After noting that honest doesn’t necessarily mean raw and negative in a comment section, I got asked by a blogger why I even look at her blog since “I obviously dislike” her.
This was a blogger who I have stopped reading multiple times in the past because of repetitive negative behavior that cycled over and over again which was super frustrating to read about. But she’s on a blogroll and has a gift with post names so sometimes one has to click out of curiosity because of the name of the post. (I also have this tempting-title problem with a doesn’t-realize-he’s-sexist political blogger.)
The weird thing about all this is the timing. She has had mostly healthy posts the last several times I’d clicked! She seems to have gotten a handle on the money stuff, a situation her readers warned her would happen that did happen finally got resolved, and she’s no longer complaining about her adult family members. It’s probably been a couple years since I felt dirty for clicking. And she was lamenting the loss of interesting raw honest posts since her life has been going pretty well. Which… seems like a weird thing to lament. I thought I’d made that point more politely than I did just now, but apparently it unintentionally touched a nerve.
I don’t know if this Chicago Tribune story is the one I was thinking of (whatever I was thinking of did talk about the rise and fall of Dooce and similar bloggers, including drunk mommy blogs and why they’re no longer “in”). But the confessional “raw, honest” mommy-blog is not really a thing anymore. It’s no longer cool to confess to day-drinking because your kids drive you crazy. (To be clear, the blog I’m talking about in the first paragraph was never one of those– the drunk mommy blogs were just part of the same movement.)
The thing is, just because something is negative, that doesn’t mean it is honest. And making something negative happen just to get points for being honest is worse! Long before the rise of the mommy blogs, we saw Sandra Tsing Loh pretty much making her professional persona about being a mess. And when that happens, you cannot stop being a mess or you become irrelevant. You, in fact, have to become more of a mess so you can have more “raw, honest, brave” performance art. This is what the tail wags the dog MEANS. And that’s why in our about statement, written more than 10 years ago, we have as a rule that this blog cannot become negative for the sake of being negative, despite its title.
These are also issues Hank Green touches on in his science fiction novels about fame and personas. What is real, that sort of thing.
I’m glad that tongue-in-cheek (but not all *that* tongue-in-cheek) dysfunctional isn’t in right now. People praised it as being an antidote to perfect facebook posts, but also… it was a pretty destructive movement. Yes, some people enjoy schadenfreude, yes there will always be a group of people who love to praise “bravery” and “honesty” and absolutely adore when a lifestyle blogger has a “life isn’t 100% perfect” post. And I’m not saying that everything shared has to be perfect and wonderful… but if life is being pretty good, why lament the lack of drama posts? Why not just be happy that life is pretty good? That can be honest too. Healthy, even.
Have you noticed a decline in … “raw, honest, brave” performance art? Do you wish there were more of those posts or is reality TV a good substitute? Do you think that with Trump gone that less frightening drama will return and dramatic “honest” posts are just the internet’s way of healing? Can you tell this post was written before Delta took over and the Supreme Court decided to let an insane anti-abortion law stand?
November 24, 2021 at 4:42 am
I was just thinking the other day that the reason I like the “Great British Baking Show” so much is that they cast seemingly normal people who like to bake. They don’t cast train-wrecks that will have a meltdown when the clock runs down to deliberately create unnecessary drama in the show. If I think of the reality TV I like and dislike, that is the main difference.
Or maybe I am just more mature. We all had that friend or family member who’s life is just one catastrophe after another (mostly self inflicted). I have enough self confidence these days to not need to try to fix someone to feel good about myself. Plus most of the time, I can’t help them anyway and it took me a long time to realize that. So, I’ve tried instead to be a good listener instead of a solutions provider. (Which is super hard because I built my life around being a problem solver).
I don’t think I ever read those mommy blogs back then. I was strictly consuming personal finance ones. I did also really like pioneer woman’s blog before she was a mega superstar and just a regular food blogger. Although I do admit the current guilty pleasure of Clean-tok. That’s where you watch people clean stuff on tik toc.
November 24, 2021 at 8:17 am
The one season of Bake-off that we stopped watching right away was the one where one of the contestants was so obviously a US-style reality contestant (and wikipedia told me she won, so…)
Clean-tok! Funny! I do like watching Baumgartner restoration videos on youtube. If I didn’t have a job I’d probably watch more of the youtube shows where they take broken old things and fix them up.
