I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years now, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time.
Er, that makes me sound like I’m about 102, and witnessed the birth of computers or something, doesn’t it? I mean, the changes haven’t been THAT drastic, but it’s definitely true to say that things have changed. Back when I started this blog, the majority of my posts didn’t have any photos, for instance, and the ones that DID had tiny, blurry ones that looked like they’d been taken in the dark – and probably were, actually. There was no Twitter, no Instagram… you young ‘uns just don’t know what it was like for us, and… I’m doing it again, aren’t I?
Blogs were different, is what I’m saying. What I’m hearing, meanwhile – and hearing over and over again, from so many of my fellow bloggers at the moment – is that blogs were also better back then. I know I’ve talked about this before, so apologies for continuing to beat the dead horse, but I’ve read at least three blogs posts this week alone, all on the subject of how much BETTER those old-style blogs were, and the argument always seems to go something like this:
Blogs are too glossy these days!
They look too professional!
I can’t relate to them!
The photos are too good now!
I wish blogs could just go back to how they used to be in the good old days!
And then there’s normally a paragraph or two about how blogs aren’t supposed to be slick and glossy, or to have “professional” looking photos. Blogs are supposed to be home-made and a bit rough around the edges. Those blogs are the only good blogs left: the only ones that are real, and honest, and relatable, while the other type of blogs are run by some kind of Machiavellian manipulators, greedily trying to make a quick buck any way they can, and squashing the poor, honest amateurs underfoot as they go. Mirror selfies are almost always mentioned at this point, and are held to be the sign of a truly honest, ol’ style blogge, as is taking product shots on your bed in poor light, and then using them anyway, like we did in ’06.
I’m genuinely not trying to single anyone out here, either: I’ve seriously read these same things so many times now (and always with dozens of commenters, all agreeing that THEY prefer poorly-lit photos to ‘professional’ ones, too!) that I’m really starting to feel like the odd one out, because I just don’t relate to any of this – the hankering after 2006, and the hand-wringing over how everything went to hell in a handbasket with the invention of Instagram. Honestly? I DON’T miss the “good old days”. I actually prefer the way things are now in the blog world, and here’s why:
I like looking at beautiful photos…
…and I try my best to create beautiful photos for my own blog, too. I’m well aware that I frequently fall short of that goal, but I DO try, and I enjoy working on my photography and gradually seeing it improve. I love how creative blogs look in these bad new days of 2016, and I even like all of those flatlays you see on Instagram – yes, even the ones that you know the person probably spent ages setting up just to photograph. I like the less ‘professional’ looking shots too, of course: the ones that are just random snapshots of whatever caught the person’s eye, taken with no thought for whether or not they fit into a certain “theme”, and which give you a real insight into their day. Both of those styles have their place, and it’s a shame that people seem to think they have to pick a side and stick to it, purely because they’ve been told that’s how it’s supposed to be done.
Ultimately, though, when I take photos for my blog, I do my best to make them clear and well-lit, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I have a “fancy” camera. Sure, I sometimes use my phone to take photos, too (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that EITHER, just for the record), but regardless of how I take them, I always do my best to try to make my photos as good as possible under the circumstances, because why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t anyone, for that matter? I mean, I’m not saying everyone needs to rush out and buy a £10,000 camera or whatever, but I’m sure people who take mirror selfies try to take the best mirror selfies they can, don’t they?
I like well-designed websites
As with the photos, I like beautiful-looking websites. I just do. Not only are they easier to read and navigate (I mean, do people really think the endless scroll of livejournal and the like was a better option? The black backgrounds with the multi-coloured text? Well, OK, if you absolutely insist…), I just enjoy looking at them. I have a little bit of an obsession with blog design: I’m constantly tweaking my own design and trying to improve it, and I actually LIKE blogs that “look a bit like magazines”. Of course, I like ones that DON’T look like magazines, too (I can’t remember a single occasion where I’ve decided to either follow or unfollow a blog based purely on design, so please don’t think I’m trying to say that magazine-style is the only acceptable way to go either: I’m really not!), and isn’t that the beauty of blogging: that it can be whatever you want it to be?
I don’t think there’s a limit to what blogs “should” be
None of this talk about what blogs “should” be like makes any sense at all to me, because I don’t think blogs are “supposed” to be like ANYTHING. I definitely don’t think they should only ever be ‘amateur’ – or even just to look amateur, if the blogger doesn’t want them to. There is no limit – and there’s no sense in trying to create one, just because you started blogging in 2006, and your brain somehow got stuck there. This is still a new industry: it’s still growing and developing, and it WILL change. I find it fascinating (but confusing) that in such a new industry, so many people seem to be stuck in the past, and resistant to that change. I would have expected the opposite to be true: that people who grew up with the internet would be more open to the idea that there aren’t any “rules”, and that they can do whatever they want with it – and instead, a lot of people just seem to want to say, “No, blogging can only ever be done THIS way, and if you don’t agree, you can’t sit with us.”
I don’t think ‘professional‘ is a dirty word
The idea that authenticity is intrinsically connected to being “amateur” is something that’s been totally accepted by the blogging community lately, and I think it’s time it was challenged. Why must we insist on limiting people in this way: telling them they must only ever aspire to be “average”, because if they’re not average, they’re not relatable, and we’re all going to roll our eyes and talk about how they’re spoiling things for the rest of us? When did “professional” become a dirty word?
Interestingly, this isn’t an attitude I see applied to other industries – or to other hobbies-that-can-also-be-jobs, to make a better comparison. Dressmaking, for instance. I know a few people who are really into dress-making: they don’t do it professionally, but they ALSO don’t go around saying that the people who DO make dresses professionally are”ruining” it for them all, or that they prefer seeing people make dresses that don’t fit very well, and have some loose stitching, because they’re SO much more relatable. Because that would just sound like sour grapes, wouldn’t it? It would sound like they were saying, “Oh, I want to be a dressmaker, but I don’t actually want to have to put a lot of effort into it: so people who DO put in a lot of effort should stop doing that, so I can compete with them more easily!” Which would be ridiculous, frankly.
They never say that, though, because the the dressmakers in this example know that just because something is a hobby, it doesn’t mean you don’t take it seriously, or that you can’t do it well – or, indeed, that no one should be allowed to try to do it professionally, because it’s only ever supposed to be a hobby. People do think this about blogs, though, and I find it quite depressing that people keep wanting to make up rules about something that became popular in the first place because there aren’t any. Why should we all have to blog in exactly the same way, after all? I mean, if you want to use your phone to take photos at midnight in your bedroom, do it. If you’re happy with the way your blog looks, don’t change it: why should you? Just don’t go around telling everyone else that THEY’RE not allowed to change their designs, or work on their photography either: you don’t have to blog in the same way as them, but they shouldn’t be made to feel they have to blog like YOU, either.
Alternatively, we could all just go back to Livejournal, and see how long it takes for people to start going, “You know, I miss the days when blogs looked a bit nicer! It made them so much more interesting! I wish I could customise my design a bit more: and wouldn’t it be great if you could actually see what people are wearing in their photos, rather than all of these blurry photos they keep posting all the time!”