On Blogging

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I've been thinking long and hard about some things over the past few weeks about blogging. After reading a whole bunch of anti-blogging articles, mainly ones that attack fashion and design blogs, I came away with a rather frustrated feeling. I guess what bothered me about some of these articles is not the specific criticism of particular blogs (although I did think this was a tad bitchy and in some cases, unjustified), but more so the fact that such huge, sweeping generalisations were made about the practice of blogging and those who undertake it. Granted, I come from a totally biased position regarding this issue as I have a blog myself. I also invest a lot of time, energy and creativity into my blog. But I think I get rewarded for this effort in ways that are not always tangible and which don't always come down to the ever-cynical point made by critics of blogging: popularity.

Let's face it, my blog is not really ever going to be one of those uber-popular blogs that become a hit on the net. But who decided that this is the only reason people blog? It's hard not to get defensive when you read a string of complaints about how narcissistic the blogging community is. Well, lots of people are narcissistic, it's a personality trait, and it's not exclusive to bloggers. But I guess that's beside the point: the real point is that I feel some of these (quite vicious) attacks are a form of resisting just what can be done through blogs these days and how varied they actually are.

I understand the frustration of professional writers when they work so hard on a lengthy and well-researched piece of work and receive little attention, only to hop on the net and see a blogger who types maybe three sentences and gets a huge number of hits. But that's just one scenario, and it doesn't mean that blogger is inherently superficial. We don't actually know the people behind the posts in their daily lives, it seems pointless to attack them personally. I think one of the few times I've been moved to criticise a blog article myself was when it came to that infamous "Bad Classics" article. But not all articles on the net are like that, it's one trend out of many, it's one voice out of many. I don't particularly like it, but I'm not going write-off the entire blogging community over it. To altogether dismiss the creative and community-minded possibilities of blogs as a writer is a bit short-sighted these days. I'm not saying that every writer should have a blog, but it's rather unproductive to go out of your way to dismiss writers who do.

I'm not going to name the articles I read, because I don't want to enter into an online argument with other people here. I guess I'm raising this topic because I find it interesting and I think I've come to really appreciate what the act of blogging has done for my consciousness and abilities as a writer. I'm also interested in the wider motivations of why so many of us blog. And after reading Elmo Keep's article, The morning after my father died, I think it has a lot to do with what she calls 'proof':

I think I was much more narcissistic when I was in my twenties, like many young people on the internet are, trying to prove constantly that you are someone, that you’re doing something. Which also makes me think, though, are we really that much more narcissistic than people older than us? Or would this have happened to anyone who waded into a time and place where it was possible to capture and share every moment of your life with everyone you know? If we told ourselves no stories of our lives, then the things that happen to us would just be an extraordinarily confusing string of unconnected occurrences.

So I think, yes. I think they would have done it too, because the urge to prove that you were here goes as far back as leaving a hand print on a cave wall in Lascaux.

That's exactly it. Maybe if we started to think about blogging as one avenue via which we tell our stories, then it wouldn't seem so threatening to so many people.

Image found here.


Sarah said...

Another brilliantly written piece. I'm often afraid of blogging precisely because I don't want to be promoting vanity and the idea that popularity is meaningful. However, I do post hoping someone will read, hoping that there are people out there who enjoy what I have to say and show. I blog to make friends and tell stories. The desire to show "you were here" is universal. x

casey said...

I've been thinking a lot about this too, why I blog. There's so much out there to read and it's beginning to feel like too much stimulation and not enough original content. I began blogging as a way to find my voice. I'm a quiet person in real life, and blogging has honestly given me confidence to speak up and something to be proud of.

You hit it by saying this is an avenue in which we tell our stories. That's all blogging really is. Each story is different. Some prettier, more popular. As is life.

melancholyswan.com said...

I immediately responded to the idea of blogging as a vehicle for telling our stories. I started my ballet blog for that reason, and the bonus has been meeting other adult beginner dancers and seeing their progress. My writing blog is more for me than anything else, but having readers is wonderfully validating.

Blogging democratized publishing by leaving out the filter of the editor. I think resentment of professional writers is similar to that expressed in "The Incredibles: If everyone is a writer then no one is.

Caitlin Rose said...

I know! Before I had a blog I would do creative things and they would just be forgotten, they would end. Now I feel like something that I've done can be archived. and it's obviously great if other people are interested, but even if they aren't, I can still look through the things I've done. and I don't really mind if people think that's narcissistic, I probably am ; )

Leah said...

