A couple of days ago one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah from Pink of Perfection, said:
Everywhere we look, it seems, is something to aspire to: a better wardrobe, a better dinner, better snapshots of that dinner, better blog design, a better home. And the effect isn’t inspiring to me, it’s exhausting. My life does not look like that, even at its best, we think. And more than once it has made me stop and look at the photo I snapped of a simple steak dinner on Saturday night and think twice about posting it to this blog.
I’m fascinated by the concept of creating self on the internet so this really spoke to me. Even though she knows that that’s the best of other’s lives, she can’t help but compare. This is particularly interesting since she’s a veteran lifestyle blogger, someone who creates a presentation of a beautiful life. If she feels the pressure, how does everyone else feel?
One take-away from this post that I think is important for everyone, bloggers and marketers alike is the urge for authenticity. Sarah says it, her commentators say it; it’s the drive behind the meme “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. In a world of curated lives and slick pictures, we look for some sort of inherent truth. Something that we can connect with, that feels more like our lives than a perfect photo shoot.
So why a move from authenticity? I think she really got it when she mentioned professional blogging. So much of the social media community has become about selling – yourself, your “brand”, someone’s product. It’s commoditization of the personal, and on the surface I can see a lot of the appeal. Who wouldn’t want to make a living being ‘themselves’?
However, to be successful you can’t just be normal person, something has to bring the readers and followers and thus the money. So you buff and polish to make yourself the most attractive of all. And it is all a numbers game. Multitudes of classes teach aspiring bloggers how to get more hits, improve their SEO by linking and tagging. Social media is lousy with “follow me and I’ll follow you”, link-bait, and even buying followers.
Of course we all want to be liked. There’s a reason why I write these thoughts online instead of in a paper journal, that I post links and comment, but I think for a lot of people it’s gotten beyond that. When your life is your job (or you’re trying to make your life your job), everything gets a lot more complicated. To (generally) be successful, you have to focus on the image/brand first, reality second.
I think this urge for authenticity will lead to a greater refinement of presentation of self – just enough imperfect to be relatable, but not enough to be unpolished or unmarketable. There’s a really great discussion on the snark site GOMI on how many bloggers used “Thing s I’m Afraid to Tell You” as a way to polish their image instead of being actually revealing.