Today’s blog post is one that I have had in my head for a while- and initially, I wanted it to focus purely on the health blogging ‘community'(which I’ll get to, later on in the post). However, given the recent Twitter frenzy over Cosmo’s post about fashion blogger Sarah Ashcroft- I felt it was only right to first address this topic in a more general sense and talk about why in my opinion, the concept of a blogging community is long gone.
Let’s go back to the beginning
I started blogging way back in 2011. My blog was called ‘Pretastyle.blogspot.com (naturally)’- I had 300 followers on google’s blogger follower button and I thought I had.made.it. Back then, my photos were terrible but since there wasn’t that many of us blogging, it probably didn’t matter. To me, blogging was (and still is) life changing and I made a whole bunch of friends with only one thing in common: our blogs. Back then, blogging was such a rarity that being a member of the club alone made you instantly welcome and popular- I spent my weekends at different meet ups and taking photos (long before the days of claiming travel expenses and expecting a goodie bag). That’s what being in a community was, and is, all about- just spending time with people who get it, who get you.
Yet, fast forward to 2017 and my blog, as you may have noticed, is the opposite. Gone are the mirror outfit selfies and in its place is recipes, nutrition guides, and advice articles. I am a blogger, yes, but most of my readers aren’t bloggers at all- finding me from Pinterest, Google search or my Instagram recipes. Therefore, while blogging is close to my heart, I have instead found myself watching the community from the outside for years now and slowly came to the realisation: there no longer is one.
Blogging as a Job
Why? Well firstly because blogging has become much more than a hobby, it’s become a job- and with a job, things change. People change. And that’s natural. I spent a year volunteering teaching before entering the profession and was convinced I’d be the inspiration, friendly teacher that even the naughty kids looked up to. Two minutes into the job, with responsibility and deadlines, that act was gone and I was handing out detentions left, right and center. And isn’t that just the same really? What has a new blogger excitedly sharing snaps of their outfit in their back garden got in common with someone whose just posted a luxury haul and has a brand breathing down their neck to ensure their engagement is as predicted? Nothing- and it’s naive to think otherwise.
We Need to Stop Using Community as an Excuse
I don’t know Sarah’s blog aka The Pommie Girl (and I mean that as no sly dig since I don’t really read any fashion blogs now as it’s just not a topic I am hugely interested in). There’s plenty of articles picking a part her comments but what I want to talk about here is the backlash- all of which centers around the concept of a blog ‘community’. Indeed cosmo themselves stated: What made fellow bloggers, who are part of the same ‘community’ as Sarah, throw phrases around about being “up her own arse”, “an absolute idiot” and “arrogant and superior”? I for one don’t understand how an industry which prides itself on sisterhood, girl power and building each other up can justify calling Sarah’s opinions “pathetic and childish”
While I can’t be the only one rolling my eyes at the concept of sisterhood (put 50 bloggers in a room with 30 goody bags and tell me where the bloody sisterhood is there!) The journalist’s thoughts were echoed in others tweets imploring this sense of support- both from Sarah and for those trading insults. ‘Think of the community!’ they say, ‘we should be all supporting each other’.
Why should I support somebody, just because we both have a domain name or an Instagram account? And indeed, why should they support me? I didn’t expect all bloggers to support me when my book came out or I dealt with an operation- I didn’t turn to the blogging community, I turned to my friends, my family, my readers- some who may be bloggers themselves but that’s not the only thing that connected us.
Let’s take this one step further. Why should I like you? Just because we both have a WordPress account? It is not bitchy, or unprofessional, or unnecessary to state the obvious here, that simply as a law of averages: some bloggers are idiots. But don’t worry, I am sure there are some bloggers who have met me or have read my stuff and think I am a bit of an idiot too. I can live with that.
Before, I face a backlash- I’m not saying there’s something about bloggers inherently that make them idiotic, just that there’s nothing that makes them automatically not one. What I’m saying is that I’ve worked as a teacher, I’ve worked as a civil servant and now I work as a blogger. And in all of these careers, I have met people who I click with instantly and go on to form strong friendships with, and I have met people who, for want of a better expression, ‘do my head in-‘ bloggers are no exception.
Just Because You’re A Blogger Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Disagree With You
That’s normal isn’t it? We’ve grown too big, there are too many bloggers for us to be possibly a community where everyone agrees or gets along- that’s okay. So that’s why I really resent the suggestion that to call somebody out (and I’m talking about any bloggers here) out on their behavior is unsupportive and unblogger like. There are bloggers that are rude. There are bloggers that are arrogant. There are bloggers that use 27 affiliate links in each youtube video and pretend they don’t notice- yet for some reason, they’re untouchable for this because we’re a blogger and we’re supposed to have each other’s backs. Now, let me ask you this- if we truly are a ‘community’ that is all about finding opportunities and providing a workplace, then why shouldn’t we treat this as one?