November 24, 2021 at 9:03 am
Your whole second paragraph resonates very strongly for me. My life was about solving everyone’s problems too and in recent years I have been learning that that can’t be how I determine my self worth. That’s one of the healthier things that came out of cutting off my bio dad and actively working on redefining who I am for myself. I can’t claim it’s me being more mature, it’s just me trying to grow and become a more healthy version of myself.
November 25, 2021 at 4:40 am
Yes. The codependency sucks and I am glad for you. I still feel guilt for walking away but I know it’s right for my family. It’s funny how it was okay when it only impacted me, but when it meant messing with my kids and spouse, I was able to follow through and let it stick.
November 25, 2021 at 5:12 am
November 24, 2021 at 9:01 am
Once upon a time, a random commenter said that they read my blog for the drama and I was pretty insulted. Things had been rough for a long period back then and I was just honestly blogging about it so I could get through, and to have that reduced to “drama” was just rude. I have since had plenty of boring posts about my normal everyday with the ups and downs and all that, and personally am pleased when life is smoother sailing. Outrage content is not my desired content.
I also don’t allow reality TV in our house because I think that stuff is really unhealthy. My kid can choose to watch some when they’re older but not when they’re underage and prone to imitating everything they watch to try it on for size.
I’m not a fan of either side of the coin: the “raw” negativity or the toxic positivity, both for the sake of performance. Neither are honest or compelling.
November 24, 2021 at 9:11 am
Drama kind of implies that it’s just a story and not real life! Like it’s performance art and you’re doing things for the clicks.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen toxic positivity. I guess maybe that’s some of the stuff I’ve read about when religious lifestyle bloggers end up divorcing and it turns out they had an abusive marriage? Though I don’t know, maybe some of that is the abused person trying to convince themselves. It’s hard to know who is a victim and who is a Phyllis Schlafly type and probably none of my business to begin with.
November 24, 2021 at 9:40 am
I went and read that Tribune article and the part that resonated the most with me was that people’s kids (the bloggers’ and the readers’) all got older. I have way less parenting angst than I did when I was overwhelmed and sleepless with my first baby so reading about other people’s parenting angst is less interesting to me now. At the time, I have to admit I did find some comfort in some of the “raw” stuff because it showed me that no matter how bad a job I thought I was doing as a parent, someone appeared to be doing a worse job! I mean, I managed to stay married to my spouse and not develop a drinking problem, so at least I cleared that bar.
November 24, 2021 at 9:48 am
I mean, a lot of people out there beat their kids, even their infants. The bar to being a decent parent is pretty low. And those poor kids. :( I’ve always felt that if you love your kids and don’t actively harm them and take care of their basic needs (food, clothing, medical care, shelter, etc.) that the rest will sort itself out. There’s a lot of trade-offs and a huge range between benevolent neglect and helicoptering that is JUST FINE.
I’ve always felt uncomfortable with comparative parenting. A lot of my life I’ve wanted to scream, “I refuse to apologize for being awesome.” I think we should all just accept our awesomeness (and our kids’ individual amazingnesses). Stupid patriarchy.
November 24, 2021 at 2:02 pm
Well, I was probably overly dramatic with my comment. I did not love every minute of having my first two babies (the third was a breeze, actually) and it was nice to know it wasn’t all sunshine and roses for some other people as well.
November 24, 2021 at 11:31 am
Blog internet drama probably migrated to Facebook? I still like to read blog comments for deeper discussions and healthy disagreements.
As for negativity, I think some people are just oriented that way or are more inspired to write / rant as an outlet. In real life the person may not get away with as much snark.
November 24, 2021 at 12:26 pm
Oh that’s a good point!
November 24, 2021 at 3:07 pm
I mean I kind of miss the BIGGE SCIENCE BLOGGE WARRZ of 2006-2012… 😹 😹 😹 Regarding being forced to maintain “dramatic shitshow” if that’s one’s shtick, couldn’t one’s shtick become “I used to be a maladaptive dramatic shitshow & look how functional I am now”? Or is that boring?
November 24, 2021 at 3:13 pm
I think those tend to go over well in personal finance at least.
November 24, 2021 at 3:45 pm
I think it’s a good thing this trend is on the decline, because it wasn’t emotionally healthy for the bloggers involved, or their enabling readers/supporters either, for all the reasons you rightly argue.
The horrendous events over the last few years have probably tested most people’s patience for self-inflicted drama, so we see less of the “raw, honest, negative” stuff, either on blogs or social media. After all, everyone has been suffering from the larger drama of the world and we are all exhausted by it. Who wants to seek out MORE of it?
