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Single White Female Syndrome: Dealing With Online Imitators and Blog Copycats

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‘ve written a lot here on the subject of copyright theft, and what do to if someone steals your words, pictures, or even your whole blog.

There’s another type of copying that occurs in the blogosphere, though, and it’s a far harder one to tackle: in fact, it’s a hard topic to even talk about, without sounding a bit paranoid, or like you have an over-inflated ego which makes you think everyone who does something even remotely similar to you is OBVIOUSLY copying you.

I’m talking here about the so-called sincerest form of flattery: imitation. When someone doesn’t actually copy and paste the content of your blog and try to pass it off as their own, but who may as well have, because they start to mimic (either consciously or unconsciously) your style – whether it be writing, clothing, or even your blog theme and design.

I’ve had this happen a few times now, and these incidents have been some of the most awkward I’ve ever had to deal with as a blogger. In one case, I remember a blogger who started commenting on all of my posts, always praising them, often mentioning that she would love to be able to dress like me, or do her hair like that, or whatever. At first I didn’t think anything of it: in fact, I thought she was incredibly sweet, and well, it’s hard not to like someone who’s being SO NICE to you, isn’t it?

single white female: dealing with online imitators and blog copycats
After a while, though, I noticed that the comments changed from, “I love your lipstick!” to “Can you tell me the exact colour and  brand of your lipstick, because I’m going to buy it this weekend?” and so on and so forth. Now, I honestly didn’t think anything of that, either: the nature of blogging (and particularly of fashion and beauty blogging), is that people want to buy the items they see you wearing, and in most cases that’s a good thing – it’s what allows bloggers to make money from affiliate links, after all, and what makes brands want to work with us, because they see as “influencers”.

In this case, however, the “influence” obviously went too far, because once she’d acquired all the same makeup as me, and many of the same clothes (she had the same colouring as me, which made the end result of this all the more creepy), she decided to start a blog of her own. “What’s the name of your blog theme?” she asked me. “Because I think I’m going to get it, too. What’s the font you use in your posts?” Then, one day her comments came with a URL attached to them, so I clicked on it, and…

WOW.

I mean, I can’t say she had copied me exactly, because she hadn’t. But reading her blog was eerily familiar to me. The green dresses. The red lipstick (same brand I used). The messy updo I used to wear a lot at that time. The poses. Even the writing style was very, very familiar, with certain words and phrases which I tended to use a lot cropping up in her writing, which was on the same themes as mine. She hated the OMGSNOW. She referred to people she didn’t understand as ‘The Others’. One day I posted a photo of the top of my head, showing a bow clipped into in my messy bun: the next day, she posted exactly the same picture, but of the top of HER head, showing an almost identical bow clipped into HER messy bun. And so it went on.

When things like this happen, what most people tell you is that you should “just be flattered” – because, after all, the person must really like you/your blog if they want to copy you THAT much, mustn’t they?

Now, that IS flattering, of course: but something someone once said to me that really stuck with me is that it’s flattering… but in the least flattering way possible. Which sounds a bit confusing, but it struck a chord with me, because what I took it to mean is that being copied in this way is flattering, sure – but it’s a type of “flattery” that doesn’t make you feel good. Actually, it makes you feel a bit sad, and frustrated, and it also puts you in an incredibly awkward position, because what you REALLY want to say is, “Look, why not get your own theme/outfit/writing style” rather than just mimicking mine?” but how on earth do you say that to someone who’s indicated that they really like and look up to you, and who you know means no harm to you?

For that matter, how do you even prove that the copying is happening AT ALL? I’m not the first redhead to have a love or green dresses and high heels, after all. I didn’t invent the word “OMGSNOW” and I’m not the first person to talk about ‘The Others’. I also don’t own the exclusive rights to the blog theme I use, am not the only person in the world to use Playfair Display as my body text, and I am definitely not the only blogger who takes photos of computers and coffee cups on white backdrops.

There are plenty of trends that sweep across the blogosphere, and which everyone seems to pick up at once. We all have those Ban.do pens, Kate Spade planners, and a nice collection of succulents in copper pots. What’s more, we all shop in the same stores, so we own the same clothes, and sometimes we put them together in the same kind of way, entirely by co-incidence.

On THAT subject, co-incidences DO happen. I held off publishing my ‘Blog Predictions for 2016’ post, for instance, because no sooner had I written it and saved it to draft, I saw another (much more popular) blogger, publish a post with exactly the same title. I didn’t copy her, and she definitely didn’t copy me – we just happened to have the same idea, at roughly the same time, and that happens more often than you’d think. Right now, for instance, there’s a post in my drafts folder which I’m similarly afraid to publish, because a few days ago someone tweeted a link to a much larger blog, which had just published something very similar. I’m worried that if I publish my post, people will think I’ve copied them: and the fact that I know I didn’t isn’t much of a defense is it?

