Thoughts On Blogging
It's a strange old thing this blogging malarky, and one which I've been giving a lot of thought to lately in the wake of recent bouts of negativity and stereotyping directed towards the blogging world, often by bloggers themselves. These days so many of us choose to compile our thoughts and musings into a tiny (in perspective) corner of the Internet to be read by perhaps just a few close friends, or potentially thousands of complete strangers, and yet the baggage which comes along with this decision is something which we are often completely unprepared for.
Negativity Firstly, I find it absolutely bizarre that people go out of their way to direct negativity towards one another. I can't imagine ever being bothered enough to write a nasty tweet about someone, let alone send them a comment or email. I mean we all need to vent sometimes, and when I meet up with my girlfriends I love a good bitch as much as the next person, but indirect tweeting and snide comments? Isn't that just a little 2009? Negativity exists in every area of life, and people will judge you for anything from your education, career, and relationship choices to the brands of clothes you wear, your go-to coffee shop, and the colour of your car. It's something that we all have to live with, and that runs in correlation with our success. Essentially, we should keep in mind that the root of negativity (especially I think where blogging is concerned) is jealousy. Your ex-bff from high school may claim that 'blogging is boring/stupid/narcissistic', but is most likely more annoyed that you've found something in life that you enjoy, that you're successful at, and that you built single-handedly from scratch. And they really don't hate blogs that much, because who hasn't Googled the lipstick/book/restaurant that they're eyeing up and ended up on a Wordpress page? No one.
Why do you blog? A question that us bloggers get asked a lot, and in varying degrees of sincerity. I personally blog because I love to write. There aren't even words to describe how much I love writing and I have done since an early age. Prior to the various blogs I've had over the years I filled notebooks with stories and articles, created mock magazines, and wrote for a number of school and local newspapers. I've always been a keen reader, and writing just came alongside that. Obviously undertaking a History degree meant I spent a lot of time writing very serious and difficult essays which had to follow strict formats and restrictions, so for me blogging was a form of escapism (and to some extent procrastination). I chose to write about beauty because it's a subject which, in comparison to my intensive and highly academic degree course, is somewhat easier to relate to and indulge in. This decision stems from my love of reading the beauty pages of my favourite magazines as well as a long-term interest in skincare. As a teen I really suffered with my skin so really got to know the ins and outs of skincare and the variety of brands and products available as I tried and tested, and my interest grew from there. I love nothing more than helping out friends and family who come to me with skincare related questions, and my blog became an extension of this (so if you have any ask away!). I also see blogging as a chance to develop my skills and improve my career prospects. In many ways a blog can be an extension of your CV, showcasing your writing as well as your ability to manage time, meet deadlines, and create on a regular basis. My writing and my confidence have improved in leaps and bounds thanks not only to consistent blogging but to the opportunities that it has opened up for me. Being asked to contribute articles to various websites and publications, attend product launches, and work with leading PR companies and retailers would not have been possible without TGG under my belt, and I know for a fact that I wouldn't have a well-paid part-time job within the beauty industry on merit of a History degree and zilch retail experience alone.
Stereotypes In my experience, the common stereotype of beauty bloggers as air-headed bimbos whose lives revolve solely around hoarding eyeshadow palettes and swatching lipsticks could not be further from the truth. The majority of beauty bloggers whom I count myself friends with are smart, passionate women who blog through a love of writing, as a form of escapism, and as a chance to establish themselves within a dog-eat-dog world, where realising your dreams doesn't come easy (see Jen, Rebecca, Camey, Kate, and Lilly). The historian in me likes to ensure that my posts are thoroughly researched and that I really know the ins and outs of the subject that I'm writing about in order to provide my readers with a detailed and useful account. I also like to know the history and science behind the brands and their products - something that requires, time, effort, and brainpower. Blogging allows me to take my mind off my full-time degree, my part-time job, and two days a week of volunteer work (not much time for swatching see...). And there's nothing simple about churning out four blog posts a week as well as all of that. Last term I was in the library most days from 8am-8pm, after which I'd come home and blog for three hours. It was tough at the time, but worthwhile when I graduated with a First class degree and was shortlisted in the Company Magazine Blog Awards.
Materialism In a world where literally any freebie hungry teen can create a beauty blog as a means to procure samples and internet fame, it's easy to see where the stereotype of beauty bloggers as materialistic hoarders of 'stuff' comes from. I for one don't buy anything that I don't need (okay, I own more than one lipstick, but I can imagine that for a 21 year old girl, this is pretty normal). I'm lucky in that I work alongside a number of PR companies who send me products to review, but if I don't like a product or I find myself with too much of a certain thing then I distribute to friends and family or package up a box for a scheme like Give and Makeup. I'm not really one to get sucked into hypes and I would never buy a product for the sake of it as I like to keep my collection as streamlined and accessible as possible. Plus, as a student, living off a part-time retail job, it's actually pretty hard to indulge in materialism, whether you like it or not.
