Saturday, January 10, 2015

On Being an "Old-Fashioned" Blogger

One lazy evening last year, I was reading an online forum devoted to snarking on beauty bloggers and YouTube gurus: know thy frenemy and all that. As someone who studies satire for a living, I have nothing against anonymous snark forums, at least in principle. Bloggers like to profess shock that such websites even exist—imagine, a place where nameless, faceless people can talk shit about other people!—as if anonymous snark hasn't played a role in public discourse since Martin Marprelate. Granted, I might feel less charitable if I'd ever been mocked on one of these forums. But I'd like to believe that even if I were, I'd be able to distinguish between sound criticism and malicious nitpicking, rolling my eyes at the latter and taking the former to heart. As I commented on Larie's excellent post on her resolution to "stop being a hater," the Internet encourages both excessive niceness and excessive meanness, creating a climate in which constructive criticism is often dismissed as "trolling." Honestly, I'm surprised there aren't more snark forums than there already are.
 
I'll admit, I don't derive much entertainment from this particular beauty-focused forum. I never watch YouTube beauty videos and am unfamiliar with more than a few of the blogs that regularly come under fire, which means that most of the threads are meaningless to me. Plus, I don't find the snark itself very interesting or witty: I've seen people lambasted for the unspeakable crimes of wearing too little mascara or failing to put eyeliner on their upper lashlines. But that particular evening, as I clicked through the various threads, one exchange about a popular blogger made me stop short. Someone dismissed her as a "dinosaur" who still wrote actual blog posts, even though "younger people go on IG and find swatches/info, they don't wait for [her] like it's 2009 lol."  

I'm going to ignore the voice in my head that's shrieking HOLY SHIT 2009 WAS BARELY SIX YEARS AGO ARE YOU PEOPLE TWELVE OR AM I JUST SUPER OLD and actually respond to this, because I think it's fascinating. The media often characterize millennials as people who "grew up with the Internet," but the Internet has changed so much in the last ten years that that phrase has no real meaning. My boyfriend (born in 1983), Tavi Gevinson (born in 1996), and I (born in 1987) all grew up using the Internet, but we didn't all grow up using the same Internet. I missed the glory days of AOL chatrooms, but I was in college before Facebook and Twitter took off, and I'd entered graduate school by the time Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest became popular. When I was in high school, the Internet was the place where you went to read erotic Harry Potter fanfiction, pour your heart into a LiveJournal post, or write long, pretentious book reviews on Amazon. People’s online personas were less specialized than they are now. The first big bloggers, like Dooce and Pioneer Woman, didn't have a focus narrower than their own lives. 

During my college years, from 2005 to 2009, I watched the blogosphere change with the rise of social media. (“Do you have a Facebook?” my roommate asked me early in our first semester of college. “What’s Facebook?” I replied.) Bloggers realized that they’d reach a larger audience if, paradoxically, they discussed a smaller range of subjects. Around 2007 or 2008, niche blogging seemed to overtake here’s-a-bunch-of-stuff-about-my-life blogging. Fashion bloggers began sitting in the front row at couture shows, to the disgust of established media types. Beauty blogs evolved out of makeup-focused LiveJournal communities. Indeed, the very existence of LiveJournal communities suggested that readers were looking for something more specialized, and that bloggers were looking to specialize. 

Around the same time, I noticed a shift in the general tenor of Facebook posts. When I first joined, Facebook was overflowing with feelings. One of my friends proclaimed herself "heartbroken" when her asshole boyfriend broke up with her. I suspect I posted some vague ("vague") yet damning statuses of my own when my asshole not-quite-boyfriend broke up with me, and I’m very glad I can’t remember what I said. A few years in, though, everyone seemed to become more careful and canny about what they shared publicly. Witty, trivial observations replaced introspection. I'm sure most of us can remember at least one time when something we'd carelessly posted on Facebook returned to us in an unexpected and unpleasant way. For me, the epiphany came when a professor who was not my friend on Facebook still managed to see my profile; he teased me about quoting another professor who’d told me that I’d written a final paper with "too much foreplay and not enough action." (That’s still my greatest academic weakness, as it happens.) This incident cured me forever of talking about professors on Facebook, and it also encouraged me to clamp down on my privacy settings. I'd learned that the Internet could never be private—not even the pages that I'd customized to be mine.

