I’m not in the business of hating on other blogs. I’ve been working in creative and performing arts industries for a very long time, and I think that the only way for us to truly thrive is to support one another and learn from one another. So I’m not here to tear anyone down or criticize blogs, or even the idea of certain blogs.
But I do want to issue my readers a word of caution: beware of lifestyle bloggers.
No, don’t stop reading them (heck, I’m a “lifestyle blogger!” I think). And never stop being inspired by them. But just watch that you don’t become so enamoured with them that you start to lose perspective on reality.
This time two years ago, my life was entrenched in lifestyle blogs — nice photography with pretty filters and cute fonts and simplistic layouts and cool DIY projects in trendy, rustic, overpriced studio apartments. I get why I was into them. I was newly employed with my first “real” job and I wanted to express how “adult” I was by gifting my friends beautiful DIY crafts, preparing incredible, colourful food, arranging my room in an innovative way and putting together cute, quirky, vintage-style outfits.
And you know what? It was hard. My DIY crafts always turned out terribly or were abandoned halfway through. My life was still a mess. Thrifting was never as whimsical or effortless as it was made out to be, and even when the food I made tasted good, it usually looked like crap — nothing I’d want to share on a web site.
I’ve tried to start up a blog like Urban Garlic before — a few times, actually. Every time, after a few posts I felt discouraged because my life just wasn’t as charming as the blogs that inspired me, and I didn’t have the time to put any more effort into it.
I don’t own a DSLR camera (yet), I’m not exactly a supermodel in my appearance, I can’t afford super nice clothes, my apartment is old and poorly lit, I work a 42.5 hour work week (with an hour commute each way, eek!), and whenever I have the time to actually sit down and edit photos or do some good crafts, I’m like, “Hey, why aren’t I climbing?” It’s a reality I’ve accepted.
Having been on both the reader and blogger side of things I just wanted to share a few bits of reality with you guys to let you know that “lifestyle blogging” is not nearly as real as it’s cracked up to be.
- A lot of their content is sponsored. People who have beautiful websites, perfect pictures and amazing content need to generate a lot of revenue just to be able to make that happen, let alone pay themselves. Only the very lucky can afford to make it a full-time job. A lot of the extra revenue comes from brands who are eager to have their product featured on their website in a flattering light. That Vitamix that blends the soaked cashews better, those pumps that pull the outfit together, the fancy camera gear that you’re convinced you can’t pull off your projects without? A lot of it is gifted. Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford it.
- They’re not doing it on their own. You are. Very, very few lifestyle bloggers manage to build their blogs from the ground up and maintain it at a professional level without some form of help. They might have financial backers (often, the Bank of Mom and Dad) for the website itself, interns, paid staffers, friends whom they paid to code their website, etc. That risotto looks so good because they had a team behind its presentation. They look so cute in that outfit because someone did their makeup for them. Etc.
- It’s their full-time job — they have to be good at it. Making adorable crafts, good food, etc. isn’t just a hobby for them. They’re presenting it as something that should be a hobby for you, but for them it’s a livelihood. It looks good not because it’s effortless for them, it looks good because if it doesn’t, they’re risking their livelihood. If you mess up a craft, there’s virtually no consequence. If they screw up — or rather, if their screwups are shown — they’re not going to attract readers or backers.
- You’re only getting a snapshot of their “lives.” You do not see the failures. You do not see the creative block. You do not see the bills they have to pay. You do not see them crying over a botched recipe in their kitchen. You do not see what their studio looks like before they’ve cleaned it up. You do not see the boring stuff. You do not see their secretly-messy bedroom. You do not see their personal issues. Trust me, they are there. Bloggers are human.
- That snapshot is extremely posed. The Internet loves happy people, especially happy women. That nice, half-closed eye with a small but peaceful smile? It’s not always real. It’s not always fake, but it’s definitely not always real. Think of when you take a selfie, how many “out-takes” you go through before you find the right one? Now imagine, that it’s you, a project or an outfit you’ve put together, a pretty setting in the background, all of which have to look great, plus you’re trying to generate revenue from that.
Overall, remember this one important thing — you might think you’re looking at a personal blog, but ultimately, lifestyle blogs are a brand, not a real life. Even my blog is not my real, honest life — though I try to bring the less flattering aspects of myself into it, such as my mental illness and disordered eating. But just remember, when you see these blogs that take a “sneak peak” into peoples’ quaint little lives, you are not actually taking a candid look at anything. You are seeing a constructed image that was helped along by many people.
This is not meant to be a negative post. This is meant to acknowledge all the work that goes into these blogs, and also to encourage readers to not feel let down because they couldn’t pull off as cutesy a holiday dinner, can’t afford to make that fancy cocktail, and might feel like their lives are “a mess.” They aren’t. You’re fine.
We’re all fine.