This is why this kind of blog copying is so hard to deal with. In the case I talked about above, for instance, I dealt with it in completely the wrong way: by doing… well, nothing, really. Well, it’s not like you can go to someone’s blog and say, “I know I posted a link to that dress last week, but actually, I’m the only person who’s allowed to buy it, so you CAN’T,” can you? So I did nothing, in the hope that she’d eventually find someone else to copy – which she did… eventually.

What should I have done differently? I honestly don’t know. Er, it’s just occurred to me that you probably clicked onto this post in the hope that I’d have some awesome advice for you, but I really don’t: because this kind of thing has happened to me a few times now, and has also happened to some other bloggers I know, and I STILL don’t know what the best way to deal with it is. One thing I DO know is that it’s important not to jump to conclusions, or call someone out publicly: I’ve been on the receiving end of THAT, too, back in my freelancing days, when someone accused the blog I edited at the time of copying her site – which I’d never even heard of, let alone set out to copy. The blogger in question, however, just could not accept that shoe bloggers tend to end up writing about the same shoes every now and then, so she threw around some very unpleasant accusations about me and my fellow writers, finally resorting to the old “commenting under different names” trick, to try to make us think there were lots of people attacking us.

It wasn’t nice – and, more importantly, what she was saying just wasn’t TRUE. The few occasions where we’d covered the same topic as her had been genuine co-incidence, and down to the fact that we were all monitoring the same shoe sites every day, looking out for new products to feature. That experience was more than enough to convince me that public accusations are never a good idea – but I’m not sure I’d know how to approach someone privately either, and say, “Hey, I see you’ve been copying me again!” I mean, AWKWARD, right?

How would you do it? Have you ever been imitated online? Do tell…

 

What do you think?

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29 Comments
  • Anna Nuttall
    February 28, 2016

    Wow Amber – creeepy… seriously that must have freaked you out. That would weird me out if I had a blog/online copycat, but then again who would copy a 32ys old overweight 4ft10 woman? You and I have been in the blogsphere for a really long time and like me you also started on livejournal, do you remember Krystole? Does that name sound familiar? She was someone who would openly steal someone online identity and blog, people would get up in arm about it and this would occur all kind of online drama. She would openly pretend to be that person from a blog and do all kind of crazy stuff.
    Anyway google Krystole to know what I mean.

    • Jenn
      June 3, 2019

      You sound kinda crazy yourself..

  • Corinne
    February 28, 2016

    Ohh dear, that sounds intense! I’ve had a few posts of mine copied, but not my whole blog or style I don’t think. But then again, I’m not really that unique so there are many blogs like mine out there that have a photography style similar to mine. Wallpaper background ohhh I’m so special.

    The first time someone copied one of my posts I emailed the girl. Because it was such a blatant copy. It was a list style post about goals for 2015 and all her points were the same and even the same sentences in some parts. I emailed her and basically said look, this is post is exactly like mine and copied hers vs mine so she could see. I was like, I’m not going to ask you remove it, it’s up to you what you want to do next but I personally don’t think it’s right to copy someone elses work. She then replied and said that she had cut and pasted the post and meant to change the wording more but forgot and it publish. I don’t know. In the end she just changed the wording.

    I’ve also had someone more well known do it to me a few times too. I had other people tell me about it but I just couldn’t be bothered to get into a conversation about it and make things awkward. The amount of people that were DMing me about it told me that people knew what she was up to, so that was enough for me. It was a couple of my most popular posts which I basically spam the hell out of twitter with soooooooooooo 😀

    I really think that it’s great to take inspiration from others, but you have to do it in the right way. And for copying post ideas I think it’s fine to be like ‘This blogger posted about the 5 things that blah blah so I wanted talk about the 5 things that I blah blah’ to give the original blogger credit. I actually love it when bloggers do this!

    Have a nice weekend,
    Corinne.