(Various professors also found the Amazon book reviews I’d written under my real name in 2000 and 2001. 13-year-old AB had no idea what she was doing when she wrote that lengthy, high-minded, spoiler-filled review of the latest Tamora Pierce novel. Lest you accuse the college faculty of taking an untoward interest in my online doings, let me remind you that I went to school in the middle of nowhere, and there was nothing to do but take an untoward interest in everyone else. There's a reason why Donna Tartt didn’t set The Secret History at NYU.)

I felt bad giving you an uninterrupted wall of text, so here's a photo of me in my first year of college, back when I still referred to blogs as "Web logs" and thought you were supposed to delete all the posts people left on your Facebook wall.
I felt bad giving you an uninterrupted wall of text, so here's a photo of me in my first year of college, when I still insisted on referring to blogs as "Web logs." I knew better, but I've never liked abbreviations.

I didn't start reading beauty blogs until 2010 or 2011, so I missed the early days when just a few bloggers were posting product photos and swatches. By 2011, there was a healthy variety of beauty blogs, most of them fairly personal: you got a sense of the person attached to the swatching arm and the disembodied lips. This state of affairs continued for a couple of years, but I noticed a shift around 2013, due to three factors: the popularity of Instagram, the fame and riches that a small handful of fashion and beauty bloggers had managed to achieve, and the rise of affiliate-linking programs like RewardStyle. This created an atmosphere in which some bloggers felt pressured to review hundreds of new collections per year and write shorter, more frequent posts filled with gratuitous affiliate links. New bloggers tried to break into this market for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, and peppered other bloggers’ comment sections with the classic “Great post!!! Check out my giveaway: [three links to the same page]!” Some of my favorite established bloggers chose to stop posting. The blogging landscape had become decidedly professionalized.

It's hard not to lament these changes, but I don't think the big, monetized blogs necessarily threaten the existence of the smaller, more thoughtful ones. I don't resent people who want to make a living from a hobby in which they've invested a lot of time and energy. Those people tend to create blogs that I'm not interested in reading, but I get around this problem by not reading them (a strategy that the denizens of snark forums might do well to adopt). What has changed, I think, is the patience that blog readers have for longform posts. I don't use Instagram, but I know that swatches of new collections show up there long before most bloggers have posted their reviews. If you originally started reading beauty blogs because you wanted to see a bunch of product photos and swatches, Instagram is perfect for your needs. And once you've grown accustomed to tracking the MAC hashtag and seeing dozens of images with only a few words of explanation, beauty blogs might well strike you as a bit retro--the uncool kind of retro, not the winged-eyeliner-and-Ruby-Woo retro so beloved of IG types.

Surely it's no coincidence that most of my favorite beauty bloggers are my age or older: we grew up with the idea that the Internet was for self-expression (well, that and porn). Over the past decade, the Internet in general has become less about self-expression and more about self-promotion. I know that sounds very Kids These Days, but I think it's true, and I also think it was inevitable. The professionalization of blogging has produced a culture in which some people genuinely don’t understand why a makeup junkie would read an entire blog post instead of searching for swatches on Instagram. Blogging is so 2009, you guys! I was vaguely aware of this when I started Auxiliary Beauty almost a year ago, but only recently did I come to understand how reactionary a blog like mine really is. I write long Blogspot posts; I don't own a proper camera; I haven't bothered to modify the template supplied by Blogger, because I don't really give a shit how sleek my blog looks. Maybe part of this is nostalgia, a desire to maintain the kind of blog I loved reading in college. Maybe I'm inescapably 2009 myself. My conclusion, as ever, is "I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing until it stops being fun." Who knows: in five or ten years, Blogspot blogs with wall-of-text posts and clunky layouts might become the cool kind of retro.

The Internet is still a great mystery, and the more we come to rely on it, the deeper the mystery grows. What is the endgame of the Internet? How will it be regulated in a decade or two? How are we supposed to behave on it? I haven't heard the word "netiquette" in at least ten years: no great loss, to be sure, but also no surprise. At some point, we all collectively realized that there could be no universal standard of etiquette in a medium that guaranteed any degree of anonymity. Having just finished a dissertation chapter on Thomas Hobbes's own approach to snark, I can't help but think that the great theorist of human self-obsession would have found the blogosphere endlessly fascinating. The "signs of vainglory" in human beings, he wrote in 1640, "are imitation of others, counterfeiting affection to things they understand not, affectation of fashions, captation of honour from their dreams, and other little stories of themselves, from their country, their names, and the like." I have no doubt that beauty blogging will change as much in the next five years as it has in the last five; it might even disappear entirely. One impulse that will never fade, though, is our desire to tell little stories of ourselves. I suppose this one is mine.

