Blogging Conundrums

Does studying a Communications (Journalism) degree while writing a blog mean that some days I feel like slapping myself?  No, not always – but I do occasionally question if certain things are in my best interests.  Sponsored posts and the recurrent subversive push to be positive can feel like it’s in direct conflict with balanced reporting and critical analysis.

My degree is not necessarily a vocational pursuit more an opportunity to learn something but backing every thirty words with a reference and being asked “what is not being said?” sits uncomfortably alongside ‘PR people are always watching’ and ‘don’t be negative’ – both reoccurring themes in the sponsored blogosphere.  In the past, I’ve rationalised this conflict with “I’m learning to write copy” and only accepting pitches that remunerate in accordance to copy-writing rates.

I’m not comfortable with critical thought being silenced, particularly where women are involved.  This is probably why I avoid advertising products that reassert antiquated stereotypes about housewives (gin excluded) or girls (princess and pink themed products).  That doesn’t mean I am dismissive of what other people choose to advertise but it also doesn’t mean that I’m being “negative” which can often be the response when one critiques sponsored posts.

In my degree, one of the criticisms of blogging is that its influence as a conversation is limited due to an ‘echo-chamber’ – a place where agreeable comments far outweigh the disagreeable ones either due to people only reading the same blogs or because those who disagree are often flamed into submission or dismissed as trolls.

A study at the University of Illinois that focused on the world’s top 33 ranked blogs (technorati) found agreeable comments far outweighed disagreeable ones.  Deeper cultural issues suggested that readers could become polarized and more entrenched in their own beliefs.

I am one of those readers who occasionally writes “great post!” but I much prefer to read things that challenge me.  In a sea of positive endorsements and my own ever evolving change in attitude towards blogging and what this space even is – I’m struggling to find dissident voices.  I’m becoming more discerning in what I read.  I’m discovering great places, new voices – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

 

Do you ever struggle with the evolving nature of your blog?

 

Comments

  1. Kim | Melbourne Mum says

    I struggle NOT to be dissenting sometimes. I have an opinion, occasionally a polarising one and I’m happy for constructive debate but not a personal attack based on my opinions. I think everyone has a right to their own opinion, but I also have a right to disagree with it.

    I struggle reading blogs that are all sweetness and light. It’s superficial, bordering on fake. Their “positivity” might be a fair representation of their life but it’s not very interesting. But then, I don’t want to read a blog that is all argumentative and angry either.

    • says

      I tend to have strong opinions but I’m open to having them challenged and quite frequently I do complete about turns – so I do try to think before I speak (or type).

      • says

        I think that is sometimes why I don’t comment. It took me a long time to learn to think before I speak. Perhaps sometimes that’s not always a good thing.

  2. says

    I know exactly what you mean about the agreeable comments thing – it does sometimes border on sycophancy and sometimes I cry out for someone, anyone to express a dissenting view. Or even just something a little less gushing.

    I have also seen many a troll get flamed for dissenting by a blog’s readers. But usually only when they’re being a troll and not genuinely expressing a different opinion.

    The thing that is missing is the thoughtful conversation. And I think that comes down to the post and how the question at the end of a post is worded. I know I try to invite all different thoughts and opinions, whether they agree with mine or not … but it doesn’t always work!

    • Kim | Melbourne Mum says

      Hi Kelly – I think people are scared of being called “Troll”. There’s such a difference between a Troll and a Constructive Dissenter, but I think that because it’s the internet and you can’t see the person’s face, it’s sometimes hard to know what their “intent” is unless you’re a born communicator (as clearly, Carli is, yet I am not after half a bottle of sparkling shiraz).

      I try to elicit reader’s opinions on certain posts and like you, it doesn’t always work – in fact, I’m not sure it’s ever worked (unless I know the person in real life and they know I know they’re kosher). K

    • says

      I’ve seen nasty trolls flamed (with good reason) but I’ve also seen others flamed for having an opposing point of view too. That has put me off disagreeing on certain spaces. Who could be bothered!

