Is This What the Internet’s For? & a Satire of the Perfect Blog

Black cat with holiday toys (a box and a knapsack).

My favorite black cat with her holiday toys (a box and a knapsack).

There are certain popular blogs I no longer read.  Year-round they may be a bit too happy for me, but over the holidays I can hardly bear the tales of their perfect lives. 

Last night I stared incredulously at happy shiny pictures of perfect Christmases in stately homes.

I got offline and told my husband in a quavering voice, “You should see the pictures of the perfect Christmas trees.  Heavily photoshopped, trees with glimmering makeup, but still…”

“Is that what the internet is for?  So people can brag at Facebook?”

“I think it used to be about community.  There used to be a lot of groups.”

“The less screen time, the better,” he said.

And perhaps blogs are changing. There used to be quite a few radical bloggers who were writing about subjects that were not attempted by mainstream press.  Nowadays, many bloggers I admired have burned out or quit, and there is a new happy, happy tone, a pressure to conform, that is not authentic.  Apparently nobody’s child is unemployed, nobody is in the hospital, all the siblings are on speaking terms, and nobody’s poverty-stricken uncle is washing his wife’s disposable diapers because he cannot afford to buy new ones. 

No, bloggers are magic. They have no problems. 

Or, you can say, they choose not to write about them.  You feel indignant.

But where are the people who write the truth?  An alternative to newspapers?

Book blogs, never entirely reliable, have grown less so.   Thank you, thank you, publicists! for using me to promote your books, they scream. If they have integrity,they needn’t thank the publicists publicly.   (It’s their job!)   If they don’t have integrity, announcing that they are accepting gifts will not improve the reliability of their reviews.

Bloggers have also become Teflon on every subject.  Christmas is more stressful for women than men, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association, because women feel responsible for making the holidays.  And the British Heart Foundation says that one in three people drink at least five days a week before Christmas,

supergirlCostumeAre my favorite bloggers drinking or stressed?  They certainly don’t talk about it.  For instance, I have long been a groupie of a very popular blogger whom I shall call Superwomanonamphetamines.  She is perfect, if smug, and I suppose  you ARE smug, if you’re perfect (and on amphetamines).   I  can’t QUITE like her, can you? because she reads, writes, weaves, decorates cakes, makes her own wine, built her own house, hikes, runs, skis, skates, climbs rocks, dances, wrestles alligators, travels, gardens, has a personal meth lab, and is a witch in a coven…   Still, when I’m in the mood, I desperately want to be like her, except I don’t want to weave, wrestle alligators, be a witch, or take amphetamines etc. 

I, on the other hand, am at the opposite extreme from Superwomanonamphetamines.  I ride my bicycle, and complain about it endlessly.  I have a lovely family, and complain about them endlessly. I tell everyone they should read John Brunner’s 1968 dystopian novel, Stand on Zanzibar, because it’s about the world today.  And, yup, I write about the Christmas my cousin was in the mental hospital instead of about my perfect life.  Which is p-e-r-f-f-f…

(Yes, I can satirize myself with the best of them.)

So I don’t know quite what I’m saying here, but I wish the blogs WERE better, and were an alternative to newspapers, but they are NOT and will never be until we write about things that actually matter.

10 thoughts on “Is This What the Internet’s For? & a Satire of the Perfect Blog

  1. I know exactly what you mean Kat – i went through a phase of reading blogs about crafting and making your house nice etc and gave up, I felt so inadequate. No, I cannot whip up a wonderful table decoration while cooking the perfect meal and making my own Christmas presents. But I know the blogs I like (mostly book bloggers) and I trust them to be honest. And I like the fact you are open here and say what you think whether positive or negative. It’s worth searching out the blogs you like and avoiding the shiny, happy people (ahem!) 🙂

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  2. I don’t know that I sound all that happy, but I do know I am mostly contented with my life. Partly I think because I have reached a certain age (80+) and have figured out that I don’t need to cook or make table decorations.

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  3. Kat is not saying she is not contented with her life. She is suggesting that all these happy blogs are hypocritical and the basis is what is said is unreal. Probably she asserted how she has a lovely family (without qualification) in order to offset criticism about “sour grapes” or “how dare you expose someone else” — many people fear any kind of behavior out of the norm as contagious — it’s a primitive atavistic reaction.

    Yet I should say that there are blogs where people tell the truth. A few years ago some one facebook did tell about the ambiguities and for many gratingness of this season. There are still some who at least do not hype it.

