[blogging is] a way to focus on the good and identify all those things that fill me up and fill me out. as a way of cataloging progress and change.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world. | Pema Chödrön
that night i sat down and wrote every good thing about my weekend into my long-neglected blog. it was maybe just one or two things, but i poured everything i had into making those things sing. i did it every night, and after just a few posts over the course of a week, it was like the day had dawned inside me, brand new.
—nat the fat rat
Every once in a while I’ll read a blog post of the confessional type–the type where instead of an outfit post, a vacation recap, or a tender look into a mother-child moment (i’m not making fun of people who blog, I like all of these things ;)) a blogger switches a gear and lets you know what’s wrong in their life. They admit they are depressed or recovering from an eating disorder. They are infertile, or they miscarried. You know those posts. Where they reveal that their life isn’t all pictures of the beautiful spring blossoms, smiling babies, and relaxed afternoons in cute coffee shops.
And I am always fascinated by the comments. They always applaud the blogger for being so genuine. So real, so authentic. While I know where they’re coming from and what they mean, I have a problem with this. It is that you only see those kind of comments on posts that are negative in some way– Posts that reveal a problem, a weakness, a sadness, a trial, an imperfection in the life of the blogger. A confession is made and readers burst forth with exclamations of “oh my gosh, thank you for being so real.” What I see behind that comment though, is a disillusioned reader who has bought into the falsity that a persons blog is that person–and overall, that what you see of people’s lives, is all there is. They see what they see and they think–she’s perfect. She’s got her perfect, loyal, good-looking, hard-working husband, her perfectly decorated apartment, her beautiful well-behaved children, her never-ending fashionable wardrobe–she’s got it all together all the time and there must be something wrong with me because I just don’t! They’ve (we’ve?) got a wheel running in their heads that says I don’t wear anything more exciting than jeans, my apartment is always messy, my family makes me crazy half the time, my toddler won’t stop throwing tantrums, I fight with my husband, I’m overweight, I can’t have kids, I have depression, I don’t have this that or whatever. And when they get a glimpse into some tiny stormcloud in that blog-perfect life, it is as if they breathe a sigh of relief–Oh! she has issues too–good! And then they thank her for being genuine.
But since when does genuine mean negative? Since when do you have to include the bad and the ugly to make the good legitimate? Is there anything wrong with an individual creating a space online where she documents only the good and leaves out all the painful messy stuff? I say no. I say that it is not the bloggers job to reveal all of her imperfections and problems in the name of authenticity. I say that it is the readers job to be mature enough to understand the difference between someone’s blog and real life–and to stop reading (!!) if it is damaging your self image and causing you to set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Bravo to all of those brave enough to share their personal struggles online–I’ve been touched by many women sharing their experiences with infertility, divorce, motherhood, depression, eating disorders, and so on. I think (when done tactfully and appropriately) sharing these stories is important and it can help other women to know others have gone what they go through. But I don’t think that such is necessary for the stamp of authenticity. If you are applauding, do it for their openness, honesty, and courage.
Blogs inspire me. The internet inspires me. I love the beautiful pictures, thoughtful words, bright ideas– by all means, ladies, create beautiful blogs. Sit down at the end of the day and write down every happy thing that happened to you. Post pictures of pretty things, exaggerate and emphasize the heck out of every teeny tiny victory in your day. Rejoice in your successes, find the good, laugh off the bad. There is nothing at all wrong with this. It’s not fake. It’s not unrealistic–it’s a perspective. It’s optimism. It’s looking for beauty. Just also be responsible consumers. Don’t be a jealous reader! Don’t hate on the beauty, don’t spitefully criticize the “perfect” lives and things you see online. Be smart enough to know that they are choosing what to see, they are choosing what to show you, and just like you and your family and the friends you know best–they have demons too. And it’s perfectly ok for them not to share their demons with the whole internet.