After a long hiatus, I’ve returned to blogging again. Thinking back on my early internet days, I could not have predicted how the blog concept would expand. Social media exalted female-oriented blogging, once a niche subculture, into a powerhouse industry. The feminist in me celebrates the abundance of opportunities this yields for any woman with Wi-Fi access. My younger self, who always felt limited creatively on the internet because of my lack of technical knowledge, would have been giddy to have the tools and apps I use now. So why am I ashamed to tell people that I have a blog? I decided to explore this meta-blogging idea: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
the bad & the ugly
Blogging used to be a somewhat neutral activity. Ten years ago, there didn’t seem to be an image or caricature assigned to a “blogger”, except perhaps that of a disgruntled, basement-dwelling nerd with an axe to grind. In 2018, we have a sharply defined visual. The word blogger or “influencer” (which provokes even more sneers) is typically a millennial female known for relentless self-promotion and an obsession with meticulously curating an idealized, branded version of reality. Sometimes we also associate them with faux self-awareness, mindless over-sharing, and convenient activism. As their involvement in marketing has evolved and become more formal (i.e., hashtag ad and paid sponsorship posts), it seems our collective disdain for blogging only grows. Telling someone you’re a blogger seems to signal that you approve of rampant consumerism or you’re too stupid and blindly narcissistic to discern your own role in it.
The technical skill it used to take to build a blog and create quality content was a barrier to entry. The voices were more distinct and substantial. Now, there seems to be a blogger infestation at every event, restaurant, and picturesque location. In the six years I’ve been attending NYFW, the volume of young bloggers has swelled and the atmosphere has become increasingly undignified. I am mortified every time I see a tacky blogger elbowing their way through a presentation while attempting to get yet another vulgar and forgettable Boomerang for their Instagram story. If watching bloggers in action wasn’t unbearable enough, it always astounds me how truly uncreative “popular” blog content is. How many more pictures can be posted of the rosewater waffle at Jack’s Wife Freda until we have seen it from every possible filtered angle and vantage point? There is so much of the same exact thing I feel trapped in some sort of VSCO-sponsored mediocrity competition or forced to continually witness the most boring, femme Matrix glitch.
If you can get over the cringe of being associated with other bloggers and decide to start a blog, you’re immediately faced with the pressure to monetize and post constantly. The screeching message from blogging gurus all over the internet seems to be that there’s no point in having a blog if you’re not going to turn it into an income stream. I imagined that if I were to earn anything from blogging, it would be an unexpected byproduct. I’m a private person with a full time job that has nothing to do with what I wanted to blog about. I’ve always known that my interests and preferences are too divergent and eclectic to fit neatly into a “personal brand”, which is why I didn’t use my own name when making this blog. I am also not much of a photographer and I feel uncomfortable posting too many pictures of myself. Writing and curating are the aspects of blogging that I love. I would much rather showcase the work of other artists (like Emily Faulstich, one of my favorites) than feature my own shoddy pictures. This seemed to break another golden rule of blogging: you must be fanatical about documenting everything and including yourself in your pictures because image-heavy, hyper personal blogs are the only blogs that are “successful”.
Being a creative person with a non-creative day job means it is essential for me to have an outlet. At the same time, I also struggle with honoring my creative side consistently. My ADHD mind requires structure and accountability and a public blog provides that in a way that a private journal can’t. Blogging also pushes me to learn about things (SEO, software, etc.) that I would never have a reason or an inclination to learn but has helped me navigate our increasingly tech savvy world with more confidence.
As a niche person with niche interests who has lived the bulk of her life in small towns, it has always been hard for me to find my people. Some of my most enduring friendships were fostered online during a brief blip in time when it wasn’t totally weird to initiate conversation with a stranger over social media. A decade ago, sites like Tumblr and MySpace used to be a creative showcase and an open invitation for conversation. Now, we abide by so many social norms to protect our internet presence from creeps, identity theft, and employer stalking that we’ve cut ourselves off from connecting with anyone who doesn’t already exist within our social sphere. My hope is that by continuing to blog, I might re-open that channel again.
Posting my writing has been an exercise in vulnerability and acceptance for me. Perfectionism has always prevented me from taking action. If I allow myself to, I would knit-pick anything I create to the point of total despair. It is easier for a perfectionist like me to have no product of my own but to critique others. You certainly feel superior, but it is a cowardly and empty way to live. Getting over the internal perfectionism is one thing, but it’s also not easy to ignore the barrage of well-meaning mom bloggers shouting on Pinterest about their ‘20 fail-proof tips for making $10k a month while blogging’. Money, free products, and tons of followers are great, but if blogging is a hobby…who cares if you do everything “optimally”? I didn’t like churning out a bunch of seasonally oriented content and pinning everything I posted for maximum exposure. I didn’t like the idea of taking #OOTD pictures or only writing micro posts to avoid intimidating readers with my “word heavy” blog. I stopped blogging because blogging like that was boring.
Now, I only ask myself two questions before posting: do I want to read what I’m writing? And am I enjoying writing about this? That is the only criteria I need to satisfy. So far, so good.