I’ve been blogging for about 3.5 years now, and in that time, I have learned quite a bit about the blogging world from the perspective of both a blogger and a reader. Perhaps it’s a function of the expansion of blogs in my reader or the fact that I’ve just been doing this awhile, but I’ve developed some thoughts on the trends in the blogging world. Some are positive, but this is neither the time nor the place for positive thoughts – it’s another edition of T-Rex Rantz, after all. There’s a lot of “me me me” and self-importance that is going around right now, and it sometimes makes me want to stop blogging. Both bloggers and readers have rights and responsibilities that come with being a part of this community, and I think those things are being forgotten about. To be frank, it bothers me. So I guess you can call this T-Rex Rantz: Blogging Edition, as brought to you by (who else?) all my favorite reality tv starlets!
1. Post what you want, but know your audience. Read what you want, but know yourself. As a blogger, I think it’s incredibly important to be self aware. Who is your audience? How are they impacted by what you say? As a reader, it’s equally important to know what kind of material is healthy for you to read. Does a certain blogger make you feel good or bad about yourself? It’s all well and good for a blogger to say “Well, it’s my blog, if they don’t like MY journey or MY story, then they don’t have to read it, but this is what works for ME.” That’s absolutely true, but not everyone has the kind of self control to simply click away from a blog. If you have a particularly young or impressionable audience or talk about a topic like eating disorders, as I do, you have even more of a responsibility to be careful with your content. I think it is so important to present both sides of the issue, and above all, be honest to the extent possible. In my eating disorder series, I never talk about how much I weighed, how many calories I ate each day, or any type of numbers at all. Why? Because those things are known triggers, and no matter what, that information is not helpful and does not add to the story. It’s my responsibility to consider my audience and not just hide under the guise of “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”
2. Promotion or support of unhealthy blogs just to increase your readership. This one sickens me to my core. I have found, through the various rabbit holes of the internet, blogs in which the author clearly displays disordered eating patterns or unhealthy behaviors and is in complete denial publicly. I know you “shouldn’t judge people you don’t know,” but after 12 years with an eating disorder, I’m willing to call a spade a spade. If you comment on those blogs just because they have a large following and you want to get visibility for your own site, shame on you. Increasing your readership is never worth contributing to and supporting someone else’s decline in health. Likewise, if you’re a reader and you are clicking on those blogs just to watch the train wreck, don’t. If the site is ad-based, you’re funding an eating disorder, exercise addiction, whatever. That’s messed up.
Surely I am not the only one who misses Danielle Staub, right? Right?
3. The comment section. The choice to moderate, allow, or disallow comments is a very personal one to each blogger. I personally allow all comments, positive or negative, on my blog, because I value your opinions. I think they keep me accountable, and honestly, I don’t have very many trolls or people saying horrible things to me. From where I sit, it is an easy choice to make, and I would never claim that I have it particularly hard. Bigger bloggers sometimes get a lot of nasty comments and hate mail, and they may choose to shut down comments. That’s their prerogative. The important thing to think about when you are making a comment on someone’s blog is: Is this constructive? Is what I’m going to say helpful, kind, or interesting (it doesn’t have to be all 3)? When you are choosing your comment policy, it’s important to consider why you’re doing it. Are people calling you out on your disordered behavior, and you don’t like that? Maybe you need to examine your choices, then. Not everyone has to agree with everything we say, and healthy discussion is one of the best things about blogging and what sets it apart from other forms of journalism. Sometimes our readers see things in us that we don’t – that doesn’t make them “haters.”
4. Non-stop shilling of products and meaningless product reviews. Starting a blog is exciting! Companies will start approaching you for product reviews, sponsored posts, and ambassadorships and it’s fun to get things for free! It’s not always fun for your readers, though. An onslaught of sponsored posts and product reviews, especially for products that you don’t really care about or that have no place in your blog (i.e., a post about furniture on a running blog), does your readers a disservice. They’re smart, and they care about what you have to say. Don’t abuse that privilege. And if you’re a reader and you don’t like a product that is being given away, don’t enter to win it! Leave it for someone who actually wants to win. If you have a problem with the number of sponsored posts from a particular blogger and they ask for opinions on the topic (as we all do at some point or another) share your thoughts honestly. Don’t just write a nice comment because you want to get on the person’s good side. We want your honest feedback! Or at least, I do.
5. “Expert” advice. I’ve run 47 marathons, but by no means am I an expert at running. I am average at best in terms of time. I am thin, but I don’t give out nutrition advice. You won’t get a lot of “tips” from me on how to run faster, eat better, or anything like that. I’m not going to tell you how to grow your blog. Why? Because I’m not qualified to do so. Yes, those blog posts get pinned more and shared more and that’s great, but bad advice is bad advice. Now, I will happily give you advice on how to travel cheaply and negotiate for a great deal on a car, because I actually am good at those things and feel that I have some knowledge that is not widely known. I wish bloggers would resist the urge to provide advice just to generate shareable posts, and I hope readers are savvy enough to know that not all advice is good advice.
Except no, I couldn’t, so I won’t try.
6. The dual nature of blogging. As a reader, remember that you’re not seeing everything. It can be hard to get caught up in the comparison trap of who is running faster or more races or is thinner or has more money, but the fact of the matter is that you never really know the person behind the blog and what their life is really like. Don’t get down on yourself if you feel like your reality doesn’t measure up to someone else’s highlight reel. You never know when what you’re seeing on social media has been altered or carefully curated or is an outright lie – trust me, it happens. I personally think bloggers have a responsibility to record the ups and downs, but not everyone feels that way. I also wish bloggers would stop putting so much pressure on themselves to take pictures of every moment, blog while they’re on vacation, respond to comments in 20 minutes, etc. Unless blogging is your full time job, go out and live a little. Your readers and your family and friends will thank you for it.
Ok, rant over. If that was too long and you didn’t read it – the short version is that I think bloggers and readers should take responsibility and be honest with themselves and each other. Make no mistake – I’m not perfect as a blogger or person, and I am not operating under that illusion. I just think we all can – and should - do better.
What do you think? Do you have any pet peeves as a blogger or a reader?