In a workplace, if someone behaves poorly- they are made accountable for their actions (admittedly, not by Twitter disputes and rude language- there’s no need for that). If someone treats others badly or makes inappropriate comments- they take accountability; they’re given a warning and we move on. Yet, what happens in this ‘community’ is we make snide comments, go way over to the top and make death threats, accuse each other of being jealous (because of course, despite it being 2017, a woman who critiques another woman can only be jealous of them- because we’re just that one-dimensional) or we ignore it all together because we’re supposed to have that blogger’s back. Neither of these is the right approach.
But this will keep happening, and I doubt we’ll keep learning. Because we’re an industry where at the end of the day- numbers do matter (and rightly they should). And unfortunately, that naturally means that, often to our frustration, unlike other industries- some of the big bloggers will get chance after chance to redeem themselves.
Where’s the diversity?
But let’s digress a second- my final reason why there is really no sense of community is because, despite our size, it’s really not as inclusive as you think. Despite the fact there is lots of us, we’re still seeing the same thing over and over again. And that’s why I want to turn to the health community here- because it’s the one I have the most experience of and therefore can only talk of my experiences. My blog is a mix of nutrition, recipes, gut health and living with an illness. I’m really proud of its stats and its journey. However, there is still a tendency to see the same type of bloggers ‘making it big’ over and over again. I watched one health blogger meet (a yoga event in some beautiful London studio) on Instagram stories- and I kid you not, the 20 bloggers sitting on their mats were identical in every sense: blonde, wearing beautiful Lululemon outfits and with identical plummy accents. Now, I am never usually one to comment on this kind of thing- but within the health blog community at least, those from a wealthy background can often dominate, and their stories often start with ‘Well, x from Made in Chelsea is a family friend.’ It is a niche where money is an asset- after all, quinoa doesn’t come cheap.
The health community doesn’t seem that of an overly welcoming place if you have a chronic illness too- I mean you only have to look at the awards in the sector to show that. Chronic Illness is usually grouped with ‘free from’ and/or ‘fitness’ -which I personally find quite insulting. Now don’t get me wrong, I love free-from recipes and fitness- I often blog about them- but there are many people who are blogging about finding a diet to stop their IBS, dealing with surgery, battling fibro and there’s not really a place for them. Yet this what I absolutely love about health blogging because these chronicles are making a real difference to people’s lives (whether it’s learning about a must have supplement for energy or just knowing what you are going through is normal). It’s ironic because these audiences are often the most engaged- I won’t claim my readers ‘buy anything I tell them’ ala Sarah’s article, but I always receive messages saying ‘oh, I bought the bone broth you mentioned’ or ‘thanks for the recipe, I’ve made it and it’s really helped my energy’. Yet, it has to be said, the only time illnesses are mentioned in relation to many health bloggers- is when they’ve cured themselves of one.
Could it be salvageable?
It’s ironic that I aim to end this article by talking about a community I’d like to see. Because almost 2000 words later, I’ve realised that I really miss it. And god knows, I’ve spend the last two hours writing a blog post about it, so I must still feel passionate about it. So, perhaps I am going to create some kind of community from this after all, if I can call it that- perhaps I’ll think of a better word.
One of the ways I’ve made relationships with bloggers is creating a group of my own (I run the Pitching Motivation for Facebook group
where we chat about turning our blogs into businesses) but I’ve also been thinking about ways that those of us blogging about wellness and their health
– think meditation, tackling stomach pain, green smoothies for fatigue and everything in between- could come together. That there is a real number out there of those of us who feel a bit lost, or on the edges. Perhaps you blog about fitness, but you’re more walking to help your anxiety than wanting to get super fit. Perhaps you love sharing recipes, but recipes that boost your mood and help your gut, rather than just superfoods. Or perhaps you just like chatting about your life- with whatever illness you might be suffering from or barrier you are trying to overcome.
We’re not fashion bloggers. We’re not beauty bloggers. We’re not fitness bloggers, but we’re something. Perhaps not a community yet, but could we be a group, a collective? Interested? Then, let’s end this blog post by doing something positive. Can I ask you to leave your blog link in the comments below? Use this post to discover new bloggers, not because you have to, because you might find a connection, a friendship, a relationship that extends the fact you both blog. What I’d then like to is to use this list of blogs to create a group for wellness bloggers with a difference- what that means, for now, is yet undecided. I am one of these people who always have a million ideas in my head- and I’ve already thought of creating a meetup and had a chat with some brands who are keen to get involved.
But then, I realised I’d be again trying to force another type of community that might not work. So for now, let me know if you are in- and I will be in touch. Not a wellness blogger? Well perhaps think of creating some kind of group of you’re own- whether it be travellers on a budget or vintage fashion. Because creating smaller groups of people is perhaps the only real way of creating a community again. A way that connects people who have lots of common, inspire each, but, if I’m being, honest, aren’t afraid to tell each other if actually, they’re being a bit of an idiot. Whose in?