November 24, 2021 at 4:32 pm
Certainly not me!
November 24, 2021 at 10:05 pm
Are you on instagram? There’s a lot of the “raw, honest” type stuff on there still. There’s one page I liked following for quite a bit, until I realized they were *always* a hot mess. They billed it as “keeping it real,” but it seemed a little too much. It was a page where they sold a (pretty decent and affordable) parenting course, so I think they have to continually be relatable to their target demographic. I ultimately unfollowed because the energy just didn’t work for me after awhile. But I see plenty of those drama people on there.
November 25, 2021 at 5:10 am
I am not! It sounds like middleclass’s theory that it’s just moved is right.
November 25, 2021 at 3:41 am
I was a faculty kid in the 1960s, which means I basically grew up on campus at a non-flagship State University. So I got a close up view of many soap operas. By the time I went off to college I had zero interest in watching TV soap operas.
I also learned pretty early on that emotional displays had zero bearing on the credibility of what somebody said.
November 25, 2021 at 5:12 am
Me too though not the 1960s. I almost didn’t go into academia because of it.
November 26, 2021 at 9:56 am
I find this post interesting for a number of reasons, and not just because I inspired it. First, you mention that you keep clicking into my blog via a blog roll because you find yourself curious about post titles, even though you dislike my space and my endless negative cycling so much that you evidently at one point felt “dirty” clicking over there. Then you write about how you don’t understand why anyone would ever read anything so negative because it’s frustrating and defeatist and you prefer proclaiming how awesome you are. And yet you do click back there, at least periodically. So maybe the post you should be writing is, why do I let myself be lured into returning to a blog that I know I don’t like, when I know there is a really good chance I still won’t like it. What is driving that behavior in myself? (This was the question I was trying to ask when I responded to your comment on my post.)
And that is the kind of post I find interesting and the kind of post I would like to write more of. I do think the “here is a run down of what I did today!” Is a boring a post. I don’t particularly like writing them and when I go back to proof them I find them pretty wretched. But they are easy to write and when my brain feels like oatmeal I end up writing them. But I don’t think they are really worth the words or time I used to write them, because they don’t provide any perspective. And as I said in my response to your comment on that entry, it’s not that I want to write something negative, I just want to write something honest and that provides my own specific perspective. Those are the posts I find interesting on other people’s blogs.
As for why I cycled endlessly through shit you knew I was going to get over, but somehow don’t anymore, well thinking about and writing about that would also be really interesting! I want to try to do it, if I can figure it out.
It’s interesting that the article you linked to (but admitted is not the article you originally read) is actually lamenting the fall of the honest and raw mommy blogger. That article, in my reading of it, wishes those bloggers were still around to balance out the picture perfect marketization of motherhood that now dominates Facebook and Instagram. The author of that article posits that those blogs made moms feel less alone in their struggles, but the content that’s popular today can be alienating and even depressing to moms that overwhelmed and have no one to talk to about it. I just find it interesting you linked to it to support your thesis that the internet is better off without blogs like mine (from years ago) when that isn’t really the argument made in that article at all.
But maybe I’m just reading what I want to read from it and you’re reading what you want to read from it (a post about different takes from the same article would also be really interesting!)
I definitely engaged in some seriously unnecessary blog drama way back in the day and I regret writing posts that were essentially put up to start some shit with other bloggers. But I stopped participating in that even before that whole community fell apart and everyone in it ultimately stopped writing. I was still writing about my struggles with money (which I still have but haven’t written about as much partly because I felt so judged doing so! Which was also the point of that post, to mention that I have felt more and more censured in what I wrote over the years). Not everyone has such an easy time managing money and I’m one of them and I know I SHOULD be better at it but for some reason I’m not. But I don’t write about it much anymore because it’s embarrassing to still struggle with something that most people have very much figured out.
To wrap up this ridiculously long response comment: All your own posts, that you linked to in this one, are all titled, “A deliberatively controversial post,” (and also all in response to other posts of mine!) so clearly you do sometimes think it’s worthwhile to write from your specific perspective about issues you see differently from other bloggers. Those posts are interesting! I may not agree with all of them but I appreciate the perspective and can learn from them in ways I’m never going to learn from a “here’s what we did today!” post.
I would love to read your thoughts on all of this in a post sometime. I’ll definitely be revisiting it on my own blog when I finally have the time and mental energy to do so.