I spend a bit of time when talking to brands telling them that whatever they do there's always going to be some corner of the internet somewhere who'll give them a hard time and they're just going to have to live with it. It's one of the inevitable consequences of it being so easy for people to get their opinions online. I never really understood what this meant until yesterday, when I happened upon a couple of bits of the internet devoted to slagging off this blog. And me. Most of it is quite funny parody but some of it feels a bit mean in that forum-y flame-war way that you kind of assume died out a while ago.
It was rather chastening.
I spent most of last night telling myself not to write about it because no good will come of it, but I think that goes against the openness I try to practise here. And I can't bring myself to link to it because it's, well, depressing, and I don't want to. I know I should but bugger it. Equally I know I'm just supposed to laugh this stuff off and be somehow flattered but I can't do that. I guess I'm experiencing some of the consequences of an experiment with semi-public living and I'm naive if I didn't see it coming. But I didn't. I'm doing a presentation today in which I'll be talking about the way people seem willing to abandon quite a lot of privacy online because of the benefits that accrue. I still think that's true, but I think I'm discovering some of the penalties of too.
The substance of the complaints seem to be; I'm affectedly bumbling and luvvie in my writing style, I serve up a stream of inconsequential insights, I'm always hanging out with a little clique of important planning people and/or complete strangers, I'm overly proud of my peripatetic, freelance lifestyle, I'm always pushing my family into the blog and I'm just generally a tosser and an arse. If I've missed anything I'm sure someone will tell me.
I can't argue with a lot of that.
My writing is a bit meandering and I've always liked the way this corner of the blogosphere tends towards the self-deprecating and quiet. I don't know how to be self-deprecating about self-deprecation. That might be a sprial of affected modesty no-one can escape from. And this stuff is pretty easy to parody. I like. To mix in. Short sentences.
I can see how you'd get luvviness out of this too. I hate the reflexive carping of a lot of online writing so have tried, especially recently, to only point at things that I think are good and worth praising. After a while it gets hard to find synonyms for 'marvelous'. So I can see how that would be true. (Though I think the stingingest barb was 'faux luvviness'. That's harsh. So I'm all luvvie but I'm also faking it? Blimey)
The one I'll immediately cop to is 'stream of inconsequential insights' - it's a blog, isn't that what a blog is? And I don't think I've ever claimed that any of them have enormous consequence. I think of it as 'thinking outloud' but maybe I should do less of it. Maybe I should think through more stuff before I post it.
It's hard to defend myself against cliquiness. I write about my friends because they're my friends. And I'm not sure where the line is between a group of friends and a clique. I would say though, that most of the people I've linked to and talked about a lot are people I've met via their blogs in the last year or so. It's a fairly permeable group.
The conspicuous lifestyle and trophy family issues are also understandable. This blog is a little experiment in over-sharing and I enjoy it most when I don't have to draw an artificial line between work and life. For all the people who log on for the latest inconsequential insight there are friends of ours around the world who are interested in what Arthur's up to. I know some people think it's weird that I post stuff like the notes that Arthur leaves me, but I also know some people think it's good. Maybe it's the hybrid nature of the thing that's off-putting, is this my diary or my professional journal? It's both. Sorry if that's annoying. Same goes for the work and travel I do. This is what I do. I write about it because I like writing about it and because it seems interesting to some people. All my silly music and photography experiments are offered in the same spirit. You don't have to read if you don't want to. But if I had to choose, I think I'd abandon writing about work and just write about life. Maybe that's what I should do. Maybe this should just be a diary on vox.
It has made me wonder if I'm a blog equivalent of a stage father though, always thrusting Arthur into the limelight. Whenever I've asked him about it he's said he likes it, but he's only 6 so what does he know? I may do less of that.
Tosser and arse? You decide. Probably both. Sometimes. Who isn't?
All this has also made me feel especially bad about those occasions when I've had a go at other people or their blogs. It's easy to forget that there's a person behind a blog, easy to think of blogs as just another media property but they are more personal than that. I can cope if you slag off an ad I've made but having a go at my blog is more personal.
And I've also realised that I may be exactly the wrong person to be living with this much openness. I have to recognise that I'm incredibly thin-skinned and I can't laugh this stuff off, so I probably shouldn't ever aspire to write for Comment Is Free. I imagine my critics response to this self-absorbed lament will be 'ah diddums' and that might be fair, but it's rather got me down.
I remember Mena Trott talking about the moment she'd had enough of very public blogging and Bobbie Johnson discussing how it feels to have your blog dissected like a biology experiment. I fondly imagined that wouldn't happen to me. I don't know whether I'm more depressed about the people having a go at me or my own naiveté in not being prepared for it. Probably the latter.
Anyway. Lessons learned: 1. Blurry hybrids are tricky. People want to know what you're doing, what your motivations are. 2. If you're going to venture into blogging you should prepare yourself for a bit of slagging. But preparing yourself intellectually is different to how you feel when it actually happens. 3. Don't follow your links in, you might not like what you find.
I'm going to be traveling a lot for the next week or so, and I wouldn't want to bore you with that, so I think I'm going to suspend blogging operations for a couple of weeks and see how it feels to not do it. (Though I'll probably keep twittering and flickering, I've got to have some digital fix).
I'll see you all in a couple of weeks for the feedback on Assignment 13. cheers