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Blogging: Why I don’t miss the ‘good old days’

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:
some thoughts about how blogging has changed

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?

blogging: Why I don;t miss the good ol' days

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.

heart-print mug and red lipstick

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!”

Things change: it’s a simple fact of life. But if you really want them to stay the same, they can: just don’t be surprised if not everyone wants to join you…

What do you think?

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23 Comments
  • FM
    February 24, 2016

    Great post – not a blogger, but I enjoy reading this series nonetheless.

    BTW, have been meaning to say for a while that your posts have a formatting issue when viewed in Safari: the post’s heading drops to obscure the first paragraph of text. Happy to send you a screen shot if you think that would be helpful to correct this.

    • Amber
      February 24, 2016

      Yes, I know – we’ve raised a support ticket with the person who created the theme, so hopefully it’ll be sorted soon!

  • Ida
    February 24, 2016

    I started reading blogs about seven years ago and I think some of them was really professional already back then. I think what people actually mean is that they want to blog like thay did back then and still get readers without going the extra mile for it.

    We actually talked about this in a Twitter chat some days ago and it seems like most girls there wanted blogs to be both praffesional/good lokking and relatable. And I honesty think that bloggers have a very hard time to “make it big” if they don’t have both parts. You could have the best looking makeup pictures in the world but if people can’t relate they will get bored and don’t stick around.
    I’ve been reading your blog for a year now both because you give great tips when it comes to blogging ang clothing but also becasue you are relatable.

    xoxo

    • Amber
      February 24, 2016

      “I think what people actually mean is that they want to blog like thay did back then and still get readers without going the extra mile for it.”

      Exactly: I always feel that people who claim to prefer “bad” photos etc are being a bit disingenuous, and what they’re really complaining about is the fact that back then you could post blurry photos and still have a huge following, but now it doesn’t work like that. (And, I mean, it would be great to be successful and not have to work at it, but it’s not very realistic!) I also notice that the people who say they want blogs to be just like they were in 2006 are often the same ones asking people to help them improve their theme, or saying they want to take better photos or whatever – I find it really hard to believe that if someone offered to take professional photos for them they’d say, “No thanks, I much prefer having blurry ones on my blog: it makes me more relatable!”

      • Sarah Rooftops
        February 24, 2016

        I love that quote from Ida. I definitely want to blog like I did back then and get readers (actually, I do and I do but also:) and get a book deal and make some money and have people send me dresses even though I’m not a fashion blogger. But I also realise that’s pretty unlikely and that it’s not reasonable to sulk about it.

        I tend to prefer blogs which are written “old style” (i.e. lots of personal posts, minimal paid content) but that’s just because they’re what I enjoy reading; it’s not because of their template or the quality of their photos or how much effort they put into monetisation. Some of them look glossy, some of them don’t. If I was online trying to find out about beauty products, say, I’d prefer blogs which looked like magazines. It’s just a case of people knowing what THEY want and assuming that anybody who doesn’t share their exact tastes and ideals is automatically wrong. And that’s by no means limited to blogging!

  • nikkiana
    February 24, 2016

    A little bit earlier today I found myself replying to a post on Facebook which sent me back into a bit of a lament about how it was in the “good old days” (I’ve been blogging in some capacity for 19 years now, longer than the word’s existed in fact… so I’ve seen a lot of evolution of the medium), so this post seems somewhat timely…

    I think in part, I feel nostalgic for earlier days of blogging because I feel nostalgic for my youth in general. I miss the days where I wrote because I felt like it and the only intention I had was to connect with other people who might identify with what I said. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I wasn’t trying to sell anyone anything. I was just myself and I let multiple facets of myself show up on my blog, and the only thing I hoped I’d get out of it was friendship. I miss that childlike freedom. I think adulthood in general took that away from me more than the shifts in whatever was popular with the medium in a particular epoch did.

    I think what does grow tiresome for me in the modern era of blogging is it’s relationship to social media. I miss the days when I could post a blog post and just be done with it. I only had to maintain a presence in ONE place, and that ONE place was MINE and I had complete control over it. Now, I have to think about what I’m going to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and what I’m posting there and worrying if I’m sharing stuff too much or not enough… or if there’s some place else entirely where I should be sharing things that nobody’s told me about yet. I’ve automated a lot of it, but it’s still ridiculously time consuming.