I remember that scene. When I saw it I thought, 'I will be something at 23, I'll be different...'
And here I am at 24, still nothing, I suppose, but a lot more myself.

The internet has been a part of my life for over 10 years, from MSN with all my school friends the moment we got home from school, through Myspace and a brief, failed flirtation with facebook, with blogging backing that up in one way or another for almost four years. I still don't really know why I blog, but I do know that I enjoy it.

But then why do we want to do anything? Why do you want to write? Why do some people just know what they want to do, even if they have no idea why?
It is certainly not a unique internet generation trait.

How thought-provoking!

Amelia said...

I always thought of blogging as a way to share stories. However there are A LOT of people who are in it for the e-fame(whatever the hell that is) and to quit their day jobs and live vicariously through their blogs. I personally have no issue with how people make their money, but the moment they hit e-fame content goes down and your stuck with brain numbing articles that repeat themselves (this also goes for Youtube celebrities).

I think blogging has helped throughout the years not only practice my English (which was my main goal when I started), but to find like-minded people and, as weird as it sounds, become friends with some of them.

That's the beauty of the internet in the end, you can connect with someone who's 2000km away.

Enia Is (Almost) Here said...

'if we told ourselves no stories of our lives, then the things that happen to us would just be an extraordinarily confusing string of unconnected occurrences.' says it all really, doesn't it?

wonderful post hila, couldn't agree more.

Felix Curds said...

...Why not blog? Why not just crawl into a ditch and troll the internet forever?! I really love this post hila and I agree. It's infuriating that people should generalize anyone who owns a blog or voices ANYTHING as attention seeking! I just think that those who believe people always do something under some sort of pretense are bitter things with their OWN self-indulgent agendas to fill. Oh, and they really need to do a pooop! People blog cos they can and want to, just like haters hate cos they can and want to. Have a wonderful evening:)

pixie said...

This is a wonderful post. So few people are actually able to react calmly to an attack (especially a meaningess one, since no one is forcing the haters to read the blogs they claim to despise in the first place) and you managed to do so and to create something beautiful in the process. I love your writing. Blog on!

jodeska said...

I don't think there could be a bigger topic of discussion in the blogging world other than this. Funny thing is, the majority of the world doesn't give a shit!

The internet is AMAZING and for whatever reason people do it, in essence it's a way to express yourself (cliche as it sounds)and connecting to others in a way that people never could before.

To think we're going to change the world is a big ask- I think your images sum it up perfectly.

Jamie said...

I don't think I have anything of any real substance to add, although I wish I did, but I would like to make my appreciation known for how interesting and nicely written this post is x

Danielle P. said...

I understand the frustration of professional writers when they work so hard on a lengthy and well-researched piece of work and receive little attention, only to hop on the net and see a blogger who types maybe three sentences and gets a huge number of hits.

As an "aspiring scribbler", nothing crushes my confidence like seeing a blogger publish a poorly-researched, repetitive, grammatically incorrect, barely coherent, often typo-ridden post on a literature- or culture-oriented blog and getting dozens of comments saying "Great post!" It both disheartens me and fills me with anger.

Fortunately, there are (a few) blogs like yours, Hila, where sentences are carefully crafted, with a love of words and ideas that shines through. Thank you for this post. :-)

Linda said...

I think you need not worry. I think blogs have a very important role in building fellowship and friendships around areas of interest. They are also a way to put your thoughts down in writing in a semi-public form. A blog isn't a scrawled note to yourself, but then again, it is not pristine enough for formal publication. It is a way of keeping track of thoughts and ideas. That is how I use my blog, since I rarely recount my life experiences in it. I so appreciate many of the blogs I see for their contributions to my thoughts, for making me happy, for introducing me to new ideas and books that I would likely never know about or think of reading. I also like how blogging gives us a way of communicating in writing without the top-down structure and censorship that an editor would provide in a magazine, for instance. As I see it, blogging gives all of us a another degree of freedom--if we are inclined to blog or read blogs. So I say not to worry. Although we don't have much in common--I am a few decades older than you and am not a feminist, I enjoy your blog and your photos, and like to read what you are thinking. I find it refreshing. So I say, Blog on, MacDuff!

andrea despot said...

first, i have to say that i love the subtitles in those movie stills. it certainly hits a chord with me as i'm thinking of all i haven't accomplished in my 24 years. i realize i'm still young, and yet, i'm at a standstill.

second, i agree with everything you said here. and i love that quote: "the urge to prove that you were here goes as far back as leaving a hand print on a cave wall in lascaux."

i do believe it's the reason i used to write so often in my younger days and the reason i blog now. i love sharing what i love with other people and, even though i hardly write anything profound or deeply meaningful on my own blog, when i think of quitting blogging, it saddens me. i want people to know i'm here!

