A few months ago I set out to do some research on what it means to be a humble blogger and if that is even possible. I wanted to look at the entire blogging world and I suppose analyse it and look for patterns which are emerging and weigh up the pros and cons. I reached out to some of my lovely readers, friends, family, and fellow bloggers in the industry to gain insight into this world and how it looks at the moment. I then wrote this article on what I found. I hope you enjoy it, xx.
“It’s so posey, so look-at-me, so vain” she said to me after reading my blog. Surely, she can’t be right? I thought to myself. Am I like that? Have I become so self-involved that I can’t even see it?’
Being critiqued is not easy to swallow and working within an industry which is constantly being critiqued and critiquing is a dichotomy I don’t think we all much consider once inside of it. I am of course, talking about blogging, which is what I like to call The Millennial Industry.
With the growth of social media, the blogging industry has gained much more traction in the past several years. This has resulted in more and more people choosing to following a career in blogging rather than a ‘standard career. It has been interesting to observe how this shift from a pass-time to a job impacts the attitude of the bloggers as well as the impact the industry has on the greater society.
When I was a little girl, I looked up to Lady Diana as someone who placed positive influence into the world and I wanted to be just like her. Her empathy, kindness and selflessness astounded me. The most important lesson she ever taught me though, was the importance of knowing the legacy which you will leave behind. When I write, I try my very best to make sure that the message I am sending out into the world be a positive one. I think this is a lesson which all bloggers should consider as they make their permanent mark online.
I was curious though, if one person can view a single blog and claim it to have narcissistic qualities, how do others perceive it? Is this a trait that runs true to all blogs? What really is the message blogs and ‘blogging’ sends out into the world? Is it even possible to blog in a humble manner?
When I first started researching, I was overwhelmed with the significant number of opinions declaring blogging (and the rise of social media as an extension of that) as a negative and vain industry. Anyone not interested in looking at this issue past the surface would have stopped right there with a conclusive answer. I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to know why.
Why is the industry perceived in such a negative light?
If it is a narcissistic industry, what is so bad about that?
Are the authors behind blogs raising themselves to be a celebrity, producing their own small-time reality TV show; or presenting the public with useful, valuable work?
Given the criticism I received, I was drawn most to learning the relationship between blogging and its impact on humility and If my primary research taught me anything, it’s that this was never going to be a black and white discussion.
For a complete picture, I interviewed people from both inside and outside of the blogging industry, and the results I received were interesting to say the least. For the most part, people perceived blogging as a positive industry, but personally I couldn’t look past the few who attributed the blogging industry to be a negative industry, particularly from bloggers themselves. Many discussed how they felt the industry has changed over the past few years from being friendly and relatable to becoming increasingly commercialised, self-promoted, ‘haughty and unapproachable’ as one interviewee stated. Furthermore, many reported losing interest in searching for new blogs to follow, as many are morphing into the ‘same’ with each sharing the same promoted products from the same companies and thus, a respect for the industry is lacking through this disingenuous promotion. An increased desire for relatability, honesty, integrity, and individual personality as well a sense of being a part of a community were all mentioned as qualities which draw readers and bloggers alike to read blogs. Engagement with readers, and more importantly acknowledgement of readers as friends rather than ‘followers’ was also placed of high importance. As readers of blogs feel invited into the life of the author; they connect personally with their stories whether they know them personally or not, and in a very big way, they are invited in as the author writes about their life online in a very public space. It’s only natural that a reader may want more of a connection and ‘friendship’ with the author than a simple promotion of a product. Blogging in such a way could be considered just another avenue for modern-day marketing.
With people writing what used to be private information, openly and publicly, it appears that the media has trained us to believe that everyone cares about our individual mundane. Successfully potty training children, what each and every meal we eat looks like, a funny thing our pet did, as well as the usual outfit & lifestyle posts are all hot topics for bloggers of which now a days there are many a kind. And the world does reward this. By transforming us into chronic over-sharers blogging provides us with a platform to do so, but does this support the argument for narcissistic opinion that, perhaps “if we are important enough, nothing is mundane?” I suppose the question from here we ask is, is the life we’re sharing really the life we’re living? The phrase, through rose-tinted glasses, is thrown around a lot in the blogging community, so how do we know the blogs we’re reading aren’t just a revised, embellished version which twists together the finest (if unreal) story of our lives? How do we ensure as writers, we’re not falling into this trap of self-promotion, narcissism and insincerity and remain humble and honest?
One article stated that in order to “be successful and put yourself out there, you really do have to believe you are better than others” with another stating that “blogging is just another symptom of a cultural inability to develop self-reliance and self-confidence. If narcissistic sharing overload is ever done, perhaps we will all stop needing the constant validation from others” Many argue that the entire premise of blogging can be to seek validation and approval alone. Whether it be through likes or followers, I wonder, does blogging attract those with big egos and narcissistic tendencies, or does the success create them? In my interviews, I asked bloggers what the impact their number of followers had on them and most found it humbling and meaningful to be able to connect and inspire others. An article on EliteDaily, suggested that narcissism may not be such a bad thing, that we should feel better than everyone else, that such a quality can assist in being a great leader and be used for personal gain, but I argue that such thinking creates a problem which encourages the rise of ourselves, but the fall of others creating a personal and general inability to feel sympathy and care about others, or even take personal criticism well. I don’t think aspirations to remain humble in this profession, or in general should be thrown to the wayside.
I do think it is important to consider that as a blogger you are representing a personal brand, and things such as self-promotion, advertising and talking about yourself are a requirement for the job if you hope to be successful. So in a way, regardless of whether you feel you or your blog falls into the category of being ‘narcissistic’ or not, it matters more whether you feel you are being loyal to your personal values and morals and that you know where you stand on potentially compromising those in order to succeed. Can you be a blogger and not compromise your values and remain honest and humble? I certainly believe so, and remaining approachable as an author will be instrumental in that. Think of blogging as a two-way street, engage with readers, listen to what they could offer you, not only what you can offer them. All bloggers interviewed mentioned that it is of greater importance that you find greater joy from the content you are creating than the response that you are receiving, a good quality I think.
I’m not particularly sure when the change from ‘online journal’, to ‘self-branded business’ occurred, and as a result why we became so self-indulged or where it will go, but I am sure it will be around for a little while yet. The benefits of narcissism can only go so far, and eventually, I hope the severe over-promotion throughout blogging will subside and the authentic nature of blogging will return and remain. If you find yourself questioning where your blog stands on the spectrum, or like me, your mother’s critique forces you into it, take the time to assess, what’s the worst that can happen?
If there is anything we can learn from this I think it’s that, naturally, people are always going to be drawn more towards relatability and connection, rather than skimming a superficial story on the surface. Thats a part of the human condition embedded within us. It is a gift that through blogging we are able to use our online platforms to connect, to learn, be motivated, be encouraged, learn new skills and with any luck help others in similar situations and create valuable content. If self-promotion and narcissistic behaviour is an element of that, then my conclusions is that it is a personal choice whether blogging imposes on your personal values and whether you choose to engage in it. So long as you believe what you are doing remains of value and the legacy you leave behind is worthwhile you’ll continue to find that joy and satisfaction in what you do.