    • Trona
      February 28, 2016

      what! she forgot to change the wording more! that’s something else. What an excuse to come back with *side eyes*

  • Roisin
    February 28, 2016

    This is a really interesting post, and it’s something I’ve been on both sides of, in a weird way. My blog has never been copied in the way that your blogs have but a few fairly low-level things have happened in the last while. They’re minor, and I haven’t done anything about it because, like you said above, it’s hard to know if you’re being paranoid or if you should just be flattered or what. There’s another sewing person who follows me on instagram and twitter (I don’t think she blogs but her twitter header uses a picture from the same fabric that I have used in my blog design) – we have similar taste in fabric and stuff and that’s no issue. Ever since I have been blogging about my sewing, I’ve given my finished dresses a name – it’s just something that I do – and she’s started doing it too. So it’s not copying, as such – presumably she thinks it’s a good idea and there’s no shame in adopting that for yourself. That’s how things work. But I must admit to it making me raise my eyebrow when it’s a lot of the same fabric/pattern combinations that I use, then in combination with another tradition that I have, if that makes sense? Anyway, it’s harmless and all – but regardless of the intention, it does make me feel copied. Another fairly new blogger has adopted my thing of using a random quotation from a film or TV show as a post header – now this does feel more like copying, because a lot of the quotations are exactly the same and she then uses gifs and things in the same way that I do. Again, it’s harmless, I guess. I’ve met the person and she’s very nice – but, yeah, I do feel like something that was uniquely Dolly Clackett is now… not. It’s hard to know what, if anything, to do about it.

    This is especially because I really REALLY hate being dictated to by someone else. A number of years ago, a former friend would become really enraged with me if I – accidentally or deliberately – bought anything that she already had. She told me not to do it and when she did, I have to be honest, the devil got into me and I thought, “Well, fuck you then. I do what I want with my money” and it probably made me more likely to do it. Or at least, it removed ANY possibility that I wouldn’t buy a dress I wanted because she already had it. We’re not friends any more and never will be again – not for this reason alone, obviously – but, it’s a pretty fundamental difference in viewpoint! So with the low-level ‘copying’ I have described above – I’d never tell someone not to do those things because I know how much it pissed me off when someone told me off for it.

    When Nic and I got engaged, a sewing internet friend organised a competition as a wedding present to me. It was called Sew Dolly Clackett and the idea was to sew a dress inspired by my sewing and post it on your blog. It was such a sweet idea – the intention was to show me that I am liked, you know? There were prizes donated by various companies and then I had to pick winners. It was astonishing – truly astonishing – how many people took part. There were hundreds of entries and some people made multiple entries in the time (there was someone who made, I think, 14 dresses out of fabrics that I had previously used) It was touching and I will always feel grateful at the organisation of it and the love it showed. But I’ve got to tell you – it made me feel so weird that there were hundreds of people out there copying me – albeit in a well-meaning way – for this competition! It was kind of uncanny – like that bit in Shall We Dance where Fred Astaire dances with, like, 30 women wearing Ginger Rogers face masks on, and the real Ginger is behind one of them. It must have been hateful for any readers of sewing blogs who hate me, too – I was everywhere on sewing blogs for like, two months. In a way, it was a little bit sad to think that my style – something that is a part of me – could be so easily pastiched.

    So yeah. Here’s a massive essay and I have no answer for it either!

    • Amber
      February 28, 2016

      Haha, I love the essays 🙂

      For what it’s worth, I think your headlines ARE really “you”, so that would bother me, too – and it would really jump out at me if I saw someone else doing it!

      With the competition thing, I know how you feel: I don’t know if you remember the Shoe Challenge I did years ago on ShoeperWoman, but I’d basically invited people to take part by linking up to a certain post every Friday… well, loads of people DID decide to join it, but rather than linking up etc, they all just announced on their own blogs that they were going to start doing “a shoe challenge”, which was identical to mine, but without ever mentioning that they’d got the idea from me (which I knew they had, because they would frequently comment on my blog). It bothered me because it was just so blatant, and also because I knew that their own readers would just assume it had been THEIR idea, so if they ever came across my site, they’d probably assume I was the one doing the copying. I did try to address it a couple of times by putting up general pleas to people to please link back/give credit if they were using the idea but of course, people just ignored that and kept posting about “their” shoe challenges. It sounds SO petty when I write it down, but I remember at the time feeling quite hurt that people had just taken my idea without credit but would try to promote their blogs in my comment section. I’d sometimes click through when they did, and they’d often have comments from their own readers saying things like, “Oh, this is such a great idea, I think I’ll do it,” and not once would the blogger in question say, “Actually, it wasn’t my idea…”, they’d just accept the credit for it.

      On the flip side of THAT, though, a few months after I started that challenge, another blogger commented saying something like, “Oh, how funny, I do a shoe challenge too!” I clicked through, and sure enough, she had been doing a style challenge involving shoes: it was actually a completely different idea from mine, but she’d been referring to it as a “shoe challenge” (I guess because there aren’t THAT many different ways to describe a challenge involving shoes), and she’d been doing it for longer than I’d been doing mine. I had genuinely never seen her blog until she commented on mine, but I looked at it again a couple of weeks later, and she’d added a giant tagline with “Home of the ORIGINAL shoe challenge!” on it, so it was pretty obvious she thought I’d copied her, and was annoyed about it. I was mortified (and it was a shame, because she seemed like a really cool person, too), but it was a genuine co-incidence (and not even the same idea), so what can you do?