29 comments:

  1. Ah, yes, thank you for the long and beautiful post.

    Candid blogs will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. Most (if not all) of the time, I'm not even reading to learn about products or for probable awesome finds. I just... read. And I'm entertained with all the musings. I'm reading less and less of bullet-point posts and more and more of longer ones, with stories... If it's something related to me being born in 1983, so be it.

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    1. 1983 was a good year, clearly! Lots of awesome people born then. And yeah, I read beauty blogs to hear about products, but I'm more interested in why people buy them and how they use them than in the products themselves...though a bit of sparkly eyeshadow porn never goes amiss.

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  2. That was a good read, thanks! I relate to all of it. Then again, I am an Old. An old Old, in blogging terms. I started my blog on Tumblr, and there I was fairly concise, but I got annoyed with glitches and moved to Blogger - and at that point I became as long-winded as I am in my academic writing. I hope you keep doing this, because actual writing on beauty-focused blogs is becoming rarer. Glossy photos can be kind of therapeutic, but they all blur together pretty quickly if there's no substance with them. I have been instagramming more, but that's more about my limited time than readers' assumed attention spans. Even there I write longer captions than one is probably supposed to do.

    I remember that exact snark comment on the forum that you quoted. Ha! I prefer GOMI for getting my fill of snark, personally, though I haven't been brave enough to comment yet. GOMI is sadly/mercifully light on the beauty blogger snarking, however.

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    1. I started my blog on Tumblr as well, because I'd been using the platform for so long: my personal Tumblr turned five (!) the other day. But I eventually came to believe that a Blogger-based beauty blog would reach a larger audience, which turned out to be true. I actually had another blog on Blogger way back in 2009, but it was a very short-lived blog about Restoration England. Let's just say it didn't get a lot of hits...

      I'm a habitual reader of a couple of threads on GOMI, where the level of discourse is generally higher (and funnier) than in the Beauty Forum That Shall Not Be Named. I was hoping that that forum would turn out to be a beauty-blogger version of GOMI, but no such luck. All it did was teach me how ignorant I am of most of the big beauty blogs and YouTube gurus! I wish more people would be honest about reading GOMI and not claim to have "stumbled across" one thread or another, since I'm fairly certain that most bloggers are familiar with it at this point.

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    2. Haha yeah, I love when people declare how shocked they are, SHOCKED I SAY, that such a negative place exists, once they get mentioned on GOMI. Come on. It can get nasty sometimes, but I think we need to be critical of media, especially when it's making money off of its audience (and I've picked up some good blogging tips reading there, too!).

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  3. Yes, I'm so 2009 as well, and the very uncool kind of retro, so I suppose it goes that I have no patience for self promotion. I do think however that while the professional blogs are going mainstream, the old-fashioned blogs are becoming a new niche with its own dedicated audience, and so I don't foresee them disappearing entirely from the Internet. At least... I hope so? :) Beautifully written post.

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    1. I agree that smaller blogs are becoming a new niche! It's actually freeing to realize that I don't have to review ALL TEH NEW PRODUCTS, because there are hundreds of people willing to buy and review them before I even hear about them. I can just hang out here and do my own thing, you know? Plus, it seems that the two kinds of blogs attract two different kinds of readers, with a few exceptions. I think Karen of Makeup and Beauty Blog, for instance, is great at maintaining her personal voice even as a "big" beauty blogger.

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  4. Still reeling from the thought that 2009 was six years ago...!! I must have become an Old while I was looking the other way or something.

    I started reading fashion blogs before transitioning to beauty blogs, and noticed the shift to monetization and the shift to insta-posts happened there first, but beauty blogs seem to have caught up now.

    Anyway, I love old style beauty blogs, where thoughts extend beyond swatches. The fact that they are becoming rarer just makes those that exist all the more precious to me.

