups?

There's an interesting academic study recently out that describes eczema prevalence in children across the United States. (Haven't found good data on adults yet.) To quote the abstract: "Black race...significantly associated with a higher prevalence of eczema." Many other factors, too, of course. Even more interesting: prevalence was virtually identical for subjects of black or "multiple" race. Fascinating-- I had assumed that the history of eczema in my family was due to us coming from a region where people of similar heritage have been interbreeding for hundreds of years and keeping recessive genes in the population. I figured that what we needed to eradicate the disease was a few generations of vigorous outbreeding (OK, perhaps time to stop talking like a rancher). But, apparently, that wouldn't necessarily solve the problem.

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