    • Amber
      February 24, 2016

      You still could do those things, though, surely? I follow a few bloggers who just write when they feel like it, and don’t seem to worry about growing a following or anything like that, so I don’t think it’s the case that it’s just not possible to do that any more. It’s probably harder to get noticed that way, sure, but if the aim is simply to do it for yourself, I guess that maybe wouldn’t matter as much?

      I totally agree about social media, though – I automate it as much as possible because I just can’t keep up with it: I definitely miss the days when people commented just on the blog, rather than all over the internet!

      • nikkiana
        February 25, 2016

        That’s certainly true… There’s nothing stopping anybody from just doing things the way that works best for them, and all the suggestions, advice, rules, etc. that exists for how to build a “successful” blog can just as easily be heeded or disregarded based on what you feel works for you, and supports whatever your intentions are.

  • Jenny
    February 24, 2016

    I love the dressmaking example (as a sewing blogger especially)!! Sadly, though, you do hear the occasional similar comment, mostly deriding those who can make money with their sewing blogs. I say go for it if you can! If anyone’s blog becomes one big add, I can always just, gasp, not visit anymore.

    • Amber
      February 24, 2016

      Ah, really?! I guess it’s not just bloggers, then!

  • Sandra
    February 24, 2016

    I’ve been reading blogs for a very long time now and since about one year I’ve been writing for my own one. And I’m with you Amber! I think it is great to see how the desing and pictures get better and better. I like to compare my first pictures with my latest to see how they improved. And if you have a look at the most successful bloggers you will see that they have amazing pictures and great themes.

    PS: I really love your blogging series. :))

    xx
    Sandra

  • Ayden
    February 24, 2016

    Spot on post as always, Amber. I remember the ‘good old days’ of blogging, and in reality when I look back on my photos, and writing, and layout – I cringe! I’m only cringing at 18 year old myspace-esque me though, the way I blogged reflected the person who I was back then, and the way things have progressed with me and my blog now (content, layout, and how I write etc) is something I am happy with. I feel like my blog is an extension of me, so of course it’s going to change and develop over the years! Some people don’t like change though. And some bloggers who haven’t perhaps ‘made it big’ slightly resent new kids on the block with their shiny layouts and professional looking photos. But I hate the whole ‘woe is me, back in my day etc etc’ side of it. It’s not necessary at all! Hell yes I feel intimidated by a 16 year old blogger with a fancy camera, perfectly designed and SEO savvy website, because I look back on my blog at that age and think holy shit, I was nowhere near that level or remotely in that zone when I first started out. But at 16 I also didn’t fill in my eyebrows, shop and topshop and have an instagram – like most 16 year olds do these days! Times change, things modernise, and we adapt. So I’ll never get bitter about new bloggers having all the things I didn’t have when I started out. xx

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2016

    I agree with you, it makes no sense to have a hobby or job and then not want to be good at it. We should all want to improve and leave the blurry photos behind. As a newer blogger though, when I read this I did think that “the old days” is what I thought blogging was. I thought I could create a blog and talk about what I wanted and slowly get better at it. But then I had a blog and I started reading about how to improve it and so much was telling me I had to look a certain way and know so much and have a niche. And suddenly I became nostalgic for a time I never experienced, a time when I could slowly improve my blog and people would come along for the ride. Because there is a real irony here. People want the old days back but if they land on your blog and it isn’t new and shiny and magazine-like they are likely to move on.

    Blogs are professional and that is great. Isn’t that what we should aim for? Shouldn’t we want to be really good at what we do? And really, we benefit so much by being further along in the blogging world. People have already tried things, and figured things out, and then posted tutorials on how to do them. We have more to aim for and that is good. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, and maybe it was easier to be successful years ago, but that just makes it more of a challenge now and challenges are good. In the meantime, I’ll be grateful for the people who come along for the ride.

    • Amber
      February 24, 2016

      You still can, though! You can definitely still just start a blog and take your time doing whatever you like with it: just ignore all of the advice posts etc until if and when you want to read them 😉

  • CiCi Marie
    February 24, 2016

    I agree with you – I like the way things have moved and I like that I’ve moved along with them. Apart from the fact my blog looks about x1 zillion better than it did when I started it, it’s also given me so many more new skills in photography and html to try to improve it that I never had before. I like learning new things and I like making things look pretty, so none of this feels bad to me.