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    1. The Internet has made me feel like an Old since, I don't know, 2008? It's good at doing that.

      The first blogs I read regularly were fashion blogs, and I turned to beauty blogs after some of my favorite fashion bloggers either stopped posting or monetized aggressively. Beauty blogging seemed to attract a nerdier, more introspective crowd (which still seems to be the case, in general). Fashion blogging is kind of a wasteland these days, unfortunately. So much sucking up to corporations and bigger bloggers.

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  5. I started blogging in 2012 but I don't consider myself a modern blogger. My blog is my little place on the web where I talk about beauty, obviously, but it's also the place where I express myself and try to be creative and do something that's simply fun, both for me and my readers. I think it's important that to show the person behind the blog. Otherwise it just feels so distant ya know. I can feel myself always going back to blogs who are like that, who feel personal and unique. Otherwise it's just the nth blog in a row without personality and where it's all about follower rates, getting clicks and making money. You forget about those thirteen-in-a-dozen blogs so easily.

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    1. The word "modern" has ceased to have any meaning for me! In my academic life I think of "modernity" as starting around 1500, yet a "modern" blog is, I don't know, younger than two years old? And I agree, I don't bother reading blogs if they don't give a sense of the person writing them. What really baffles me is when a blog isn't monetized in any way, yet the blogger still begs for clicks and pageviews and followers all over the Internet. What is the point? Is it just about ego gratification? So bizarre. Of course I feel proud when lots of people read a post I've written, but if I went out of my way to seek pageviews, they wouldn't have much meaning.

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  6. I didn't start beauty blogging until 2014, but I have been reading them for longer, and I still like long posts. I'm not trying to be the next Temptalia or whatever, and there's no way I can write about and swatch every new product, so I just don't even try. people's attention spans seem to be pretty short, but I write firstly for myself, so I'll write long posts if I want!

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    1. No one can be the next Temptalia! I'm perpetually in awe of how many reviews she manages to post every day. And when it comes to my own popularity (or lack thereof), I have a low bar, since I've already come to terms with writing for a very limited academic audience. I'm pretty sure that more people have viewed my beauty blog than will ever read my academic work, so I can't really complain...

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  7. My online life started around 1999, when everyone was worried about predators online and as a teenage girl I was assumed to be vulnerable. I got some ideas about anonymity and security pretty firmly planted in my head back then. These are at odds with the age of Facebook: for example, I remember being told not to post your exact birthdate, as an identity protection measure, for which reason I still tend to post things like either "it is my birthday today" or "I turned 30 last week" but not the date and the age together. This is doubtless a tissue-thin attempt at security, but it's a habit.

    Maybe my habit of only ever lurking on most blogs, even those written by people I know, is an extension of the same instinct toward privacy.

    Long-form blogs seem to have a natural lifespan--all the blogs that introduced me to the form have closed up shop in the wake of career changes, marriages, divorces, the birth of children, the closing-up of hosting services, and in one case a loss of faith. Often the swan song is "I miss using this site, I should write here more." Then they diminish and go away into the West. But I enjoy them while they last, and sometimes I spend time reading the archives of defunct blogs. I am fond of archives. That's something blogs do better than any other social media form I know.

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    1. Wait, are you the Marjorie I know in real life, or a different one?

      I've long since accepted that I'll never have as much privacy online as I think I do. I mean, I came of age in the Bush years; I just sort of assume that everyone is watching everyone else at all times. Though I did hesitate before posting photos of my face on this blog, and I still haven't mentioned my real name or where I live or go to school (none of which is relevant to my makeup habit, anyway). I'd like to believe that I can maintain a professional life separate from my blogging life. Time will tell if this is true.

      I've been thinking a lot about the lifespan of blogs, especially as so many of my favorites have faded from the landscape in the last few years. One doesn't think of blogs as having an end; they're just supposed to continue indefinitely, except that they don't. I admire bloggers who decide when the time has come for them to head to the Undying Lands, and write their farewells accordingly.

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    2. (Come on, Blogger, I shouldn't have to type the same comment three times.)

      It's the Marjorie you know in real life! Sorry, I was a little too indirect there.

      I almost never have anything interesting to say about makeup myself (I'm currently on the third tube of the only lipstick I ever use--there are a couple others knocking around my cabinets that turned out to look either ghostly or hideously orange). But I'll read interesting blog posts on just about any subject.

