Has blogging become too sanitized?

II first started blogging in 2006. I discovered blogs through my job as a writer for a cancer hospital in Detroit, so some of the first blogs I read were written by desperately ill cancer patients. They were raw and honest and ugly and oddly addictive, and quite well-written. From there I quickly discovered health care blogs and somehow,someway, I ended up landing on Litlove’s blog, which I immediately fell in love with, and from there I fell into a community of writers and readers who also blogged, and quite quickly I started my own.

I honestly couldn’t tell you if this was before or after Blogher and Babble – I mean, I could to the research but I am way too lazyit is much too hot out to exert that kind of effort. What I do know is blogging seemed much more organic, way less polished, and contained higher-quality writing than it does now – this goes for my own blog as well. People were blogging about cancer, books, infertility, the writing life, the acting life, the life of waiters and waitresses, psychology, medicine, gardening – and hardly anyone uploaded photos from their phone to help tell their story.

So, what happened? What corrupted our raw, honest places and replaced them with sanitized versions of real life? I know in my case, too many friends and family members discovered my blog and started challenging me and arguing with me over my version of whatever story I told and I eventually became somewhat self-conscious about my writing. That’s why I made the somewhat anonymous move here, and while raising a young child and working full-time have prevented a return, perhaps, to blogging as well as I once did, I at least feel more free in this space and more likely to tackle issues that would otherwise horrify my mother.

Don’t get me wrong – blogs are more popular than ever. But many of them seem so squeaky clean that it’s almost hard to believe the author’s voice is real. Blog posts are sponsored by Hallmark and Disney and various toilet bowl cleaners, and they feature slideshows of a dozen different ways to make buffalo macaroni and cheese, or detail Kate Middleton’s maternity “look” – they don’t seem to have the raw intimacy they once did.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read a post on a popular blogger’s personal blog (she also blogs for babble) – I’m not linking to her because she and I don’t have a relationship, if that makes sense? (That is yet another hallmark of blogging from the “old days” – the relationships created between bloggers) -I have left her two or three comments in the last year but we never established a rapport. Anyway. She wrote this really heartbreaking post about, for that particular day, she really hated herself -she felt like she was overeating and her overeating was because of some self-loathing – she felt she was wasting her life every time she read a celebrity gossip magazine when all they do is make her feel badly – and she used some hyperbole to bring across the point that our nation’s obsession with celebrity, beauty and weight is not doing women any good at all, and yet we remain complicit. What followed was two days of conversation, about forty percent of which was direct attacks on the author, with heated encouragement to “get into therapy NOW” or “start taking prozac immediately.” The author, who blogs way more often than I do, tries to share what her every day life is like and pointed out that she has many more happy posts than not, but to *only* post when she’s feeling positive would be inauthentic – she also riffed a bit on some of those insanely glossy happy happy happy blogs I mentioned above, arguing that they, too, may be part of our ongoing national problem (or so I read her comments).

I found myself fully on her side. I prefer reading the gritty, real blogs of struggling writers, mothers, and cooks than I do checking in for day after day of photo essays about crafts, food and family fun. That’s what pinterest is for. At the same time, I know I am, in a way, guilty of perpetuating some of this, not through gorgeous photography (let’s get real) but I’m certainly not 100 percent raw, all of the time, here. I know, I know, no one expects me to be – but I was certainly more comfortable writing more honestly before I got the little bit of exposure I did over at my old blog. For similar reasons I stopped writing memoir – the best pieces I wrote were about my experiences growing up with a Vietnam veteran for a father and even when pushed by colleagues to submit my essays, it felt like a betrayal to the man who raised me to expose him that way. Now, I’ll totally revisit this issue when he passes away some day, a long, long time from now knock wood praise God, but for now I know it isn’t the right thing to do. I am not able, in nonfiction, to write fearlessly. And so I don’t.

In appreciation of the gritty and the real, however, I thought I’d leave with you a few thoughts and pictures exposing my life in all of it’s messy, chaotic glory, and hopefully, maybe, you’ll feel slightly less alone, too. And, if you prefer the photo-shopped perfection current blogs aspire to, well, you can always check out my blog roll – there are a couple of them floating around there.

(1.) I am pregnant with our second child (blog post upcoming!) and I can’t believe the roundness that has overtaken my body so quickly this time! I am three months but I probably look four, and my boobs? Good god in heaven they are ROUND. My cheeks are round. I am round, round, round and while mostly I am grateful to carry this new baby of ours my vanity has taken a hit and I actually had to purchase some summer maternity clothes.

(2.) My backyard, which is getting a new fence right now, looks like a prime example of urban decay:
Aha! Okay! You know what? I’m not even ABLE to currently upload a photo – I just tried and wordpress keeps putting it in the wrong place in the text. So I guess you just have to trust me on this – pure. urban. decay.

