Beyond the ASA, the governing body in charge or regulating the “business” side of blogging, there currently exists no official check on the morality side of things. As long as we are disclosing our advertisements properly and keeping our nipples covered up, bloggers are largely left to their own devices.
Adored by some, assumed to be utterly talentless narcissists by others, bloggers are an oddity in Britain; a famously prudish country that never once prided itself on it’s ability to overshare to strangers or talk about sex to anyone, ever – this new breed of worker, literally making a living from living their lives… well, like I say, an oddity.
As a nation, as a species, we are still for the most part unsure of what to make of this career, favoured by young women that seemingly requires little more work than buying and then posing in pretty clothes (more on that in a bit), but there is one thing that we do seem to agree on and that is that: by choosing to live your life on the internet, whatever comes next, you are asking for. The scrutiny, the criticism, the suggestions, comments, opinions and assessments that bloggers receive… all of it is utterly justified.
Without a governing body to regulate the behaviour of bloggers and influencers, social media users are flocking up to the plate, appointing themselves members of this ~necessary~ kangaroo court, committed to ensuring that the behaviours or those providing entertainment is consistently appropriate.
And as a result, the role of every day social media user in the lives of bloggers, whilst being paramount to their very existence, becomes complicated. Part consumer, part secret police, bloggers are under more scrutiny from their audience than I think anyone really realises.
We are in relatively unchartered territory and if we keep going at the current trajectory, I think bloggers, and more worryingly, blogging as an industry, could be in real trouble.
Because how can creators possibly continue to share their honest and authentic truths if every area of their lives is under scrutiny, every action questioned and every decision judged?
By virtue of the fact that it is an industry saturated with young women, sharing their lives, mistakes are bound to be made. Mistakes that are ill afforded given the power of some people’s influences. And as more people turn to blogging, by the law of probability, more mistakes will be made.
The critique, therefore, that many receive is often justified. But does that make it okay?
Bloggers no doubt require some checks and balances, actions have consequences, with great power comes great responsibility, etc etc, but should they really be coming from every Tom, Dick and Sharon every five seconds via every means of communication possible following every decision that they ever make? Famously, you can’t please everybody, but as a blogger, your job literally requires you to try and it’s here that things start to get messy.
Let’s have a little look at what really happens when you start judging bloggers too harshly.
Don’t use plastic straws. Why do you eat meat? You don’t seem to call your mum enough, she won’t be around forever! You realise that that dress you recommended was made at a sweatshop worked in by children? Don’t support anyone that has every supported fur. GO VEGAN. Ew you bought a bottle of water. Can’t believe you used lead based paint do you actually want everyone to die? That makeup brand you love tests on animals. You drive? GET A BIKE! You cycle? DO YOU WANT TO BE RUN OVER!? You shouldn’t hold your baby like that. Shouldn’t you be breast feeding? ADOPT DON’T SHOP I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU PAID FOR YOUR DOG…. SATAN!!! Don’t recommend tampons, they are bad for the environment. Don’t use spray deodorant you will get cancer. Bleaching your hair is bad for it. WHERE IS YOUR BAG FOR LIFE? That chicken is not organic. Don’t recommend pole dancing, it is slutty. Your house is messy, it’s gross. That washing detergent is bad and is killing fish. Don’t shop there they only stock up to a size 16 and if you do you clearly don’t have any solidarity with your plus size sisters. Don’t buy Gucci they are racist. Don’t even buy shit that looks like Gucci. Don’t even think about Gucci. Ever. You have too much makeup you should be donating it to women’s shelters. You have too many clothes you should be donating them to women’s shelters. You shouldn’t be getting into taxis, you should be donating that money to charity. Can’t believe you got on a plane to America YOU SHOULD HAVE ROWED THERE OR DO YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO BE SINGLE HANDEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MURDERING ALL OF THE POLAR BEARS YOU COLD HEARTED BITCH!!!!!
Etc. Etc. Etc.
And all of that from people that are just trying to help you. Or who think they are trying to help you at any rate. I’m yet even to mention the other messages, the messages concerning appearance and fashion choices and home decor and political views and boyfriends. The messages that don’t come from the places of kindness and concern that these ones do (I’ve previously done a bit of exploratory work into what you are meant to do when someone says something shitty about you on the internet if you fancy a read)…
But these are arguably the bigger problem… because the messages that come from the good place… or the goodish place, at any rate… well they are the judgements that will be what ruins blogging.
Because the fact of the matter is, the more we push bloggers to be and to do better, the more we force the reliability that we love them for, out of them.
Our intentions are honourable and often enough or execution is polite, but the effect is catastrophic. Not just for the bloggers who become afraid to share their truths for fear of judgement, but for those that follow them too.
Bored with mainstream celebrities and a society that made perfection untouchable and what we should all be striving for simultaneously, people flocked to bloggers in their thousands; desperate for someone to cut through the shit, to talk to us on our level, to be unapologetically themselves, we became invested, often heavily in their lives.
The lines between celebrity and fan, follower and friend, Instagram and reality, they became blurred, thus, bloggers adopt odd roles.
Undeserving of sympathy, many say, the role of a blogger IS harder than most give it credit for (read this by Sophie Milner if you still need convincing), bloggers are left vulnerable, exposed, adored, disliked, confided in, relied upon and criticised.
They are almost always criticised. And that puts them in an impossible situation. A situation that does not suit anyone. A situation that sees the relatablility they were once revered for, replaced with a glittering version of their reality, with half the picture omitted. The half showing the disposable coffee cup and plastic bag and big greasy burger and packet of face wipes that we had to buy in an emergency. The half showing the reality that is now shrouded in shame and an air of “could do better”.
I am all for changing the world. For inspiring others to make positive changes. For educating those around us into making better choices. But I am equally aware that the harder we push those we deem to have the biggest influence, the more dire the consequences will be.
Not just for the bloggers as individuals, likely to burn out eventually, too exhausted to even try and live their own imperfect truths anymore, but for those that follow them… for all of us. We lose the reliability we so desperately need.
Blogging was born out of desperation. We needed people like us to look up to. We needed people just about keeping ahold of the shit storm that is their lives to remind us that we too can keep ahold of the shit storm that is our lives. We were crying out for people to speak to us on our level. To ditch the fucking filter and be themselves. To show off their imperfections, proudly. To live their lives and to take pride in that, publicly.
And so with that in mind, I hope that for the most part the judgement that bloggers receive is not entirely vindictive or malicious. I hope that it comes from a place of concern, or frustration or from a place of genuinely wanting to help. I suspect that is the case.
Whilst bloggers must be held accountable and their problematic behaviour called out, it is complicated, because one person’s “problematic” might just be another person’s heroic.
And without a governing body to police all that goes on, I suspect that things will remain confusing and the kangaroo court will continue it’s reign.
I suppose all that we can hope is that people come to realise that on the receiving end of every comment is a person. A real life human person. A real life human person who is doing their absolute best. Who is trying, and juggling, and laughing and crying and breathing and stressing and dancing and pooing and trying and failing.
A real life human person who knows that they shouldn’t have bought that Starbucks, but who was absolutely fucking shattered and who could really, really do with a break.