  3. Debyl1 says

    I love to visit your blog,not because I think I will agree with everything you say but because I never know what you are going to say.
    You have a wide variety of topics you cover here which I think is great.I love how you can write on so many different levels and subjects and still keep me thinking and looking forward to your next post.
    Positive or negative ideas….love them all as that’s what life is all about.xx

  4. says

    What a fascinating post, Carli. Growing up I was often called the “peacemaker” so suffice to say, I don’t like confrontation. However, I see the need for healthy and constructive criticism. Trouble is I find many who disagree, especially on news sites, are bordering on abusive. I don’t tend to read comments on opinion pieces too much nowadays because I don’t think people hear each other. Many want to have their say, and because they are often nameless and always faceless, behave hatefully or “trollishly” with little common courtesy. It’s like everyone shouting at each other and little listening is done. Nothing is achieved in that climate. Understanding is not enhanced and there is no respect of differing standpoints.

    I do tend to stick with certain bloggers more than others because their voice gels with mine. Or I gravitate to certain posts because they align with my interests or needs. I guess that’s natural. Having said that, I also come across some pieces I don’t necessarily agree with or feel a connection with. In those cases, I may or may not comment, depending on a range of reasons.

    Lately, I’ve not had much time to read at all, to be honest, though I’d like to. If you feel you can share, you’ve got me curious about some of the new voices you have found. I’m always open to give new ideas and material a go.

    • says

      More than happy to share! I really enjoy Blue Milk and Berlin Domestic’s artwork mixed with words is wonderful too. Karen at Rhythm & Method writes beautifully too – all the links are on the blog roll :)

  5. says

    I think part of it is also due to the fact that most of us have limited amount of time, and we are attracted to like-minded individuals, or people who are having or have had similar experiences to us. So if that’s what we’re reading, of course we’ll have positive comments to make about it. I have certainly found myself disagreeing with things that have been written but I find the mental energy it would take to comment and disagree is just not worth it. It bugs me most when you read “popular” blogs and all the “yes people” comment and I think “They can NOT seriously agree with all that shit!” ha!

      • Cherie says

        Yep.

        So true, I’m too time poor to throw my energy into reading, & then commenting on something I don’t like.

    • says

      I quite often don’t have the mental energy either and you’re right – there are definitely blogs I go to because I enjoy reading them or they validate the way I feel – I’m more than happy to share love on those spaces :)

  6. says

    One of the things that disappointed me about journalism was that it feeds negativity and in doing so you end up either becoming negative yourself or bitter and twisted. Or all of the above. I jumped out because that was starting to be me and it was affecting my family. When you’re constantly having to write about things that “sell” newspapers – death and scandal – it’s impossible for it not to affect you. Not everyone wants to read the negative – that doesn’t mean we don’t want to “think”.

    And trolls are not dissenting commenters – they are personal attackers. No room for that anywhere as it’s defamation – on a blog or in journalism.

    • says

      That would be tough. I’m hoping there’s something right for me out there because I’m not sure how I would cope with that either.

  7. Mrs Woog says

    I write a personal narrative blog, so it is hard to debate it. Which is nice because I hardly get any trolls. I mean, how can you really debate stories? I pepper my stories with sponsored posts, so I can continue to write my stories and not have to go back to the place that drained my soul.

    I don’t struggle with the evolving nature of my blog. If I can be honest, I don’t think about it beyond tomorrow. Xxx

  8. Deb_BrightandPrecious says

    Interesting observations about the echo-chamber, Carli. The theory may ring true for some, but I hope it isn’t the case for all. Unfortunately the problem with any online forum communication is that robust healthy debate is rarely achieved – it’s either very agreeable or very nasty.

    I have no problem with having or expressing a dissenting view – but sometimes I do choose the ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it’ option… or the ‘too hard, not worth it’ option (unfortunately). If I have a different view that I want to express, then it will be respectfully said. As for being agreeable – most blogs written by women and/or for women tend to be this way because of a sisterhood. By nature we are encouraging and empathic (mostly!).

    • says

      The study does state that blogging is a way for silenced minorities to have a voice – I think the sisterhood thing has emerged from that perhaps?