(3.) I got SO mad at Grace the other day, and felt terrible about it. I actually had to take a moment to breath because I felt my anger rise – I am not an angry person by nature so I really hated having this feeling directed toward my gorgeous, smart daughter. But I had an eight a.m. meeting and SHE WOULD NOT WEAR PANTS, NO MATTER WHAT. I had to chase her through the house with a pair and practically tackle her to get them on. It was awful.

(4.) And speaking of frustrating mom moments, Grace will not let me anywhere near her hair. She lets her grandmothers and her teachers at school brush her hair, put it in ponytails or braids, or pull it up in barrets, but if I come within two feet of her with a comb she starts yelling as loud as she can – loud enough that if a CYS professional were walking by our house they’d surely investigate. In her delineated world, handling her hair is NOT mama’s job. I’ve been on the receiving end of several pointed comments about how nice it would be to, you know, just see her faceto which I want to reply (but don’t, of course), Oh yeah? Me too. I’d like to see her face too, but guess what – it ain’t happening.

(5.) Well, Ian and I are just fine – great, in fact. Admittedly, I got lucky there. It drives my girlfriends a little crazy that I don’t complain about him but really, I’m so happy. The only worry I have is his health – he suffers from an autoimmune disease with somewhat crippling flares, and I end up often doing the brunt of the physical labor with Grace and the house. This, I don’t mind- it’s something I took into account before getting pregnant a second time – I have all the love and compassion in the world for Ian. What I don’t understand is why I’m not skinney from being so active. Not fair.

So, there you have it – some not so perfect thoughts from yours truly. I think my August goal will be to figure out how to incorporate more photos easily…just to jazz this joint up a bit.

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7 thoughts on “Has blogging become too sanitized?

  1. I love your honest post and although I do love reading squeaky clean happy blogs from time to time, it’s just fantasy land and I don’t feel I have a contact with the people behind these blogs (they could be totally fictional people, for that matter).
    Congratulations on your pregnancy!! I had guessed as much from your sudden pinterest orientation… and you know what? So am I! (full disclosure) (that’s why I’m pinning receiving blankets and baby quilts like a madwoman ;)) I’m so happy for you guys (and I am definitely much rounder sooner the 2nd time around too).
    I chose to focus on books in my blog so I don’t need to be as honest about the rest of my life. What I don’t get is people harrassing bloggers for being honest and raw from time to time. What is it to them?

  2. First, congratulations to you on your pregnancy! And to Smithereens too!

    I can’t say that I have noticed what you have with blogs. Probably because I stick mainly to book blogs. But it is unfortunate that outside the small blog world I stick to these other blogs seem to be less authentic than they used to be. I think you do a good job at being real and I appreciate that!

  3. I didn’t predict that twist one bit! Actually I should have since we’ve been trying (and failing) for a second child and you are a few years younger than L so it’s much more likely to happen. I love the honesty of your post and it makes me think it would be OK to reveal some of the grittiness of our lives on my other blog. My family found my blog and so all memoir that was remotely negative (or real) had to be shelved. I occasionally blog some happy photos but my blogging time is seriously curtailed by parenting (and work).

    Oh, and I can definitely relate to the anger and also to having to chase our toddler around sometimes. She runs away mock-screaming and I accelerate and catch her for whatever it is that she is not wanting to do (dress, get in the car, have a bath). To answer your question of weeks ago, we’re early in the potty-training process. Winter isn’t the best time for it and we’re taking it really slowly. We went through a tense couple of (constipated) weeks where she refused to go. The catalyst for the change, surprisingly, was getting a trampoline.

  4. Amal – thank you!
    Smithereens – congratulations! When are you due? I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who grew rounder much more quickly this time around – I know it will be worth it though!
    Stefani – I agree. I think book blogs out of all the blogs have definitely remained true to their original voices and content. Book bloggers are even cautious often of reviewing books they receive in the mail from agents and publishing houses. I love that about them!
    Pete – Ha! I take my daughter swimming if I think constipation might rear its ugly head. E is officially potty-trained at daycare (she loves to ‘go” with her “friends”) but not much at home. In another couple of weeks we are going to have to get real serious about it, unfortunately.

  5. Oh my! Wonderful news about your pregnancy – so many congratulations! And oh my god I hear you about blogging. I should never, ever have told my family about my blog because I have to be so careful what I say, and that’s such a shame. I remember a questionnaire going round years ago in which we more or less all said that we felt closer to our real selves in the blog than we did in the world. Which made them very special places. It’s so wrong to cover up the inherent difficulties of life – and you are so not a bad person if you suffer them. It’s the Disney-denial which I find altogether more alarming. That’s got to be bad for you, to cover up and prettify reality to that extent. Plus, when you’re truthful about things, they suddenly seem more funny. Or at least, they do to me. I too have yelled and chased and erupted over my son when he was young. It is inevitable, and all mothers press the nuclear button from time to time. It feels horrible, because I knew when it happened I’d lost control of myself as an adult, and that’s sort of horrifying for one’s self-esteem. But I do not know a single mother or father who has not at some point lost it entirely with a child. I often think it comes from trying to be so understanding and careful with them the rest of the time. They have to push harder to find the boundaries.

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