On Blogging & Staying Authentic
Who is your favourite blogger? Why? I'm presuming that as you are reading this blog you have an interest in blogs in general, but maybe not. Either way, why do you like the blogs you like? Why do you hate the blogs you hate? And what does it mean to you when they add a disclaimer at the end of a post, or a subtle italic line about the fact they use affiliate links throughout their posts? How do you feel when you see #ad or #spon on Twitter, or Instagram after a perfectly captioned post? Does it p@@ss you off when you have spent years connecting with a blogger only to see them promote something, or try to sell you their new e-course, coaching course or book?
When I started blogging a few years back it certainly wasn't a new recreation. The top dogs in my 'niche' are pretty much still the top dogs right now, albeit joined by a few more pups. I think Zoella had already started her channel, but vlogging was in it's infancy and video content wasn't yet something bloggers were being asked to create as part of a standard package for press trips etc.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I am not old hat to this game. I wasn't one of the first bloggers around, and I'm definitely not the last. But what I am is someone who's started in a climate where bloggers could and did make money, when 'travel blogging success' and becoming a full-time 'professional' travel blogger was a dream being sold for small money, by everyone. In the form of courses, e-books, conferences, talks.....you name it. And I, along with thousands of other excitable bloggers lapped it up. I travelled for almost three years full time waiting for the moment things would 'click' and I'd be a real life professional travel blogger. I got freebies, went on press trips and created content. I freelanced in social media management, despite not knowing f-all about it and picked up random jobs here and there which kept me on the road for longer.
I even lived on a tropical Thai island paradise. THE DREAM right? Hmmmm not for me. It was fun while it lasted, but I actually didn't love my life on Koh Tao at all. It was like living on the Costa Del Sol - stacks of tanned Westerners drinking cheap beers every night, Instagramming their sunsets for people back home to see what they were missing on a Monday morning and generally being really broke, and bored. Obviously that wasn't everybody, but I always felt like I didn't fit in. I found it quite hard to make real friends (although I did make a few) and I hated the village style drama -- everyone knew everyone's business and there was no escaping it.
You wouldn't have guessed that if you looked at my Instagram or Facebooks, or read my blog posts from that time though. I felt ashamed. I should have been having the time of my life right? Plenty of other bloggers seemed to be doing similar to me and having the BEST TIME EVER. Or maybe they felt just like me.
Because, in blogging, I think authenticity is a movable feast.
Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear about what I consider to be authentic behaviour. I curate my social media feeds, I edit my photography and I don't blog in real time -- none of these things are inauthentic in my opinion. I also don't share my entire life, or that of my families all the time. That isn't inauthentic, it's just politeness and personal preference!
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When I travel, I share my best pictures and if I'm on a press trip on comped activity, or working with a brand in any way at all -- I am more mindful about what I share, and how I share it. I am always honest, but if I have a crappy stay -- I'm not about to leave an angry Trip Advisor style review on my blog about it without considering all the mitigating factors first (was I being reasonable when I lost my sh@t at the lack of Yorkshire tea-bags in my room, would someone else like it even though I didn't?)
I don't think that's inauthentic. Put it this way, if you were annoyed at something your boss said at work -- would you stand up and shout about what a d@ck he/she was to the whole office? Probably not. Maybe....but probably not. You would probably say nothing in the office, but have a good old rant about it to your mates after work. That isn't a lack of authenticity - that's common sense and good manners.
But for whatever reason, in blogging and when discussing 'influencers', we expect a higher level of transparency. And I get it, but I don't always think it's reasonable. Because I'm a journalist, I've been on press trips as both a blogger and as traditional press. It's generally easier as a journalist (you aren't expected to live tweet or Instagram your every movement) but you can end up in the same predicament - you're there to cover a brand's content in as positive a way as possible, but need to be honest for your readers.
This isn't actually the authenticity I struggle with most. I have real issues with selling a life I don't think is achievable, or desirable for everyone. I have issues with glorifying the 'hustle' as a way to live your dream. And I have real issues with being told you have to follow XYZ rule in order to succeed. I'll never forget the 'advice' a certain blogger rudely gave me when I started out. She made me feel stupid, and I let her noise (because, in truth, that's all it was) seep into my consciousness and affect my decisions - right down to my blog name! Totally ridiculous when I think about it now. But at the time I hung off her every word and believed she was telling me this for my own good, because she knew it to be true.
Actually, she didn't know sh@@t. Neither do I! None of us do really. Especially when it comes to creativity, and the great unknown of blogging.
Luckily, I found a way to make money through freelance journalism and my blog became my passion project again. Which means I have the luxury of writing whatever I want to write about. I don't really care about SEO, and I don't care how often I blog, although I try to do it weekly for my own sanity.
I don't care that I rarely stick to one neat topic. I also don't care that I'm clumsily weaving pregnancy and motherhood into the blog without worrying I'm becoming a mummy blogger, or a lifestyle blogger or any type of blogger at all.
I don't care I don't have a Facebook page. I hate Facebook, so I don't particularly want to connect with my readers there. I love Instagram, and I'm finding my tribe there more and more. I adore taking pictures, and writing long form, rambly posts about nothing whatsoever. And I really, really love a good packing post.
I don't worry whether I'm offering you 'value' in my posts too much. You're here, and if you still are here -- well done, because you like reading what I write. End of. The value is in the joy of reading, right? At least, for me it is.
Does any of this make me more, or less authentic? I don't know. I sort of don't care. But it's something I strive for because, purely selfishly, I believe that an inauthentic life tends to be one riddled with unhappiness. At least, for me it does.
So that's my goal these days.
And a little vow to you I guess too. I will always edit my pictures before I Instagram. And use spell-check too. But I solemnly promise not to post a sunset picture telling you how great my life is when it's actually not.
You're welcome :)
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