the Petit Palais; Paris, France
photo taken March 25, 2008
It's just that the conclusion I've come to really isn't fundamentally groundbreaking. As I said in my first post about this the other week, I think we make blogging - and what it means to be a blogger - more complicated than it has it be and, at the end of the day, what we get out of any venture is made up of two things: what we put into it and the people with whom we surround ourselves.
That doesn't make the issues with which I struggled any less valid. In fact, based on your responses, many of you are bothered by the same things. When I asked why we bloggers feel compelled to be all things to all people, something I am absolutely guilty of myself, most chalked it up to a combination of wanting to be a popular blogger and wanting to have a lucrative blog. As Bailie noted, "I think people want to be all things so they are liked by everyone which means more page views!"
Alyssa agreed: "We want to cover it all because humans are people pleasers. We want everyone to like us and everyone to like our blog. Covering a range of topics ensures that we get the biggest audience (in theory). Also, I think it also has to do with comparison. If we see other bloggers posting amazing recipes, DIYs, etc, we feel like we need to as well." Taking that idea a bit further, Kristen said, "I think we see people out there doing things and wonder why we aren't doing them, why we don't have those opportunities, why we don't have the time they do."
Jessica's observation resonated with me, too. She suggested, "I think the internet has so much to offer in the way of information that it's almost turning everyone into ADHD 10 year olds. It's really difficult to focus on just one topic when you can become a quasi expert in at least 50 other random topics at the same time."
That trap - the "you can be an expert" one - is so easy to fall into when you want your blog to be successful. As Gillian pointed out, "Expertise sells. It's as simple as that. I straddle the world between lifestyle blogging and corporate blogging, and having expertise to share allows you to sell." It is that simple, but I think trouble starts when we get caught up in what Karen calls the side effects of blogging and Alyssa calls ulterior motives - numbers of followers, sponsorship opportunities, and the like - that we feel we need approval to authenticate our experiences even if we're hobby bloggers. Along these lines, Erika wrote:
Being an expert has other things tied to it -- like validation, acceptance, and competence. I think, though, the blogging world is too quick to assume that people are experts when they are really novices and I think sometimes novices are too quick to assume that they know more about what they are doing than they do. No one knows how much time people spend on something, how much knowledge they bring -- they just know the finished product. Still, with that said, I think part of the reason it's easy to compare is that amateurs are side-by-side with professionals in the blogging world.
But blogging is just like any other hobby -- take dancing, for instance. There are some people who just dance at parties. There are others who enjoy it and take a class here and there. There are still others who are more into it and devoted, but not professionals. Then there are people who make it their LIVELIHOOD. It doesn't mean that the people who don't don't love it, but there's a spectrum of time and dedication given. The difference is that people who do it as a hobby don't get up and perform at the ballet on a nightly basis, whereas in blogging, we're all on the same stage and treated as equals in that respect. It can be awesome but it can also bring a lot of pressure. Sometimes people feel that if they aren't giving the same energy in the same way, they aren't doing enough.I've discovered that, generally, the blogs I connect to the most are the ones written by women who feel like the energy they have to give to their hobbies is enough - or that, although they might like to give more, they're giving what they have and therefore that has to be enough. As Emily said in a comment she left on my March vlog, "There should also be a space for hobbies to be hobbies. And for that to be okay. I like writing and taking photos and planning parties because it's enjoyable. I don't want the pressure of doing that full-time. So I think when we put pressure on ourselves to blog every day or to follow blogging rules or whatever, it becomes more of a job and less of a hobby. And for some people, that's the goal and that's fine. I just don't want to feel guilty or less-than for not wanting that."
I totally agree and it's why, as a reader, I have huge problems with how easily we throw around "expert" as a label. Honestly, I read lifestyle blogs to share the lives of amateurs like me and I'll visit a professional blog if I want instructions on how to do something. It's pretty much guaranteed that I'll be turned off by hobby blogs (and I'm using the word "hobby" in the broadest possible sense here) that present expert "how to" posts. Sure, I want to know you baked that special cake for your husband's birthday or maximized space in your suitcase for an international trip, but I'm really only interested because of how it relates to your personal narrative. When bloggers in whom I am emotionally invested switch from writing "here's how I did it" posts to "here's how you should do it" posts, I often go through all five stages of grief. Believe me, I know that avoiding the comparison trap and not feeling guilty when it comes to blogging is easier said than done, but the bloggers I admire and relate to are, for the most part, the ones who are okay being awesome amateurs who spend the time and energy they have to spare on hobbies they're passionate about.
I guess that's where my question about why so many bloggers have skills and interests that are considered typically feminine came from. An anonymous commenter pointed out, "It's like asking why all women's magazines are the same. If you buy a women's magazine you want a particular kind of content. A female lifestyle blogger can write about anything she likes and if she doesn't it's because that's not the niche she wants to be in. I'm absolutely sure there are women out there writing about all kinds of non stereotypical stuff." How obvious, right? I just hadn't considered that. I have relationships with bloggers who often write about classically domestic pursuits because those are topics I like to read about. (As Tina said, "Everyone has different interests and they find friends who have those interests.") And, because I'm invested in blogs that share a comprehensive narrative of the blogger's life, I don't read many niche blogs. Like Aunie wrote on her blog the other day, "That's the thing, this blog will never have a niche, because it just follows the ebbs and flows of my life."
Of course there are exceptions to this - I have some wonderful relationships online with women whose blogs are part of their businesses and with women who never post recipes or home decor inspiration. But that's the beauty of blogging, and I was totally overthinking it before. The bottom line is that my community is what I make it. With your help, I've come to to understand what I look for in my blogging relationships, embrace what I enjoy from my community, and accept the fact that I have to choose where I spend my time and energy.
I can't tell you how glad I am that you've decided to make me part of your community - thank you.