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    3. HI MARJORIE! I figured it must be you, because it would be too uncanny if someone also named Marjorie had the same writing style as you, but I thought I'd better make sure. What's the only lipstick you ever use? I need details.

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    4. It's a Stila Long-Wear Lip Color in Paramour, which I first purchased when I wandered into a Sephora in New York some seven years ago, found something I liked for the first time ever, and pledged allegiance to it from that day forward. It's great--scentless, unsticky, and unobtrusive in every way but offering very nice consistent color in a tone I find flattering but not OH HI I DRESSED UP, which is a common feeling in the upper midwest--but it seems the line is being discontinued, so I'm going to have to find some other go-to. Maybe your reviews will come in handy!

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  8. This is a wonderful long-form post, just the kind of ones I love to read. Even if you hadn't included the wonderful picture of you when you were a wee little sprite, I still would have read and savored your post until the very end.

    I know the kind of media consumer I am. While I read the various "news" items that have been distilled down to one 5 second video or sensationalistic quote, I love long-form journalism and investigative news stories, too. I think there is room for both, just like there is room for the instagram-bloggers and wordy, long-form beauty bloggers, too!

    I know what I write, though I've recently fired up an IG account, I feel mostly like a fish out of water. It is not easy for me to make one perfectly styled photo, or convey the thoughts I would normally put into a blog post. Hehehe! I definitely am an OLD, that's for sure. I remember in the 90s when my sister, a computer science grad student brought me into her lab and showed me her personal page on a world wide web.

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    1. When my parents and I moved to San Francisco in 1995, we were baffled by billboards and bus advertisements that had random-sounding strings of letters and numbers and punctuation at the end. What the hell did "www." mean? For a while, it was a running joke between my mom and me. No one I knew personally had their own worldwidewebpage! Pretty awesome.

      I think there's room for both kinds of bloggers, too, and I do like reading both kinds. Sometimes I just want to turn off my brain and look at dozens of lipstick photos.

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    2. You know what IG is good for (aside from styled photos of lipsticks, etc)? Really really really cute animal photos. I realize a good 50% of my IG stream is animal photos/videos.

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  9. Hahaha this is why I love your blog. <3 I am very "kids these days" about the Internet now, though, but whenever I read my old posts I thank the lawddd that the Internet was not at all like it is now back then. I mean. I would have been crucified for the stupid shit I said. I was born in 1988 and I teeter in between wanting longform stuff and "just give me pictures, man!" and I think there's a time and place for everything. I really, really, really love longform blogging and it peeves me so much when a super popular blog shows super unhelpful information, no photos of anything except one styled one, and like a paragraph or two of general information I can file under "no shit, Sherlock." Granted, it's an irrational peeve, but I still love words and photos and funniness and PERSONALITY! sprinkled all throughout a post of substance or at least value.

    Anyway, we can all be dinosaurs together. :)

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    1. Part of me does wish the Internet had existed in its current form when I was a teenager; it might have helped me to feel a bit less isolated when I was growing up. Then again, I might have had an insufferable blog in which I bitched about no one understanding me. Maybe it was for the best that I kept a diary instead.

      I hate sloppy blogging, too, especially when it comes from someone who has thousands of followers and makes money from her blog. That's just the way of the world, I guess.

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  10. Now I feel older than dirt but kind of in a proud way. Tracing our blogging heritage is fascinating. I come from a long line of abandoned online journals and message boards so it was only natural to land here in ye olde timey blogosphere. The gateway to beauty blogging for me was a blog called Chaptastic that was intent on reviewing every single lip balm out there and another blog dedicated to reviewing all the mascaras ever made. Even though they were reviewcentric, there was a cozy homemade feel about those blogs, because I felt like the neurotic voices behind them belonged to people I would get along with in "real life."

