This post is titled 'more thoughts' rather then just 'thoughts' because the idea for it came completely from this post by Lorna Literally, which makes so many interesting points it inspired me to formulate some of my own. Please feel free to make yourself a cup of tea and give Lorna's post a read too. It's good.
So, I think I'm probably not alone in wanting to approach this subject with utmost caution. When discussing how other more well-known people choose to run their blogs - which in many cases have morphed swiftly into mini publishing empires in their own right - there are always a few keenly felt fears lurking in the back of my mind. Namely, 'will I come off like the world bitterest h8er, bitterer than the juice of a thousand unripe grapefruits?' And also 'is this vaguely unfeminist?' Something about criticising the work of women who've used the internet to essentially conjure a working business out of thin air just feels a bit wrong, but for today I'm going to park my uneasy feelings and just go with it.
Because blogging is glossy af now.
We must decide what this all means.
Lorna makes some interesting points in her post about the rising prominence of luxury goods within the blogosphere, and the escalating sense of consumerism which inevitably accompanies that. I think it's a trend worth noting, but not one which causes me much trouble personally. I'm not averse to a luxury purchase here and there and I'm certainly not able to exclude myself from the consumerist mindset. Yeah, I dabble with anti-consumerism - I save for rainy days, I clear out my makeup drawer about every 6 months - but I slip my abstemiousness on and off when it suits me like this season's new coat ('now only £49.99!'). One minute I'm knee deep in Netflix minimalism documentaries, the next I'm gleefully sailing past the Asos £100 free next day postage threshold. I am human. I am inconsistent.
Also I work in advertising. My entire career is in the service of people buying stuff. So a luxury bag here or there doesn't really phase me.
What does perturb me though is the rise of 'the gloss'. The shiny sheeny layer which now sits between some of our most creative, dedicated and exciting bloggers and their audiences. A thick, soupy, rising tide of perfected imagery and staged scenarios which distances bloggers' work from the reality it purports to portray, and readers from the raw authenticity which once elevated online content above the likes of Glamour and *shudders* Cosmo.
Lorna suggests that it's this - the gloss - which has 'taken away a little of blogging's charm'. Now, since I already sound bitterer than the squeezings of a million lemons I might even go one better. I kind of feel like it takes away all of blogging's charm, does't it? If we're honest?
I feel like it's crept up on us. That as blogging became a more widely popular pursuit people became more ambitious, upgraded their cameras and stretched themselves to achieve something really beautiful, well crafted and high quality. And all of that is fantastic. Thanks to that ambition there are now thousands of women with knowledge and skills in photography, coding and copywriting who would otherwise have been clueless in these areas (myself included). But then, for many of the most successful bloggers, that ambition to achieve quality morphed into something more confusing. Life as depicted in the blogosphere became a strange confection of artfully posed 'candid' shots, the carefree hailing-a-cab-with-starbucks-in-hand-and-laboutins-on-feet shot chosen from a ream of a hundred similar images, because this one had just the right amount of windsweptness. By stealth we seem to have arrived at a point where people will not just polish the edges of an experience, but essentially fake entire life scenarios - entire afternoons, entire weekends - all with the help of professional photographers and videographers, in order to publish the results online, and never ask themselves what the f*ck the point of that even is.
It's crept up on us so slowly I don't think we've ever really felt entitled to question it, but if people abandoned magazines in favour of blogs precisely because they offered something more real, then concocting an entirely imaginary existence, the documentation of which strives to mirror magazine aesthetic as closely as humanly possible, is just total madness is it not? Like what is the point? And why are we reading it? Why are we half believing it even when it is so clearly, incandescently fake, employing a strange kind of Orwellian doublethink which allows us to both roll our eyes at the OTT perfection of it all and yet still leave feeling comparatively inadequate?
I don't know.
Market forces will always set industry norms as close to the status quo as possible. Which is my very pretentious way of saying that as soon as advertisers got seriously involved in blogging, this was always going to happen. People need ads to make money, they need eyes on the pages to get the ads, and short and snappy with lots of gorgeous photos is what gets the eyes on pages and clicks on links. And it spirals into ever more perfected nothingness from there, until you find yourself sitting at your screen and musing aloud at another impeccably posed coffee with the girls post
"literally none of this even f*cking happened"*
It's a shame, but I think I can detect a turn of the tide coming. As lifestyle blog fans like myself get older we're starting to look for something more fulfilling for our lunch time reading (no offence to you young clever people, it just took me a while to mature in my tastes). Clickbaiting titles offering ten need to know ways to organise like everything or whatever and artfully styled faux-candid shots of unwearable fashions start to lose their appeal. Inspiration gives way to something more like exploration. I want to know what other women think about stuff. Even if I think they're wrong. That's more interesting than whatever made up wonderland the blogosphere has become currently. On top of that, the political situation has changed things. The women I know who blog are bursting to be more vocal on more topics. Curating a perfect feed is starting to take a backseat to communicating what matters to us, whether that's a political cause or a product recommendation. Passion is reentering the equation. We are slowly climbing out of the gloss.
*I did this. If you all had 'so much to catch up on', why did you bring a pro photographer and take like 4000 shots? Surely that would have been awkward.