My bonnet is usually relatively free of bees. But recently, there’s been a pattern in the blogosphere that’s left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. It’s something Brittney touched on a few weeks ago here, and it’s all about bringing the fun back to blogging, and the reasons we all started doing it in the first place.
When I first started blogging “seriously” back in October-November last year, I was blown away by how awesome it was. By how many people there were out there who were willing to read my stuff, take the time out of their day to comment, and who also wrote great stories about their lives. I loved getting to know people, starting to build friendships, going from a couple of comments a week to emails, text messaging, phone calls and the odd face-to-face Skype date. In the last six months, I’ve met people who may be miles away, but I consider some of my closest friends. As with my friends back in England, I find distance doesn’t have to stand in the way of a good friendship. But there are a few things I’ve seen lately that really turn me off.
1: Bloggers who started with no traffic, just like all of us, who get to a certain level of blog-stardom, and use it as an excuse to all of a sudden become “authorities” on how to be a great blogger. They start posting how-to guides on forums and networking and profile pictures, so you can be as awesome as they are. It’s highly self-indulgent, and I find, borderline arrogant. If I want more followers, I’ll invest the time in finding them myself. Or I’ll ask! I realise everyone’s reasons for blogging are different, but I read your blog because I’m interested in who you are, not because I want to be told I’m not “successful enough.”
2: Bloggers who fuel and listen to gossip behind the safety net of a computer screen. It’s all so petty teenage angst fest. I talked a little while ago about staying to true myself, even if that was at the expense of losing readership. But at the end of the day, I know the person behind the blog is the same person that’s presented to the world. A person with real thoughts, ups and downs, questions and opinions and a good heart. And that’s all that matters. Apparently, honesty is sometimes controversial. Sometimes not what people want to hear. So they’ll whisper amongst themselves and latch on to rumours without even bothering to question the truth. Why? Because it’s so much easier to go with the popular crowd.
I like to form friendships. I like to text and send snail mail to bloggers if they’re going through something bad OR good. I like to surprise people and I remain a loyal reader, commenter and friend. If they need help with a design project or a résumé, I will help them out. I like to build the foundations of friendship the same way I do in life – by showing I care. And it irks me to no end that some people lately have decided to completely drop me off their radars because they’ve “heard” something from someone, and haven’t even bothered to question the truth in it. It’s disappointing when you thought some of them were half-decent.
As much as it’s thrown in my face that these days blogging is a competition and the ONLY way you can be good at it is to have a million followers and a USB port in your ankle where you can stay connected to the online world 24/7, I write when I want to, about things that are important to me, and about things I think will really benefit other people. Things I care about, things I love, things I’m striving for and lessons I’m learning. Don’t get me wrong – everybody likes comments. And I’m so thankful for each and every one of you that takes the time to read, and voice your thoughts every time I write. But I’m not going to compromise who I am because the Internet says I have to. And I’m going to continue making friendships with the people that really are awesome, and stop wasting time on the superficial.
3. Bloggers who sell out. If I wanted to bombard my eyes with advertising I’d go and empty our recycling box all over my kitchen counter. I’m coming across many blogs who used to write for the fun of it, and now seem more concerned with making a quick buck by slapping dozens of ads all the way down their sidebar. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty, and it kind of tells me you’re more concerned about the $2.75 you’ll make in clicks that week than you are about the writing itself. I don’t read your blog because I want to be inadvertently sold something.
4. Bloggers who capitalise on something you did as a favour to them. I try and offer kindness to the world because let’s face it, the world could use a little more of it. I don’t do it for a reward. But there’s something nice about saying thank-you, isn’t there? It’s disheartening when kindness is met with egotism, and behind the blogging scenes things are a very different story indeed. Disheartening, yes… but not discouraging. The world needs more kindness, and none of us can control with what our actions are going to be met. We just have to keep breathing… and reminding ourselves we do things for the right reasons. Right?
4. Bloggers who pretend to be somebody completely different from the person they are in real life. Life isn’t perfect. Everybody has bad hair days and breakouts and stomach aches and snot flying into their face. If your posts are all rose tinted and I leave wondering if you live in some sort of magical secret cottage where woodland creatures must come in through the night to sew your clothes and clean your house spotless, then I’m sorry. NOBODY is that perfect. I get it that we all want to present our best sides to, ultimately, strangers. But how do you think people who DON’T live in said magic cottages feel reading stories (for that’s what they are) about how perfect your life is? Go write a book, or a soap opera, or get your own TV show, instead of trying to be a character. And pick a better one than Martha Stewart.
There’s a difference between being cautious, maybe for work reasons, and pretending to be an entirely different person. Maybe it’s because of some need for personal validation, and if you just pretend for long enough, then maybe people will actually believe it’s real. I don’t know. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ll write about the bad stuff as well as the good. I’ll write about my struggles and my efforts to overcome them and what’s worked and hasn’t worked for me – not because I believe I’m some authority on personal growth, but because if I put it out there to the world, not only am I held accountable, but the world can see it. The emails from people appreciating the honesty and even finding inspiration just mean the world to me. I may not write about cupcakes, kittens and headbands, but at least I’m honest. I’ll take empowerment over self-importance any day. If you don’t write from the heart, and stay true to yourself in doing so – then what is it all for? A fleeting sense of popularity at the expense of your innermost self?
Brittney said it perfectly when she said:
Forgive me, and I may be a complete rarity, but I miss the personal/intimate side of blogging. It just seems that if we all follow these rules on what to blog, what not to blog, how to write, what to say, what not to say, what topic to avoid, what tone to use, what length to adhere to… then there will be very little point in my reading multiple blogs because we will all be the same exact person and I can just go to a single blog for everything. I like reading REAL blogs, with REAL bloggers writing them. I won’t stop reading your blog if your life doesn’t seem perfect, if your home didn’t just step out of Martha Stuart Living, if you have a zit, if you regularly consume obscene amounts of fast food, if you own exactly one pair of jeans that still fit and wear them for weeks on end (coughMEcough). In fact, I will probably like it MORE because you’re willing to be honest, vulnerable and human. I really wasn’t sure where I was going here, except to say that I want us to be ourselves and be okay with that. Blogging is growing into this awesome outlet, which rocks, but it’s also becoming home to 45243 writers who are creating fake personas for the sake of popularity or marketing and in turn, it’s losing it’s unique-ness.
Ask yourself the question today. Do you really know who you’re reading? Are you okay with being told what to do on your own personal outlet in order to be “successful”? Are you willing to give up your own passion and personality to conform for the sake of a comment count? Is blogging really just turning into another popularity competition?
In life, I think the most important thing you can do is stay true to yourself, and stay focused on being a positive force in the world. It’s easy to get sidetracked by temptations, societal pressures, and worrying about what other people think of you. It’s important to be authentic – and to be able to tell the difference between self-promotion and a fake persona. Unfortunately, I’m realising, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult. Yes, parts of the blogging world have disappointed me lately. But thank you to everybody who I know is willing to be real, who’s willing to stick around through the good and the bad, and who makes blogging such a joy most of the time. You’re all rockstars. And I really wish there were more words to hyperlink in this sentence, because if you’re commenting on this, you’re probably one of them. 🙂
And, now that that’s dealt with, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow 🙂