    There was also a sense of freedom in the beauty blogging community 4-5 years ago that doesn't exist anymore. Despite the lack of clear photos or neatly stored collections, there was charm in the honest way people spoke about their beauty obsessions and passions without insecurity and fear. Bloggers have become overly self-aware now and seem too watchful of what others are doing and saying (both readers and other bloggers), and on the flip side of that are those who say too much. For sure beauty blogging was more fun while we were mostly anonymous - thoughts were uncensored but still respectful. I think that's what a lot of us miss about that brief span of time in internet history. Now everything is tied to our public social profiles and either we're petrified of being found out or being regarded negatively. So despite the lack of monetization in certain cases as you mentioned above somewhere, it's all personal PR boosts all the time. I fully engaged in it for a time and still do to an extent but recently conducted a huge social media purge of content that wasn't adding significant value or enjoyment. Hopping online has become much more fun and relaxed ever since. Anyway, thanks for this post! It was a joy to read and reply to.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my post! Though I wasn't part of the beauty blogging community 4-5 years ago, I know what you mean about the sense of freedom. There was definitely a time when both fashion and beauty bloggers were doing their own thing and didn't have to answer to brands or labels. Unfortunately, if there's money to be made in a capitalist society, it will get made somehow. People like to blame bloggers for "selling out," but I think the larger companies are more to blame (if we're going to cast blame, which I'm not convinced we should) for turning bloggers into guerrilla advertisers. And once those brands had cultivated a sense of obligation in bloggers, a certain amount of honesty vanished from the blogosphere. I also remember incidents were certain anonymous bloggers were "outed" and got in trouble at their jobs. Maybe the era of specialization arose as a response to that. I mean, if you're focusing on makeup, you're probably not also complaining about your boss.

      I'd never heard of that lip-balm blog, but it sounds amazing, and I'm not even that interested in lip balms. It's all about the personal voice, I agree.

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  11. This is such a wonderful post. Of course, now I feel ancient, because I didn't even have a computer at home until I was in grad school. My undergrad papers were written on a typewriter! (it wouldn't surprise me if there were people who had to Google "typewriter"...) I think that people who just assume that doing things the newest way is the best way are after very specific things: I know when I do quick searches on IG, it's because I just want to see if there are photos available. I read blog posts because I value the insights and commentary that those bloggers offer.

    Clearly, my blog is completely old fashioned, since I never even progressed to the point of focusing on one subject. I admire others' ability to focus, but that's never been my strong point and trying to maintain a separate blog on each of the subjects that interests me would leave me dizzy. That has meant that I've had to be somewhat careful about what I post, but the type of work that I do has afforded me the ability to be reasonably frank both on line and in person. (Since part of the purpose of the blog is to promote my own fiction writing, I don't have a choice but to use my name, or sound like some weirdo obsessed with some author no one else has heard of.)

    I do think that eventually there will just be so much on line that is only photos, or other types of snippets, offered without commentary that people will begin to circle back to long-form content, just because too much choice and too many "quick fixes" becomes confusing and tiring. It might not ever have the hegemony that it did early on, but I believe that there will be a renewed interest in people who can curate product launches, book reviews, cultural commentary, art, music, sports, politics, etc. No one time to be an expert in everything, and as there is more and more information available, people who've spent time researching and studying their subject will become valuable again.

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    1. I wonder if the backlash isn't already starting. The fashion-blogging bubble burst a year or two ago, with bloggers shut out of the most prestigious fashion shows. The beauty world doesn't have anything as big as Fashion Week, but I'd be surprised if a lot of people haven't realized that only a tiny handful of beauty bloggers can make a living from their blogs. For the rest of us, it has to remain a hobby. I found LipstickRules' most recent post illuminating: she discusses the sense of freedom she felt when she stopped getting press samples. I predict that as the divide between monetized and hobby blogs becomes more pronounced, more people will rediscover the pleasures of longform blogging. At least, I hope so!

      I have vivid memories of my father teaching me to use a typewriter when I was about four. I loved holding down the exclamation-point key and hearing the loud rattling sound as the page moved to the left. Word processing is a less visceral pleasure, though I don't know what I'd do without the ability to move paragraphs around! Adapt, I suppose.

      Oddly, I don't feel the need to blog about anything but beauty. Of course my other interests do find their way into my posts, but I have real-life friends who share those interests, and very few who share my obsession with lipstick. I hope I never become one of those grad students who maintain whole blogs about their dissertations...