    I have tried to tell the truth about cancer and my husband’s death and now my widowhood. I have gathered cancer is allowed to be so bad, one is allowed a little leeway but many of these are stories of courage, heroism, faith and so on. Austen told it right when in Persuasion she has Mrs Smith say sickrooms are places those qualities are hardly seen. I realize though I have myself not been free of trying to more upbeat and when people tell me about how strong I appear I know many are imposing as far as they can the optimistic narrative on what I say. I wish they wouldn’t as one of my purposes is to spread the word about the horrors of cancer in order to try just a little to get people working to break dow the medical establishment’s indifference and profits and the industrial one’s poisoning our environment

    One woman whose mother died a horrible death from this terrible disease has been fighting attacks because she persists in wanting to tell the truth about the way her mother was treated and what she is experiencing now. Many of the finer literary blogs (there are some) get truth out through their discussions of books — and these are usually not jargon-ridden the way academic discourse is (another form of self-guarding). Nowadays published conventional on-line columns on places like Slate or the Guardian tell truths — they are safe as the comments they can get are monitored and controlled closely.

    Tweets are often truthful — more than one realizes. They are so short and the medium is impersonal.

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  4. I was worried how Christmas would turn out because my sister hung up on me the week before after saying she’d mail the kids their gifts–I’d been mean enough to invite her to stay with us over Christmas and for reasons known only to her that made her mad–and for me not to come by. Of course, this conversation happened the very day the crew my husband and I paid for (or will be paying for all of next year, I guess I should say) put on the new roof she’s been clamouring for, so there was that undercurrent running through our holiday, though the rest of it was perfectly fine, couldn’t be better. And my sister behaved herself on Christmas day when we spent the afternoon with her. She has been doing a lot better the last couple of months.

    But I don’t talk about any of this on my blog because her own lack of discretion in what she puts out the internet has led in the past to her being sued for libel and helped lend credibility to what were totally bogus criminal charges being filed against her when she was trying to evict a tenant. If I write about her on a blog, she feels even more justified in blasting me by name on a message board in our home town. She cannot see the difference.

    From what I hear, blogs are supposed to be out of favor at the moment, with everyone migrating to places like Goodreads and Twitter to learn about books. I’m hoping that means blogs will get back to how they used to be. It’s so silly, anyway–you can get free books from the library–why sell your soul to a publicist or a publisher just to get one a few weeks before everyone else? Who cares? Don’t you have anything else to read in the meantime?

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  5. I like all four of you bloggers, so thank you for replying to my rant. Sometimes ranting must be done.

    Even though the beauty of blogs is that people can write what they want, I have been looking for something that I’m not finding. It is, oddly, on sitcoms like The Middle that we get a sense of how bad, very bad, Christmas can be (though it will all be wrapped up with sentimentality at the end; still, the writers aren’t liars). All four of us are passionate about books, our lives are imperfect, and Ellen, Susan, and I at various times have blogged about it.

    The beautiful single image of a candle, a Christmas tree, or a condescending message that So-and-So realizes SOME of us won’t have anyplace to go and so she has left a picture for us. I’m, “What the —?”

    And none of us did that!

    Karen, yes, you’re passionate about books, and that matters so much more than craftsy stuff. Plus you read the classics. It is such a relief to read a blog where somebody is writing about Dostoevsky instead of The Goldfinch. The Goldfinch is probably the best book ever, and yet because of the hype it will take me a year or two to get around to it.

    Nancy, you’re also passionate about books, read the classics, and write what you want. I love your blog! You’re writing honestly.

    Ellen, please tell me about the great literary blogs I’m missing, because I have those on my blogroll and that’s about it. Yours was the first blog I’d ever read, and certainly your honesty is something I very much admire.

    Susan, I know you’ve written about your sister and I very much empathize. Now there’s the too-open thing about Facebook. Yes, in our family there is supposedly some “oversharing,” but I don’t have Facebook.

    The perfection seemed somehow MORE annoying these holidays than usual though ironically I had a BETTER holiday than usual. Once a year I need to rant.

