A few days ago, Terry and I were watching some You Tube videos featuring various vloggers talking about their favourite and least-favourite baby products.
We were watching for the obvious reason that baby products are expensive (Seriously, some car seats cost more than my last car…), and we’d like to avoid making too many mistakes, but I very quickly became distracted by all of the damn caveats these vloggers were having to add to their reviews.
“This wasn’t exactly the best buy I made,” they’d start off bravely, before getting a panicked look in their eye, and quickly adding, “But, I mean, that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome! Because it’s totally awesome, just… not in a way that I personally found useful. That doesn’t mean it won’t be useful to YOU, though, because it probably will! Because it’s awesome, really! In fact, when I said I didn’t like it, that was probably just because I’m too stupid to use it properly: just ignore everything I say, OK?”
And so on and so forth, until they’d bent so far backwards in a bid to avoid offending anyone that they were now pretty much convinced that they really HAD liked the product, after all. And this would be over something like a muslin cloth, or something similarly innocuous.
I was fascinated by all of these caveats, because I totally get why bloggers/vloggers do it: and I get it because I do it myself – all the time.
The fact is, as a blogger, you really have to walk on eggshells all the time to avoid offending someone: which is harder than you might think. I, for instance, have offended people just by saying I don’t like a particular pair of shoes, or that a certain dress isn’t my style. I’ve offended people by revealing that their favourite foundation didn’t work for me – and when I say “offended” I mean, “to the point where they resort to name-calling and abuse, and tell me I don’t deserve to even HAVE a blog, because I’m just SO DAMN BAD at it.” I mean, can you imagine the reaction I’d get if I said something that was ACTUALLY controversial?
I don’t, though – say anything remotely controversial, that is. Honestly, I’m just too scared: because, in an internet world where people can get apoplectic with rage just because a blogger doesn’t have the same taste in shoes as them, you very quickly learn to tone down your opinions and caveat every single word you write – and I think that’s a bit of a shame, really. It’s not what blogging is supposed to be about, is it? No, when blogging first started to get big, people liked it because they felt bloggers could be trusted to give honest opinions about the things they used/bought/wore. Nowadays, it’s pretty rare to see a blogger express a negative opinion, though: I know a lot of readers believe that’s because we’re all being paid to be positive, or are worried about alienating brands, and that may well be true in some cases, but I actually think it’s also because “negativity” of any kind is not really tolerated on the internet, where everything’s supposed to be about self love, and positive vibes all the time.
How can you be totally honest about something – even something as simple as your taste in clothes – when you know you’re going to upset someone: possibly to the point where they’ll lash out at you in rage, and start making things super-personal. I’m thinking here of the time I said I wasn’t a fan of sneakers, and someone commented to say, “Well, that’s because someone as butch as you couldn’t possibly pull them off, anyway!” Or all of the many, many times I’ve said that something wasn’t to my personal taste, and people have written to me saying I’m totally irresponsible, and that they don’t understand why I persist in writing about fashion when I have such absolutely terrible taste? BUT Y THO?
Of course, the people who comment about responsibility do have a point, even if they don’t always express it particularly tactfully. I, for instance, will always add tons of caveats to my beauty and skincare-related posts, because I’m really aware that everyone is different in terms of skin tone/type, and that what works – or doesn’t work – for me, might have a totally different effect on someone else. (To be totally honest, I sometimes wonder what the point is of even doing those post: makeup often looks totally different on me than on the other bloggers I see swatch it, and I don’t feel I have much to offer anyone who doesn’t happen happen to look exactly like me – but that’s another post for another day. Or not.)
I would hate to put someone off using something just because I didn’t like it, and I also hate the thought of potentially encouraging my readers to spend their hard-earned cash on something they might not like. I’m not a makeup artist, or a skincare specialist, after all, and I’m really aware of the dangers of offering up opinions that are based on nothing more concrete than, “It didn’t work for me.” Similarly, as a small-business owner myself, I do feel a responsibility to not just trash someone’s livelihood because their product wasn’t quite to my liking – so yeah, I will caveat the hell out of posts where I think I could potentially influence people in a way that could have a negative effect on them/the brand I’m taking about, and I don’t really see any way around that.
When it comes to pure opinion and personal taste, though, it does disappoint me a little that the blogosphere really doesn’t encourage their expression. And, I mean, sure – you only have to look at the comment section on any major news website (Please don’t, though: it’s a really easy way to quickly lose all faith in humanity…) to see that there are plenty of people out there who are REALLY not shy about expressing their opinions: normally with some kind of pronouncement about “FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” which demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what freedom of speech actually IS.
In terms of blogging (and, I’m sure, vlogging…), though, I feel like ANY kind of opinion is automatically controversial, and thus liable to be shot down. As a result, the blogsphere has become very homogenised: not only do blogs tend to all LOOK the same (And yes, I know mine is no different in that respect…), they’ve all started to sound the same too: all peppered with talk of “self-love” and endless “inspiring” quotes urging us to believe that we’re “ALL BEAUTIFUL!” and that we just have to “BE POSITIVE!” because everything is wonderful and magical, and look, here is a photo of something to do with a unicorn! Be nice about the unicorn, or you will upset the person who likes unicorns – you big, unicorn-hating meanie, you!
There is very little in the way of dissenting opinion or actual debate any more, and I think a lot of bloggers (myself included) are a little bit afraid to venture an opinion – even a relatively innocuous one – for fear of the inevitable backlash that will occur. It’s reached a stage where I can’t even say something like, “I don’t really like adult onesies: they’re just not my taste,” without having to caveat it with, “I think they look totally amazing on other people, though: you rock that adult onesie, girl!” and that’s just a shame, really. Er, not because I’m just dying to express my hatred for adult onesies, obviously, but purely because I feel that, as adults, we should be able to accept that not everyone likes the same things as us, or has the same opinions, and that’s totally OK.
We are allowed to be different: and while I can definitely see how it would sting a little to hear someone say they’re not keen on something you love or own (And, for the record, I would never, ever go to someone’s blog or social media and tell them I don’t like something they’re wearing: that’s just rude and un-necessary. No, I’m talking here about those throwaway comments you might make that aren’t directed at anyone in particular, not ones made to/about an individual), it never fails to astonish me how upset some people get at the idea of someone doing things even slightly differently from them, and how hard they’ll sometimes work to tell that person they’re WRONG.
I’ve no idea what the answer to this is, by the way (Er, sorry if you just read this entire post thinking I was about to propose some well thought-out solution to this particular problem…): it’s just something I’ve been noticing for a while now – both in my own writing, in which I’m scared to venture any kind of opinion without caveating it to death – or on other people’s blogs/channels, where I keep seeing the same thing.
So. I’m Amber. I don’t like Birkenstocks, tights, any kind of sporting event or TV shows about cooking. I’m not going to bother caveating any of those things, even although I know I’m probably going to offend someone who’s currently watching Bake Off in their tights and Birkenstocks.