  • Anna International
    February 24, 2016

    Awesome post. I agree, nothing wrong with reading something which is well-written, slickly photographed and well laid out. But if anyone is still hankering after a ‘good old days’ style amateur blog and an instagram feed which is not ‘curated’ in any way, head on over to mine! 😉

  • Sagan
    February 24, 2016

    YES! Me too.

    I also feel really proud about how far I’ve come with my blog from it’s early days of no pictures, and then terrible pictures, to where it’s at today. I’ve had to work hard at my photography skills. Professional blogging takes a lot of work. And I LIKE that my space is so much prettier now than it used to be!

    We’ve come a long way, us bloggers 🙂

  • Theresa
    February 24, 2016

    In addition to making blogs more interesting and unique, having a professional-looking blog is also VITAL to blogging as an industry. Blogging as a hobby means you aren’t working to make money at it, and you can do it in a free-style amateur way without worry. If somebody wants to blog and make money, though, it is a necessity to make your website look decent so that potential advertisers trust you care about your product and will make them look good too. AND most of your readers will be more likely to trust any reviews, advice, or other information you share, because you will seem more serious and experienced in your field. It’s basic branding, particularly when your online presence is your only way of making an impression.

  • Grasshopper
    February 24, 2016

    Great post! It does seem like people are probably wanting to get a lot for not as much effort. Regarding blogs themselves, a person can do what they want with it. There are no rules, other than don’t steal the content of others and the like. It’s really all about an individual’s goal and what they want to get out of it. I have a blog I use as a personal journal. It’s on Blogger and I haven’t purchased my own domain name for it. There are no pictures and I don’t post every day; and here’s the thing, I never set that blog up with the intention of monetizing it. It is simply a slot in cyberspace for me to record my thoughts. Its clean and feminine look is a nice backdrop for my innermost thoughts and I don’t feel the need to add more to it or change it. However, if I were to set up a blog with the intention of making it a business, with the intention of growing it and making it as successful as possible, then yes, I would absolutely be doing everything I could to make it look as professional as possible.

  • Kat
    February 24, 2016

    I’ve been blogging for awhile now too – I definitely used LieJournal and while the layouts there were fun (I can never forget the various Harry Potter ones I’d hunt up,), I love a clean, sleek look and how much easier the posts are to read too.

    I love the changes you’ve been making here too and watching this blog grow – it’s so fascinating to me as long-time reader as you change – I do miss the Rubin stories though!

    And I love the blogging series too 🙂

  • bonita
    February 25, 2016

    The only thing I wish is that I knew these things back in the day! I’ve come so far, so sometimes I can’t help but cringe when I look back at where I started, but most of the time it’s just fun to look at how far we can come and who knows where we’ll end up? I’ve even started on Periscope now! :O ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  • Ash
    February 25, 2016

    I remember my now-defunct art/writing blog fondly, but would I want to go back to the year 2000 and its blogging style? Nope, nope, no way. I think when people complain about “the good ol’ days,” they’re really complaining about having to work harder to attract any sort of following.

    I get that. Blogging would be soul-sucking if all you want is name-recognition. Thankfully, that’s not what everyone cares about. Some people write because they love to write and feel like they’ll explode if they don’t. If I miss anything about “the good ol’ days,” it’s bloggers who blogged for the sheer joy of writing, not for the possibility of becoming a model/designer/actress because the right people read their blog.

  • Nria
    March 21, 2016

    It’s the same with my hobby live role playing games!
    There are people who say it was better in the nineties, when the hobby startet.
    Back then, it was easy to be special without effort – the costumes were improvised, there were no shops or costume tailors.
    But today it just looks a lot better and that makes it more fun! You can’t turn back time and it’s better to accept that and enjoy the benefits of 2016 🙂

    By the way, there’s even a name for the phenomenon (wanting others not to give their best so that one can look better in comparison): The crab bucket phenomenon (not sure if this is the correct English name; but it’s called like that in German ;)) – those people behave like crabs in a bucket. They are not able or willing to get out of the bucket themselves, so they hinder the other crabs (who are trying) to get out as well.

    Well, I prefer nice costumes and great blog photos 🙂

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