By now, many are aware that SparkPeople, as we know it, is closing its doors August 17/21 and is expanding an already existing subsidiary platform for Americans only (the image just above confirms this).
In a very short time upon hearing this, I ran a gauntlet of emotion (sucker-punched, shock, sadness, frustration, confusion, panic) and my first reaction was to make sure everyone else within my influence was also forewarned, so I did what I have done so often these past 13 years... I blogged in response to my feelings and reached out to the SparkCommunity... *my* community... for support, validation, confirmation, connection.
My next reaction was to actually read the 'offensive' notification article, search for answers and ponder the reality before me. On and off throughout the day, I searched the site, perused the community feed and member blogs, and pondered what this will and should mean for me.
...and here I am, again, blogging in response to my feelings... because this is how I process, and you are the people who support me in that process. I am truly not sure how I can possibly replace the gift this and all of you have been for me throughout this journey of mine... a journey into wellness, strength, joy, determination and true intimacy... a journey into my true self... though I'm grateful I have two months in which to figure this out.
What made me most sad today is the anger and lack of charity being shown all around the site... the lack of charity toward SparkPeople as an entity, the lack of gratitude for all SparkPeople has been for twenty years (with no cost, no hidden agendas, no demands made of the user). I don't know about anyone else here, but there is literally nowhere else in my life where I have experienced this level of compassion and generosity. Despite the current decision and what anyone of us may feel about it (of course anyone who has actually invested themselves to this site has a grief process to navigate, myself included), it does not change all that SparkPeople has been to so many.
I was also reminded why my own feelings about participating on the site began to change some time back... and have intensified since... because the troublesome things I was identifying four years ago have, in my continued experience, only grown more pronounced.
Something else I noticed: generally, members are not bemoaning the loss of the trackers, sparkmail, recipes, articles, challenges, tools. What people acutely feel is the very real loss of their sense of connection and intimacy... loss of friends and community... and the ease with which SparkPeople makes that possible.
The thing is, SparkPeople was never conceived or designed to be a social networking site. Chris Downey's dream has always been and continues to be wellness on every level... giving people the necessary tools and inspiring every member to build a rich fulfilling life, as they become fit and healthy doing so. What I realized today, this movement on the part of SparkPeople is the next step in realizing that dream. Chris says, "...for a long time, we’ve wanted to strip out the best of what we offer (tracking tools; articles & videos from experts; and our supportive online community) and build a very simple program that anyone can use to reach their goals—even if they don’t want to track their foods or lose weight, for example. [SparkAmerica] is essentially a slightly modified version of the SparkPeople.com Start page that emphasizes easy fitness-minute tracking instead of daily food tracking.... Our aspirational mission is to build the greatest-ever campaign in the areas of fitness and health, leadership development and community support."
Though apparently, "The ad-free site will also include a nutrition and fitness tracker, challenges, articles and recipes, along with many other features we are working to develop; including a new community we hope will be as robust as the one you helped create with SparkPeople! While many of these features are still in the very early stages and are not available yet, we're confident that you'll find the motivation you need to continue on your health journey." "?" I suppose this remains to be seen, as there is no evidence yet that this will, in fact, be the case.
I don't think any of this is about us (individual members), nor do I believe this is, at its root, about money. I think this change is, in its essence, about the chrysalis taking the next step toward becoming a butterfly. We almost always have to let go of something, in order to fully advance and embrace something else. SparkPeople is letting go of a cumbersome, expensive-to-administrate, and in many ways redundant platform to create something new. SparkPeople is now forcing the community here off-line and out into our real-world communities to build something greater and to realize a greater dream. The reality is that Chris Downey can't do this worldwide right off... there are too many obstacles. I sincerely hope that, as he says, "And then, if we have enough individuals working together on this, that is what really could make an impact on one community at a time, scaling up to cities, states, many other countries, and the world."
...and this is where I think the invitation to every one of us now lies: to take/create the sense of community we value here, out into our real world and 3D lives... not to replace those we value here, but to build the dream.
So, a door is closing and I'm looking for the windows.... while I pack (I have 450 blogs to archive and a couple of teams worth of information to save). I'm actually looking forward to sorting and reviewing and figuring out what to pack and what to leave behind. Inevitably, there are many intangible things here that I will treasure and miss for the rest of my life, and prayer and fidelity to those will have to ease the sting.
