April 11, 2014
If you are at all involved in some sort of social media, whether you blog or not, you may have heard some hulabaloo about the American Blogger train wreck that won’t quit. Basically, the trailer was released for the film, and all hell broke loose on Twitter (you can search the #americanblogger hashtag on Twitter, which has been trending for a few days now, and get a feel for how poorly it was received in just a few short seconds, or you can do a google search and see the top trending articles). What at first began as valid criticism over the clear lack of diversity in the bloggers featured (and lack of men for that matter), quickly turned into mockery and mean snark.
As most everyone can agree on, I too thought the trailer was terrible, and did a very poor job representing what could very well be an interesting topic. It also did a poor job representing some women I personally know, who are anything but shallow and vapid. But beyond that, I don’t agree it’s something those of us in the community should tear each other apart for, and I certainly don’t think a young aspiring filmmaker should have his career ruined. None of us in the blogging world are without fault and we are all subject to criticism no matter what our niche topic is. Lifestyle is often accused of presenting an unrealistic ideal way to decorate a home or dress or create. Narrative blogs could be accused of divulging too much and not knowing when to keep things private. This has all served as a good reminder to keep myself in check, try to be as real as possible, and just focus on being myself. For starters, I’m throwing away all those stupid cute paper straws. They don’t work and are useless.
There has already been so much written about the subject, so I’m not sure I can add anything useful or different to the conversation, but I will say that we as bloggers can have a tendency to get very used to praise, praise, praise. Yes, we are our own harshest critics, but by way of the medium in which we work, we can very quickly get used to the praise from people who follow us, because those who follow tend to like what we’re doing, for one reason or another. When you make a film or start writing a column like Babble, which reaches a far wider audience, you expose yourself to people who don’t regularly follow you. This week, the Wiegands exposed themselves to a much larger audience, and they unfortunately found out not everyone thinks what they do is beautiful. It sucks, and I feel terrible for them, but mostly I feel terrible for the women featured in the film. Some of whom I personally know and I can confirm are not “rich” or perfect. Talented and stylish, sure, but also hardworking and creative and yes, pretty.
I go through periods where I get pretty burnt out with this whole blogging thing, and this week was one of them. There’s so much I love about blogging, but also so much I truly despise. There are days where I haven’t felt charitable enough, Christian enough, as connected to my kids as I should be. I’ve rolled my eyes after seeing a black and white graphic nursery reveal for the upteenth time, felt a stupid tinge of jealousy seeing another perfectly stylized DIY project produced from the blogger who seems to be too big for her own breaches, and gnashed my teeth at images of stylized work-desks on Instagram. There’s people in this space who are deep and intellectual, those who are shallow, and those who are misunderstood. There’s people of all sizes, shapes, ethnicities and backgrounds, millions of them, floating along on their own piece of the internet. It’s naive to think we can all see eye to eye, that we can all be a true community, that one person could represent us all. It’s naive to also think that our every word is going to be clearly understood, not taken out of context, and our every intention seen as pure. My old boss had a saying he would repeat often: “Perception is reality.” While we may sometimes be “misunderstood”, the perception we put forth every day on Instagram on our blog, on Facebook and on Twitter, is reality to someone else. I learned a lot when one of my articles on Babble went viral last year and I took some horrible heat from it. I learned to be clearer with my words and not to be too hasty with what I publish. I learned that not everyone sees my point of view, no matter how much sense it makes to me. And more than anything, I learned that there is so much snark and meanness in this world it could ruin a person, for even just a small fraction of a second. Call it hate, snark, bullying or just plain sarcasm, when you use your words to intentionally ruin someone else, even for a second, you’re doing nothing more than adding more negativity to a world already so filled with bad.
I think a lot of us definitely agree that the tides may soon turn a little. The backlash this past week to the lifestyle niche of blogging has been overwhelming, and I wonder if it will make many of us think the next time we post a picture drinking out of a mason jar. The whole thing has been such an unfortunate train wreck I hope we can soon move past. Have a good weekend everyone.