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  12. I love this post (and you) so much! ^_^ I didn't mean that to sound creepy, but it probably does! Being born in 1986, I have essentially had exactly the same experience as you, with the exceptions that I read/participated in more forums than blogs, and am so hopelessly bad at Facebook that I've never posted anything exciting enough to warrant people finding/teasing me about it ;-)

    Funny story: I was reading a similar one of those snark things the other day, but sadly the one I stumbled onto was pretty much devoid of anything constructive - it was just a bunch of people whinging smugly to each other (can you whinge smugly? Apparently...) about how awful and shallow (OH THE HYPOCRISY) etc so-and-so was, purely, as far as I could tell, because that person had managed to make a modest living/generate a decent following from their blog/vlog/whatever. The place just made me sad. I'd quite like to find one that offered constructive criticism, but really, I feel that such criticism might be more useful put into a private email to the individual in question. There's still something that tastes bad to me about 'constructively' criticising another person on a public forum they may never even read...

    Can I just say: High fives for Tamora Pierce reading. She (and Wilbur Smith, more extremely!) shaped my fiction-reading young adulthood. I went to the bookstore the other day, wandered past the YA section and thought I'd check to see what she'd been doing recently. There was nothing there, not even her old stuff. Actual tears sprang into my eyes. ACTUAL TEARS.

    In terms of my own blogging: my blog is pretty resolutely sitting in the mould in which I made it. I have not changed my Wordpress theme at all, and I will always pose miniatures with my makeup and/or refer to it in the context of D&D type stuff because my niche-within-a-niche is damn cosy. :-) I find myself wondering, sometimes, how much of my posts people actually read (in general, I mean, not my beloved regulars). I don't actually mind, in one sense - I mean, I hope my blog is useful to anyone, regardless of whether they read all the text or just glance over the swatch photos - but there is that little core part of me that is just in love with the idea of rambling, and people engaging with that rambling :-) I would love to write some longer, more rambly historical/scientific type posts myself, but tend to find the process crippled by lack of time/thesis guilt. I keep telling myself that when the thesis is behind me, I will finally indulge, but I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens there...

    Keep doing what you're doing. You're amazing, and, I feel, somewhat of a kindred spirit. Also, I hijacked someone else's computer to comment here, and they're tapping their foot, so I apologise for any typos I haven't yet had the time to catch in this, my usual Tolstoy-grade ramblecomment. :-)

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    1. The difference between your comments and Tolstoy's novels is that I actually finish reading your comments. <3 And no need to apologize for being "creepy": enthusiasm =/= creepiness! I mean, fine, sometimes enthusiasm VERGES on creepiness (not in your case, just in general). But if I weren't comfortable with this, I wouldn't have devoted my life to obsessively studying one subject...

      I should have been more clear about my position on snark forums (actually, I might write a separate post about them). It's not that I celebrate the fact that they exist; I just realize that something like them has existed for centuries. And not all snark is created equal. I can't stand body snark, stalkerish speculation about bloggers' families, or mockery of small bloggers who are just doing their thing without hurting anyone. But when it comes to famous bloggers who are making lots of money and engaging in unethical self-promotion or shady business practices...well. I do believe in the value of satire, and I don't think any cultural force should be allowed to get too big, too influential, and too impervious to criticism. I remember one incident a few years ago when GOMI reported on an Anthropologie-focused blogger who had scammed people out of thousands of dollars. Most of the victims couldn't bring themselves to report her or confront her directly (that wouldn't be "nice," after all), and she was a big name in the Anthro blogging community, so she kept getting away with her scams. I think excessive niceness on the Internet can be almost as harmful as excessive meanness: really, they're two sides of the same coin. And I don't think snark forums would be as much of a presence as they are now if constructive criticism and honest debate were more generally accepted in the blogosphere. I don't mean that snark *is* constructive criticism; I just mean that it often seems to arise from an online culture in which niceness trumps honesty.

      That said, there will always be assholes who get pleasure from insulting others' looks or interests or whatever. I can't explain those people. They need to get a more fulfilling hobby, like lipstick collecting.

      NO TAMORA PIERCE IN A YA SECTION? I might have cried, too. I was always more into the Circle of Magic books than the Alanna series, though of course I read all the Alanna books too. And the Daine books (though in retrospect, teenage Daine's relationship with her 30-ish mentor is creepy as hell). And there were some books about Alanna's daughter and, like, her granddaughter, maybe? I lost track after a while.

      I look forward to reading some historical or scientific ramblings from you whenever you have time! And I'm very flattered that you hijacked someone else's computer just to type that comment. :)

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