  9. Lily Mae says

    I do struggle with it ( my blog ), but I have learnt so much from it that I probably wouldn’t have in any other way.

    Originally, I was going to be anonymous but I didn’t as I didn’t think anyone would read it. Now that people are reading it, I really have to choose my words. Which I get frustrated with at times – especially when writing about some darker things – BUT, I think it challenges me and improves my writing each post. That can only be a good thing!

    What I do love about blogging as opposed to writing a book ( which I aim to do one day ) is that when I have learnt things I can go back and edit posts – edit my writing. It’s really made me realize my boundaries as well.

    Lily Mae
    xo

    • says

      I have to self-edit on occasions for that reason and I do agree that it’s a challenge but it does improve my writing – I think it’s enhanced my real life relationships too.

  10. Mrsceeeceee says

    I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, yet! It’s more of a personal blog, so I can’t imagine sponsors queuing up anyway ;)

  11. Amy {The Misadventurous Maker} says

    I am so enjoying your posts Carli. Very thought provoking and always a fresh angle. I have a “light and fluffy” blog so a lot of these issues don’t affect me but as a marketing & communications (ex) professional, I also look at blogging from two competing sides when reading some posts. I am not in the sponsored posts world but I can see how it could make for some self editing at times. I love blogs that find their voice through that confusion.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing that Amy – I’m really interested to know how marketing experts view blogging voices. I wish they’d discuss it on Gruen!

  12. says

    I like a good discussion, and I’m happy to have my opinions challenged on my blog, or in blog comments replying to mine on other blogs. As long as it is constructive and respectful.
    People can agree to disagree. I just wish sometimes that would happen a bit more online.
    I have stated a number of times on my blog I’m happy for debate and difference of opinions – I won’t tolerate bigotry of any kind though and have blocked/deleted comments and followers when it has turned to that. I often click away without commenting though when I don’t agree, because I don’t have the time or mental energy for it. Perhaps I should comment, because sometimes when I write a post I think come one, someone must disagree with me… surely? Where’s the constructive debate?

  13. bachelormum says

    I’m totally comfortable with my blog because for me its purpose is not to attract a pr agency to endorse my talent (or not as I’ve not had anyone even remotely show any Interested in it) but to express my reality and how I am dealing with it, in hopes that somewhere in some way it might also encourage others’ whoss feelings resonate with my experience. I am concerned that the blogosphere is going to get chocked up with ‘that’s life’ kind of copy that is all fluff and no substance. I wonder if more and more people will misinterpret the approach of a pr endorsement with success of their blog when really they’re simply being asked for relatively little to swap their own thoughts for that of a brand. Expecting people to read that is like asking them to flip through a mag full of ads.

  14. says

    “I say evolve, and let the chips fall where they may” – Just a little Fight Club reference for you there Carli :) – but it’s pretty much how I’m approaching the ‘direction’ of my blog. Why am I blogging? I just want to write. I want to write better. And I need the practice. I tend to comment positively and if someone’s words have impacted on me, I like to let them know. I am very non-confrontational, so I’d have to feel very strongly about something to voice an opposing opinion in public.

  15. Cherie says

    You might struggle then because honestly? Every post you tap out is absolutely incredible.

    I subscribe to your blog, don’t always comment (so sorry, a time thing/toddler wrangling thing), but I don’t just agree with much of what you write, but find myself nodding in agreement (almost violently).

    I love what you have to say, a lot.

    And find myself doing this exhale after having read most of your posts; sort of like a … ahhhh, praise the lord, an intelligent woman with a fantastic forum to articulate her thoughts.

    Entirely agreeable comment here, I know ;)

  16. Karen Charlton says

    I think the internet is built on ‘like-ness’, where we search out topics and people on key search words and similarity to ourselves. While it’s helpful in some respects to build a sense of community, I agree it totally sounds like an echo chamber. I become numb if too many people agree. It makes me want to find the chink in the argument, just to get amongst the pigeons.
    Great post! (Really … I’m not just saying ;)

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