Recently, I was discussing a very popular blog and my surprise at the stale content. I sit somewhere between bemused and enraged by the fact that some blogs are incredibly lucrative despite never offering anything new. During this conversation, someone (with good intentions) chided me that my words were public and not very nice.
There are few accusations that stop me in my tracks. I’ve been called many things on the internet (ugly, fat, stupid, cheap) and people disagree with my opinions often. Those sorts of things honestly don’t ruffle my feathers. But, as a person who specifically tries to not be a jerk, I really take it to heart when someone insinuates that I’m being hurtful, insensitive, or mean.
So- was I?
Around this same time, there was a heated discussion going on about a different popular blog- specifically, about the blogger and her personally held political views. These weren’t views that she published on her blog, but ones that she privately endorsed and that eventually came to light.Very outspoken and directed critiques flew about her personal financial contributions.
Also in the same time-frame, a third popular blogger announced news about her marriage, after much speculation from readers. She was met with criticism of her marriage- on her own blog, but also on other blogs, websites and social media sites.
My question is- where do we draw the line? Was my critique of the content of a blog the same as a dissection of someone’s political views or the criticism of someone’s marital issues? In a field that’s dependent on building connections, and one that is mostly comprised of 1) people working for themselves and 2) women (in my spheres at least), it’s imperative that we ensure that we’re not needlessly tearing one another down.
I’ve given it some thought, and I think I have some hard lines drawn for myself- but they’re far from perfect. I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.
Content vs. Personal Life
As blog readers, we’re all (in a sense) customers and consumers. Critiquing the content that we’re ingesting is not only normal, it’s healthy. That’s the point of reading, you guys. To weigh and analyze and filter what’s read for value and validity. It’s the whole damn point. If you’re absorbing internet content without measuring it for truth and worth, I’m concerned for you.
But, in my mind, there is a huge difference between examining blog content for value versus parsing and critiquing the personal decisions of a blogger- or worse, needlessly hurling personal insults.
When it gets tricky, of course, is when a blogger publishes the details of her personal life. Once a blogger writes about it, doesn’t she call her personal life into question? You can’t put something into the public eye and then be dismayed that there’s an audience. I feel comfortable discussing and weighing anything that a blogger deems fit for my reading.
Monetization vs. Ethics
I’m tired of readers feeling put-upon and used because a blogger has found a way to make money via blogging. It’s an old, sad line of thinking and- as I mentioned- truly a feminist issue. We argue about how a woman can raise children and still work for herself, but then are angered when a woman finds a way to stay at home with her littles and manage to have an income. Outrageous. I don’t think it’s up for discussion. Bloggers make money sometimes. You get to read things for free. Stop complaining about it. Women deserve compensation for work.
Critiquing the honesty and policy of collecting that compensation is another matter altogether. The ethics of monetizing should always be up for discussion. Well-known bloggers who endorse a certain brand because they are compensated to do so? Totally should be telling their readers such valuable information. Are you recommending this cherry lipgloss because you like cherry lipgloss, or because they’re PAYING you to say you like cherry lipgloss? A valid question. While we shouldn’t criticize the fact that some bloggers do make money, we can criticize the ways in which they choose to do so.
The tricky thing here is that blogging builds what feels like personal connections. If someone feels like your “friend”- you’ve watched their children grow, rejoiced with them in their good times and were driven to tears by their bad- it can feel like betrayal when they try to make money off of your emotional investment in their lives. I think it’s important that we guard how we see bloggers- not as public figures, heroes, or celebrities- but also not as best pals.
What do you think? How can we fairly critique blogs and bloggers? How do we make sure we aren’t tearing one another down without removing our ability to weigh and measure the value of what’s published?