PR A very controversial topic within the blogging world, and one which I wish people would regard with a bit more common sense and not get so worked up about. I personally don't think that there's anything wrong with featuring PR samples as long as you disclose them and give a fair and non-biased review. I treat PR samples exactly as I would products that I buy myself, if I don't like them then I say so, and why. After all that's the whole point of a product review right? As a historian I've been taught to consider the bias and never completely 100% trust a source before you know all the facts, so as a reader of beauty blogs I appreciate the inclusion of the asterix used to denote a PR sample, and keep this in mind when I read the review. After all, just because one blogger loved a lipstick and felt it was the perfect colour doesn't mean that I will (PR sample or not), so I would never ever read a blog post and take everything said at complete face value because we're all different. Whilst I don't doubt that there are people out there who blog solely for the freebies (the hashtag #prrequest stands to serve), there's no point getting riled up by these types of people. The only people that they're harming are themselves, so just unfollow and forget.
Fellow bloggers Socially, I don't heavily involve myself with the rest of the blogging world, and aside from the blogs I subscribe to via Bloglovin, and reader interaction, I tend to steer clear of doing so too much. My experience of blogger chats, groups, meet-ups etc so far has exposed a less appealing side of blogging - a clique-led popularity contest something akin to my high school experience (which was not a pleasant one). I know that not every chat/group/meet-up is like this, but as an introvert at heart I do prefer to keep myself to myself and build quality relationships with like-minded bloggers, and with the people who take time out of their day to read my blog, rather than engage with bitchy commentary, and buy in on what can sometimes feel like a glorified follower hunt. When I find a blog that I enjoy, I love to share it especially if I know it's a relatively small or unknown one, and I wish that the majority of the blogging world was more open to celebrating and sharing its talents and diversities. I always look for blog posts which recommend new blogs to follow (rather than the same old), and have found so many of my favourites through others' blogrolls. Let's share the love ladies!
Content I do my best over here on TGG to avoid hypes, trends, and tags etc, and blog purely about things that I love and that I know you, my readers will enjoy reading about. Blogs which basically rewrite the packaging's description underneath a blurry photo are ten a penny, a bit boring, and (as a reader) not really my cup of tea. I've never felt that TGG has been particularly review heavy as I do like to mix it up a bit and feature a number of products in one post under a common theme or in comparison. Obviously the odd individual review does pop up (because sometimes we do find that one lipstick that's so beautiful that it deserves a post of its own), and that's okay, but I always try to strive for quality in my writing. Obviously I love talking about beauty and fashion (as you well know), and I have great fun taking photos for my blog, but my real love is writing - and for me the essence of a good blog is in the prose. I'm more likely to read, enjoy, and remember a cleverly written article about budget mascaras than yet another poorly written review of the latest from MAC/Nars/Benefit launch (delete as appropriate), and this is something that I like to keep in mind as I write my own posts. So be assured that every post that I hit 'publish' on is something that I'm really really happy with, both in terms of content and editorial.
Followers For the first six months of TGG's life I had about 40 followers, five views a day, and hadn't told a single one of my friends or family members about my blog. And yet I still happily blogged away, publishing posts twice a week, and spending as much effort and time and attention researching, writing, and photographing as I do now. This is because my blog really is such a personal thing, and began as something created very much to satisfy my own needs and wishes. I've never been one to obsess over stats and followers (although I do love using Google Analytics to see the wide and diverse range of places that my readers come from), and I can imagine that this would become something that would take over and eat away at you if you did become fixated on your follower count. It goes without saying that this is the wrong reason to blog, and if someone I follow on Twitter gets happy with the 'follow me/how do I get more followers?' tweets then I for one unfollow. Begging for followers is not cool kids and is more likely to have the adverse effect. One of my favourite things about blogging, and definitely the most rewarding is reader interaction. I love nothing more than waking up to an influx of Disqus emails or Twitter notifications and having a good old chat with you guys. The idea that some bloggers don't engage with their readers is really weird and in my opinion quite rude. If I comment or tweet a blogger and don't receive a reply then I definitely loose a sense of respect for them and probably won't engage with them or their blog again in the future so it's a win-win situation. At the end of the day, the fruit of all of the effort of researching and writing a blog post is hearing what your readers have to say about it, taking in their recommendations, and giving them further advice. You put out energy and you get energy back, so treasure it.
On this (final I promise) note, I would like to reiterate a huge thank you to all of my readers and followers. Knowing that you see TGG as a blog worth subscribing to and engaging with really does make my day and I relish every tweet and comment that you send my way. So thank you, and BIG LOVE.