I WENT TO school with a girl who now has her own blog. That’s not surprising, since so many people like to recount their lives through virtual diaries and the like these days (myself included, obviously), but I’m fairly sure she uses her blog in the most tenuous way possible. Think an extra way to flaunt pictures of herself in tight-hugging dresses in Topshop’s changing rooms or frizzy ‘I WOKE UP LIKE THIS’ hair, as if she hadn’t actually been up for five hours styling it, carefully hiding the products involved well out of camera shot. In her defence, she does write things to go with said pictures, even if it’s a staggering 750 words on her recent shampoo choices, but I wonder why she’s doing the blogging thing in the first place. I like this ability for people to be able to express themselves through words; for me, it’s the best way to express myself. Yet I can’t help but think that for some people, blogging is a good workout in vanity. People are jumping on the blogging bandwagon and spraying ‘look at me, please’ all over it in bright red graffiti, replacing words, memories, ideas, stories and thoughts for, erm, just selfies. Or food. It’s annoying; just saturate your Instagram with it. Perhaps you might call this criticism, but I prefer to see it as an observation, which seems far less scathing, at least. The observation I have made is the idea that blogging, the thing I have subconsciously and unintentionally found myself doing for the past two and a half years, is a grotesquely, but all the same enjoyably, self-indulgent pastime.
Not that I have anything wrong with a bit of self-indulgence; after all, we can’t rely on others to indulge in ourselves for us. And although I don’t slather WordPress with airbrushed selfies, I slap myself on the wrists for unwittingly being part of something which I’ve learned is actually quite vain. I wrote copious amounts about my Year Abroad, not hesitating in sharing details about all the travelling I was doing, all the food I was eating, all the good times I was having. I didn’t think about people at the other end of it, who might have been fed up of or disheartened by reading about someone else’s unabashed happiness. Nevertheless I was happy to keep rambling on and on about all the fun I was having, almost ignorantly. There were times when I wondered, when tapping out blog post #17, for example, would anyone actually be interested in reading about things that happened to me? Would people really be interested and share the same enthusiasm for things that have humorous, sentimental, personal or enriching value to just me and a few others? Would people read my articles, come away and think ‘oh, good for him stuffing himself on pain aux raisins and booking himself on flights to Stockholm for the weekend! I’m in bed watching repeats of Come Dine With Me for the fourth day straight with the flu, but I’m delighted he’s having a good time!’? I supposed not. I thought it was like someone showing you their holiday photos.
But more crucially, would people really be interested in reading about a random girl’s favourite shampoos?
Unsurprisingly, people are. I suppose it works a bit likes novels, but blogging is with real people. People read blogs because they seem to love reading about other people’s lives from behind a screen. They crave the mundane – brunch recipes, 250-word anecdotes at a grocery store in Minnesota, thoughts on trainers. It sort of gives them a vicarious sense of inclusiveness, a digital key into their front door. It lets them be present in people’s lives without actually being present at all. Almost like a ghost. I have no idea who really reads my blog, except those that tell me they’ve read it. And when people do tell me they’ve read it, I feel an understated urge to keep on blogging – I dare call it an ego boost. And then, before I know it, I’m trapped in a perpetual blog-to-please crisis, indulging in myself to satisfy other people and there’s something nice about it. I like people reading my blog, liking it, commenting on it, people telling me they’ve read it and then telling me what they think. It’s a vain vicious cycle, but one I’m happy to stay in.
This is how social networks work, too, in essence. They work because of the persistent human nature of being nosey. Blogging, perhaps because it still has a vaguely intelligent, ‘indie’ reputation, seems to evade being classed within the same category, and although it might not be as perverse as Facebook (let’s not go there), there’s an enticing voyeurism that accompanies it, which keeps bloggers blogging and readers reading.