Jane Flanagan said...

Saying you're anti-blogging is like saying you're anti-books or magazines or television. It's just a medium and it has its good and bad executions like any other medium, (though there are fewer barriers to entry with blogging).

And while it's easy to be critical of blogs that seem shallow, it's also worth trying to understand why they're so popular with the vast majority.

I think, in general, people gravitate towards content that's unchallenging and reinforcing of their established position. I think they want warm camaraderie rather than constructive, critical thinking. I think there's stress and real-world stuff driving this easy escapism.

But there are exceptions and it's a polarizing reductionism to think of the blogworld as a block with no variations of hue. What you do here is very different. And you have a strong following. What I do is different too. There are niches for bloggers like us and there are people looking for those niches.

And you're right, we'll never be the most popular blogs. But we deliberately want to create and foster something different. That something else is why we blog. I don't think it's any more narcissistic than why a songwriter writes songs or why a film-maker makes films. It's unfiltered and immediate expression.

thea said...

well, yes, i couldn't agree more with elmo keep. it is a lot about proving ourselves. i think every human being feels that urge and pressure to leave a mark behind, somewhere, sometime. it's strange; i've often wondered why we feel the need to do this, but i can never understand why exactly. perhaps we just need to feel important in some way. more than just bones and lungfuls of air.

a very interesting post, thank you hila. people who blog just for popularity always leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth; it seems so shallow and meaningless. but i think we all do it, to some extent. nobody really, truly wants to write something without anybody reading it. we all want followers; it goes back to wanting to feel important.

the line sheet said...

This is a great post. Blogging is just another medium. There are good books, bad books, good magazines, bad magazines etc.

I studied journalism in college and you know what? I can't find a writing job. For a while I just stopped writing. At least blogging gives me the opportunity to practice writing.

You know what? There are a lot of blogs that are better than print. So there!

the dizzle said...

without reading the other comments, i wonder what the internet history of these people criticizing blogging is... cos i know ten years ago or more there existed diarylands, livejouranls, personal websites where people created online journals. they were usually littered with (in my opinion) bad poetry and sometimes bad writing but also a lot of cool communities (mine was generally riot girl/zinesters who travelled over to the internet). there wasn't a lot of fashion blogging and i can understand some of the distaste for it but like you mention in your post can't really understand how people would be able to write off blogging as a whole... it's like, haven't those critical taken time to even look around because, depending on the subject i think there are way more well written blogs out there than there are fashion blogs. (and please excuse my lack of capitalization, spellcheck, etc haha!)

Tana said...

what an interesting subject! hm,you know i don`t like the word "to blog", i prefer to replace it with 'i communicate'(as it concerns mon petit coin :)there were few reasons why I started it, the main was to have another sphere to be occupied because of the work i didn`t like but had to do. it was mostly like a therapy, a way not to be bored, to invent something, even may be a kind of training the brains for creativity. i communicate mostly through images as i`m not very talkative by nature and sometimes i convince myself that my writing performance is not interesting to read at all.
and i think that such a great amout of so-called fashion blogs (shallow or not)is the result of such tendency "i can be in fashion too",that there are way too much problems in real life, that virtual one gets like a source to escape from them into not too serious? or may be for somebody that`s the way to become more self-confident and then turn into narcissique:) of course it`s understandable some blogger`s reaction on a passage about 'i bought a new pair of shoes look how wonderful they are'(and it gets so many comments) and some thought-provoking post and it gets a little attention. But we are different, the views are different, the needs, you are completely right that we know little about people behind l`écran.

daisy buchanan said...

I love this blog. The literary aspect in particular. Keep up the fantastic work and the spectacular example that women don't just have to show what they're wearing today to be interesting. Cheers!

Oregon, USA

Jessica Sue said...

