March 22, 2012

The dangers of the Blogessphere

The truth is this: sometimes (OK, fine, most of the time) blogs creep me out. 

The blogosphere is a little bit like high school. There’s a small clique of The Popular Girls who seem to have it all together, and the rest of us really want an invite to sit at the cool table. 

 When I first decided to start a little blog of my own my dad was absolutely incredulous. “Why in the world would you want to put all of this personal information on the Internet? “ he asked. “I’ve spent my life trying to make sure no one can find out anything about me, and now you’re doing it voluntarily?” 

Yes. And that’s the point. Generation Y is hungry for the back-story. We’re voyeurs. We want to watch other people’s lives and compare them to our own to see how we stack up. We already spend hours each week watching as The Real Housewives and the Kardashians go about their daily lives and reading about their every move in gossip magazines. 

 But blogs are even better. Blogs offer the rare jewel of interactivity. We can spend all the time in the world watching reality shows and reading US Weekly, but when it comes down to it, all those famous figures still maintain a mythical inaccessibility. With personal blogs we get to see behind the closed doors of normal people. People like us. People whose lives are attainable, and therefore infinitely more interesting to read about than those of millionaire movie stars. 

 We feel like we truly know these bloggers. We consider them friends. We can comment on their posts, and there’s a good chance they’ll respond. Standard blog chatter involves endearing terms like “my dears” and “darlings”, yanking us out of the reality of anonymity and making us feel like we’re catching up with an old friend. 

And when it comes down to it, don’t we all really just want to be liked? 

 In a time when most of us spend 8 hours a day staring into the haze of a computer screen, it's no surprise that we're desperate to connect via technology. Blogging allows an almost instant development of virtual friendships, and can often even go a step further and morph into tangible in-the-flesh relationships. Yet, with so much time spent hungrily digging into other people’s lives, don't we risk abandoning the reality of our own? 

 Maybe we just want more information. 

Blogs give us unrestricted access to worlds different from our own. Want to snoop around the West Village in NYC? Smith and Ratliff is sure to do the trick. Maybe you want to go abroad? You can live vicariously through Jordan Ferney, who is spending the year in Paris with her husband and two young children. Maybe we keep reading to see what else is out there so that we can evolve and make our own life the best it can be. 

There’s no question that blogs make it incredibly easy to get inspired. They also make it easy to get jealous. To some degree, blogs are founded on envy. We read about stylish new clothing brands, trendy restaurants, and spicing up our apartments with gallery walls and chalkboard paint. It’s all about wanting. Sometimes we find ourselves wanting a particular pair of designer ballet flats, and sometimes we want a whole different life. 

As humans, and perhaps as young women especially, we’re always looking for validation. It’s natural that we continually hunt for a sense of community and personal connection in a technology-filled world. Now more than ever, blogging and social media lets young women learn from each other and become empowered. 

There's a growing trend of blogger-run, blogger-attended workshops that focus on building some sort of blog-related skill set, with the added bonus of brushing shoulders with some of the more well-known blog celebrities. But is this truly about mastering a skill, or simply expanding our social circle to feel like we’re part of the in-crowd? 

Recently, Olivia from Everyday Musings posted about a week long food styling and photography workshop she attended in La Dordogne, France. The workshop was led by Aran, the bloggess behind Cannelle Et Vanille. A freelance food writer and photographer with a popular blog, Aran led a small group of women through the French countryside teaching them more about her craft. 

Similarly, quirky graphic designer Designlovefest runs the incredibly popular Blogshop – 2 day workshops that get into the nitty gritty of how to use Photoshop to better your blog. The sold-out events are being held from LA to Berlin, and young women seem to have no problem plunking down $772 (plus the cost of travel, accommodations, etc.) in the hopes of improving their software skills and beautifying their blogs. 

There's no denying that the young women running these workshops are making things happen for themselves. Rejecting a standard 9-5 job to pursue their passions in creative fields, blogs give these entrepreneurs the platform they need to gain a following and build their business. 

Good blogging – interesting, regularly updated content, gorgeous high-res photos, and perhaps just a dash of envy – is enabling women around the world to connect and help each other make things… and make things happen. 

They’re not waiting around. Instead of relying on an already-established organization to give them a chance, these 20 and 30-something women are taking things into their own hands and making a living off of their creativity. 

I have incredible respect for these women that have exposed their lives on the Internet – who are sharing sometimes very-personal details of their daily lives, taking great photos, and writing interesting content that has managed to blossom into a livelihood. 

And yet, there is a part of me that is still skeptical. 

I can’t help wondering whether a huge number of young women are wasting their time banking on the prospect of making a living this way. For every successful blogger, there are thousands whose blogs will be nothing more than a public diary – a way to chronicle their lives and keep track of photos and maybe get an occasional comment from a virtual passerby. 

At this point we've become so overexposed to this over-designed online world that the prospect of a “normal” office job and an “un-styled” life is becoming completely obsolete. “Normalcy” is portrayed as completely unglamorous in a blogosphere dominated by photo shoots and exciting freelance careers. 

Is it detrimental to the young, female psyche to place so much emphasis on a perfectly designed life? 

Young women are spending a whole lot of time reading about other people's lives, and shelling out a lot of money to be mentored and coached by their favorite bloggers. They get to learn something tangible – a new skill valuable in the online community. And they feel hopeful that someday they too will acquire the Internet fame necessary to leave their drab “normal” life behind in favor of one dominated by DSLRs and quaint cafes. But is this really an attainable dream? Obviously, not every 25-year-old female who starts a blog will find success. 

Is it misguided for us to be spending so much of our time on virtual pursuits instead of the concrete aspects of everyday reality? 

 And yet, maybe the process of blogging—making a new friend, reading one positive comment, and simply having an outlet in a community of creative, determined young females—is enough. 

It’s a fine line between inspiration and unrealistic hope, but maybe it’s enough to start thinking outside the box. All you have to do is read a few blogs to realize that anything is possible.


Anonymous said...


Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

I love you. This post is spot on -- and every way you feel I've felt before. Do you know that if you hadn't started this blog, I wouldn't have started mine? I didn't even know what blogs were until you mentioned them to me that first summer I met you. And while I jokingly tell people I started my blog as a way to flirt with a guy, I now blog because of the connections I make -- real, deep strong connections with other incredible women from all over the world. One day I might stop blogging, but today isn't that day.

Stacey Snacks said...

and please don't forget about the 40 something women......some of them have had a lot of new opportunities and doors opened via their blogs.

I have met so many talented young and middle aged women (and men) via blogging and I can't imagine a day without it.

Great post! xo

the southern hostess said...

I have the very same thoughts all the time. Thank you for sharing so honestly and eloquently. I needed to hear it today!

Juliette said...

Just what i needed. Very well said. Thank you