...Some things I won't leave behind: my growth over the last 13 years, my successes, the lessons I learned, and most especially the people I value. These are all mine and never belonged to SparkPeople anyway, though I am deeply grateful for the role SparkPeople has played in helping me find them.
It has been beyond validating and gratifying to know that there are people who value me enough to so quickly reach out and express their desire to stay connected. I'll be doing the same in short order (busy, busy yesterday and today here... I made and canned 5.5 GALLONS of soup... mostly for my Dad). The transformation of SparkPeople doesn't define or limit our relationships, or our sense of community... unless we allow it to do so to the exclusion of all else. We, and our relationships, are not bound to this place.
Let's each of us, no matter what, continue to be the SPARKlings we know ourselves to be... let's embrace the 'yeses' on our very horizon. Take what you can with you, and then find a way to create anew that which you cannot.
...and let's keep talking and cheering each other on as we all transition beyond here and now, until the door closes. I'm so sad to note all of those jumping ship in a fit of pique and fear of the worst. I prefer to be among those in the band that plays on, no matter what.
I love you ALL!
This Isn't Goodbye, SparkFriends--
Announcing the Launch of SparkAmerica!
(I believe this was the beginning of the end... in 2013!)
What's the Difference between SparkPeople and SparkAmerica?
Here's the new site, if you want to get a look at it:
(the article does not send you to the correct place for some reason)
"WHAT IS SPARKAMERICA?
SparkAmerica is a movement.
Launching from a platform that reached over 25 million users and helped countless people get healthier, SparkAmerica is led by an alliance of local and national partners that work together to “spark” America’s Fitness & Health, Leadership Development, and Community Engagement by helping one person, one organization, and one city at a time. SparkAmerica brings people, organizations, and cities together on a single tech platform to participate in our free and fun annual calendar of challenges that encourage individual achievement while driving participation in friendly competition. Covering areas from weight loss to financial health to getting and staying active, we provide an easy-to-use system for tracking progress. From personal stats to city leaderboards, we make it easy to build motivation and keep getting healthier."
The SparkAmerica Facebook Page:
(not sure why they've made it so very difficult to find the real SparkAmerica pages)
SparkPeople ALUMNI Facebook Page:
(essentially a nod/continuation of the Community Feed... the consolation prize, if you will)
SPARK PEOPLE FAMILY & FRIENDS
(ironic that SparkPeople is at the very top of the list)
My Net Diary
(seems to be highly recommended... apparently has a community/groups option)
(lots of buzz about this one)
(very HIGHLY recommended, but no community option)
Time for 'Plan B'
(though I do not yet know what that may be... I'll keep you all posted)
If anyone is interested in staying in touch, please SparkMail me, and I'll do the same.
Perhaps together, as always, we can figure out how to remain a support to each other beyond this place... I hope others will share what they discover as we all search for other ways to continue our journey!
From Chris Downey's Blog:
My thoughts about SP closing/what's next
"We're getting great financial and health results with our client companies and their employees."
"...in developing the new tech platform, we came up with new software called SparkCoach. Originally, this was intended to appeal to a broader audience, but then we realized that it may end up being a better weight loss solution than food tracking."
"Another newer feature on the new platform is the Fitness Game.... This software helps people focus on both consistency with a 10-minute fitness goal and also tracks your daily average minutes."
"We've had so many tech projects for the new business that focus on organizations in the U.S. that we haven't been able to do the legal expense and tech work to open the site up beyond the U.S.... There is real pain with these trade-offs."
"For this business, we had to build a separate tech platform because there is a bunch of behind-the-scenes functionality [required].... Unfortunately, we can't maintain the expense of two tech platforms including salary costs to keep multiple platforms updated and large costs for a company to "host" sites/apps."
Honestly, I just can't be angry about this on any level. Let's be honest here, we all know that way too many people simply use SparkPeople as a social networking site... fitness and weight loss takes a distant back seat. This is not what Chris created the site for. Additionally, SparkPeople is a business, and the vast majority of SparkMembers (myself included) can't possibly comprehend the legalities and levels of responsibility, financing and achievement required to accomplish all that Chris Downey, and his team, has. Finally, anyone who has ever interacted with Chris or the Admin/Tech team personally, knows these are deeply caring, purposeful people... there is no intentional disregard for anyone here, and I'm certain the decisions made have been very difficult for all to reconcile, and were not made at all lightly. For my own part, I'm choosing to be grateful for the very tiny part I've had the privilege to play in this evolution. I'll be watching for the day when SparkPeople once again provides a fantastic product for the world!