In the past few weeks, I have received several messages from readers praising me for my honesty in writing about my battles with depression and anxiety among other things. At the time I didn’t think much of it other than just being happy someone reads what I write. I write for my own pleasure, writing for me is a vehicle to say what I often cannot say to someone directly. My practice of writing either via this blog or my work with the Portland Phoenix is therapeutic and centering much like my practice of yoga and meditation.
Yet I was struck yesterday when a prominent blogger I follow on twitter, tweeted that she wished she could be honest in her writing. That struck a chord with me especially as I thought about the recent death of the prominent social media expert this past weekend Trey Pennington. I was not familiar with Pennington but apparently he was well known and liked with a huge following on Twitter. He was considered a personality and marketing pro, now I know that mental health issues can strike anywhere and while there are many already lamenting his passing in the social media community, the fact is that despite all his success a man took his life. A man who due to his work it would seem did not feel he could be publicly honest about his emotional state. That saddens me; I am a big believer in both honesty and allowing myself to get raggedy. I can’t speak for others but the price I have paid when I am less than honest is too much for me.
At a time when it feels like we are living at warp speed thanks to technology, overall honesty is lacking. People are not intentionally lying but as social media has morphed into a tool with many uses but primarily a vehicle for making money, the honesty is missing. I was reflecting this morning on the history of blogging and on Dooce who was definitely a pioneer in the blogging world, her fame and subsequent fortune was founded on her being honest. I dare say telling the world about your stint at a mental hospital is very honest.
But today’s waves of bloggers are being told by many self-professed experts to grow their brand, I recently read a book about blogging one’s way into a dream career. I am sure the book had some great ideas yet I can’t help think that all the emphasis on growing as a brand, getting the sponsorships, and earning cheddar is taking away the one very important piece that turned bloggers into money makers….honesty. I can honestly say that as of late I find myself reading less blogs, sure I have a twinge when I see a blogger who has only been at it a few months talking about the swag she gets…hell I am human. The thing is I have no idea who this person is! Why do I want to buy the XYZ brand of sausage? Oh, because blogger J buys it…well I would no sooner buy that sausage because of that blogger than I would because I saw the commercial for it on television.
In the past I would read bloggers who as I got to know them through their writing would casually mention items they use in their households and I can honestly say there are several books, and other items that I have fallen in love with because of fellow bloggers. Yet to reach that point of taking their recommendations which in all cases were never sponsored by some corporation, I had to trust that blogger, get a sense of them and feel they were honest. If you’ve been blogging 2 months, your posts are always short and every third one is sponsored I am not going to trust you. Hell I don’t know you…how do I know if you are honest or whether you are just a shill? I don’t begrudge anyone earning money, but in a field that developed out of the willingness of the pioneers to be open and honest, it’s hard to watch the honesty go away.
In recent months as I have struggled to monetize this space so it pays for itself and buys me the occasional meal or assists in my ever-growing dental bills. I have been told to tamp down my blog posts because people no longer read long blog posts, it’s also been suggested I add photos. Well I am a long winded writer and I am not a photographer, granted thanks to killer apps on smartphones no one has to be a photographer anymore. As any professional writer who writes especially for print publications can tell you, word limits are a bitch! My monthly column has a 650 word limit, it used to be higher but several years ago due to a redesign of the paper, I lost 150 words…that loss still hurts! The joy of blogging is I can talk, hell sometimes my longer posts are more about me working out an issue than anything else. I consciously choose to write in a manner here on my blog that is very opposite the voice I use in my professional work, my voice here is pretty close to the real me. So it’s important that this space stay safe and open enough so that I never fear losing my ability to be open.
Ultimately people have to make the choices that work best for them, but I fear that like many other bubbles we have seen recently; as bloggers are forced to be less honest in order to earn a living that eventually the bubble will burst if it does, what will we have if have given up our honest and authentic voice?
PS: In coming days and weeks there will be some changes here, I have decided to leave the Blog Her network as it does not feel like a match for who I am as a writer. I will continue to explore ways to monetize this space but only if they are avenues that fit me. Currently that fake butter ad that seems to pop up does not fit me…hell I buy my butter directly from a local farmer!