Maybe it's because I "grew up" as an angry teenager in the Livejournal community, but blogging has always sorta felt like sharing/documenting my own story, at least to me. Just like any other thing, though, there's always the people out to make a profit or be seen. I understand the feeling of needing to be recognized or acknowledged, but sometimes things are more special when it comes from the heart and isn't to fill your quota or to plug your sponsor. Then again, there's the other side who might think I'm a fool for not seeing it from a business perspective...who knows.

CloudyKim said...

I love the quote you found. It pretty much sums up the situation - not just with blogging, but social networking in general. We want to keep proving we're productive and happy and also exist beyond ourselves.

I'm actually really glad that I grew up without social networks. I mean, they are pretty awesome, but I can't imagine how I would be as a person if twitter and facebook had been at my command as a teen. I'd probably say a lot of stupid things and probably never step away from the computer, haha.

I started blogging because I do want to be a published author some day. I was inspired by musicians, actually, and how they reach out to their fans in so many ways. I wanted to try doing something like that, instead of keeping myself locked up with a MS for years. And I've begun to really love blogging for itself. It's awfully fun and there's no reason for any party-poopers to ruin it with said articles :)

hila said...

such interesting comments here guys, I'm really intrigued by the motivations behind blogging, thanks so much for sharing your personal reasons. I'm also really interested in the different analyses of blogging presented here, and also, the different perspectives about how it fits in the world.

Betül said...

I totally agree with you! I'm blogging regularly since a couple of months and even I don't (and most probably will never) get many clicks, I don't care!! I'm really proud of myself spending energy to document some interesting things that I see around, that totally make my day...even though I have a very busy schedule (I'm doing my thesis) but hey who cares ?? Blogging is so much fun. I can't wait for going back to see what I liked 2-3 years ago :-) Blogging is the modern 'diary' of our lives...

My Castle in Spain said...

I started blogging after a friend challenged me to do it. I found it daunting at first, but soon, very soon got addicted to it. Naturally there's the narcissistic pleasure of sharing my stories and the anticipation of receiving comments.Yesterday i was just mentioning to my boyfriend how mean the readers can be towards the über popular bloggers. I had just been on the blog of Miss Pandora, a French girl who enjoys impersonating female artists like Sarah Bernhardt or Isadora Duncan and does it often brilliantly and I couldn't just believe the meanness of some comments on one of her recent photoshoots. Sorry for this long blabla...just one last thing...i was in London last week end and went to see Fukunuga's Jane Eyre. The day after, still reflecting on the movie, suddenly out of the blue, i remembered the brilliant blog of a young woman who writes about movies - you of course ! - and was curious to read your thoughts about the movie if you've seen it. I would say this is my vision of blogging, a subtle entanglement of threads which link people, in a good creative way.
Thank you for this post....

Anonymous said...


Do you have the links to any of the articles?
I feel quite passionate about blogging, and I would like to read the criticism.

hila said...

I just wanted to say thanks again for all the really fascinating comments here everyone. I wish I could respond to them individually, but I'm afraid I lack the time to truly do so, with all the stuff I have to do for my book this week! I did want to say though that I've read all the comments, and I've thought about them long and hard. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to engage with what I write so thoughtfully, it makes me feel humbled.

anonymous: I'd rather not link the articles here. If you'd like to email me, I'll send you the links.

Sundari said...

You know I'm glad you wrote this post. I have been disconnected from the social online world such as facebook and blogger. Blogging was the one I missed the most cause it has always been a really good place to gather my thoughts and also then have the chance for people to respond.

Megan Champion said...

This is such an interesting thought. And it is similar to one I have had myself, is it more important to blog or write real articles which result in payment or real recognition? I found that many literary agents look for your presence online. They look for blogs, facebook, devoted readers. Then it comes down to time for me, and whether I should work on my book or write a blog. I for one am thankful for your blog Hila, because it makes me a better thinker, a better writer, and that is really what I want in the end, simply to be better.

hila said...

sundari: I've missed you! I hope all is going well in china.

megan: thank you so much for saying so. I feel indebted in a similar way to other bloggers out there.

Lisa said...

I totally agree with you regardless of what we do there will always be people who mock it or view it as vain to publicise one's life or fashion choices or artistic licence to write about various topics.

People will be haters and we can either sit there and get upset about it or just move onwards and keep doing what we are doing because we love it and want to voice our views.