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  6. This is a topic I think about a lot. Last week I read this article: http://www.niemanlab.org/2013/12/the-blog-is-dead/
    It stings a little, but yet, I am a 40 year old – childfree – who loves to write on a blog. I have too many blogs to count, many are private, discontinued, or archived. I write on Tumblr in the form of small vignettes and I write about web development on another blog. I too miss the days of the blog where one read about real life. When I closed my personal blog in 2008 I did it because of privacy issues, I couldn’t write about myself without hinting at my husbands life as well.
    Blogs these days have been called “unicorn land” because most women write ‘lifestyle’ blogs about design, decoration, crafts, etc with the purpose of monetizing what they write. Most of them are not honest about the products they review.
    Others who have shared their lives online are slowly retreating because they have moved on to Twitter and Facebook.
    Some briefly flirted with sending newsletters only, once they had built a readership they announced they would only write through newsletters.
    The thing is, in my case at least, I can’t bring myself to write in the raw because I’m employed or wish to move forward in my career. Knowing that employers research their candidates thoroughly through the web discourages me from writing about topics such as childfreedom, anxiety, feminism or my values.
    Men on the other hand, write about their successes but rarely about their struggles.

    I guess I want to read about how people think and perceive life. I don’t necessarily want to read an account of their private struggles out in the open but more what they think about. I used to read girlbomb.com I loved her blog so much, but she has gone silent after her mother died. Her story and the way she wrote about it just kept me going back, like a good book.

    So in short, privacy, changing behaviours, money, career and many other factors affect people who would want to write a blog. In my case, I write in a password protected blog. I know it’s good blog, but the way I write there is just not something I would want people and strangers to read.

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  7. Luisa, I hope you will share the links to your writings on Tumblir, or anywhere it’s public. You’re a very good writer and I would love to read your work. And you’re right: Employers do fire people for things they say online.

    I read the article “The Blog Is Dead,” and found it interesting, but have to tell you I am so far behind the times that I don’t recognize half the writing platforms he mentions. I’ve heard of Pinterest (?), but I have never downloaded a single app. He speaks a different language…

    How very funny that people call blogs “unicorn land.” I can just see it.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments! I do want to read some new blogs so if you or anyone else have recommendations let me know.

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  8. Kat,
    You’re not missing much with all those writing platforms, they are silos of information. If we use those platforms we are helping them, the builders, to maintain a profitable business. Without the contributors to Twitter, FB, Reddit, Pinterest etc. they wouldn’t exist. Even Tumblr, my platform of choice -until I manage to pull out of it – for all these we are the product.
    Only few of us recognize it.
    Reddit might be the one to spare, it still harbours the remains of the open web.
    Unfortunately I’m also on the lookout for new interesting blogs, so I don’t have many to share. I like these to a certain extent:
    http://www.esmewang.com/ although she is tilting into making her blog a business, but I recognize it’s hard for her because she writes such personal things.
    http://www.mayastein.com/blog/ Maya Stein is a poet.. she blogs infrequently but I keep her in my bookmarks and go see if she has posted from time to time…
    http://www.mollygaudry.com/blog/ She is also a writer but she had an unfortunate Roller Derby accident and had a very bad brain injury, she writes occasionally but I love her blog.

    My own writing is mixed with Spanish, but there are a few vignettes in English as well
    http://fantastica.tumblr.com/tagged/personal

    Thank you for saying I’m a good writer, I’m one of those people who says “I like to write” and then shows piles and piles of notebooks, has a million blogs but rarely shows them.
    My favorite quote is by D. Foster Wallace: I’m an exhibitionist who wants to hide.

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  9. I think you’ve hit on something of true importance: how the pervasive marketing function of the Internet has chilled candor in many bloggers, out of a fear of offending anyone. As for idealized images and language related to Christmas, what is there to say? In order to choose and act, lots of people require templates (and to be fair, we all do). For instance, those related to a fantasy world that never existed, but that many choose to believe once did, courtesy of Norman Rockwell. It’s probably harmless enough, right up to the knock on the door, when a stranger with a search warrant asks to see Junior’s room.

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  10. Nice blog, Luisa! Lovely writing! I hope you find more time for it, whether in notebooks or blogs.

    Barry, yes, there is a subtle “marketing chill,” and some of us have to work not to become “things” of the internet. And as for the idealization of the holidays: hilarious about the Rockwell image!

    And, Ellen, thank you for realizing I’m contented with my life, just unhappy with pressures to conform. Some of the members of my family are “lovely,” as I say, but loveliness isn’t all.:) In fact sometimes it’s like being hit with a dart so you can’t see what’s going on behind it….

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