    • Myra
      October 6, 2016

      I’d like to look at Roisin’s blog site. What’s it’s name please?

      • Amber
        October 6, 2016

        It’s called Dolly Clakett, but if you click on her name, it will take you right to it 🙂

  • Jenny
    February 28, 2016

    Oh my goodness, this post makes me glad I have a teeny tiny blog. Very interesting. I would have no clue what to do! I’d be too scared of coming off as the crazy b—- with a huge ego and not say anything.

    • Amber
      February 28, 2016

      Stuff like this happened to me years ago, when my blog was much, much smaller – I think it can happen to anyone!

  • maria
    February 28, 2016

    That copycat girl sounds rather creepy… She either thought that by imitating you she would get followers and collaboration with brands because it was a tried method and was working for you, or she really did have an admiration for you, which bordered on borderline with copying your blog/style/clothes… Either way, it’s just plain weird.

    • Amber
      February 28, 2016

      It was before my blog was even monetised, so I doubt it was the former: just a bit odd, really!

  • Myra
    February 28, 2016

    The only thing I might suggest is to say that you are flattered she likes your blog/style/photos and wants to emulate you, but that you look forward to seeing her develop her own style, giving her a unique blog

  • CiCi Marie
    February 28, 2016

    Gah this is so creepy! I don’t know what I’d do if it were me, maybe nothing, but I like the last comment about saying you’re looking forward to seeing them developing their own style for a unique blog. That’s direct but not as in your face as ‘stop copying me you weirdo!!’

  • B
    February 28, 2016

    I have a story similar to the first one, except I’m not a fashion blogger so no photos of me to copy, thankfully. Anyway, I had a tiny blog once and someone copied it. I had the copy taken down and it was not a big deal, only a few YEARS later I realised that she (the copycat) was not only copying my blog. I used to post on some discussion forums and she copied my posts – my opinions, reactions to things, threads – to post on a forum she was an user on. Some points she didn’t “ctrl+c-ctrl+v” copy, but instead got the essence of, e.g. I’d mention that I have a brother – she would have a brother too, I got into university – she would too etc. I have accounts on pages that would let you rate films, books or games – she would rate the same items as me in the exact same way. I had my Facebook set mostly as private, but she could still see the cover photo for instance so of course she’ll copy it. Etc. etc. This was intensely creepy and went on for 4-5 years, I think. I confronted her twice, now I think it died down a little. Also, I’m older now and the stuff I post on the internet is not my whole life anymore, so I care less. Anyway, she is probably reading this as she would become an instant fan of any blog I ever mentioned on the forums or wherever…

    I don’t think there is a good way to deal with this kind of copying. These people have no shame and if they have already built a fanbase, then to the fans you’re the crazy woman making accusations. If they’re not copying word-for word or monetising the content then one will have to live with it, I guess.

  • Hayley Daley-Hannibal
    February 28, 2016

    Something very similar happened to me too! It was actually quite scary! I did exactly the same as you and ended up just not reply to her
    comments or questions but then I felt so guilty. My blog is no way massive or anything like that but I totally hadn’t expected anything like this to happen and it is hard to notice who is just generally being nice or if it’s stepped into the scary stage. Also the part you mention about having similar posts to others is soo hard for me I get a lot of inspiration from other bloggers and then it’s so hard deciding when to post said inspired post! I’ve now started making notes on things that inspire me then leave it at least a month before I think about acting on the idea. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Mana
    February 28, 2016

    I did a 4th of July ootd as a you could wear this style post so it was a week in advance, and two days later a well known blogger did a super similar outfit, and I commented and said something like “this is so cool we did similar things” and she sent me an email and said she had seen mine two days before and was worried I’d try and claim she stole the outfit from me, and I was like well your dress is gap and mine is h&m and you’re working with gap in your post so I assume this was planned well before I decided to wear my super similar dress with the same shoes and jacket you have, especially because I bought those shoes because I loved the way you styled them. She messaged me back and said I was probably the most level headed person about this and she had one woman once try to file with the court and sue her for theft without even reaching out to her. The case never went anywhere at all, but I can see how the blogger would have been upset. Especially since a lot of her posts are ads and are arranged anywhere from months to at least weeks in advance.
    As a blogger I try to be careful and aware that my writing can be influenced a lot by what I’m reading. On the other side I had a person on the get off my internet hate forums write about me and say I was copying other bloggers writing style and that I looked like a train wreck.

    So I think being influenced is one thing and outright copying is another. (And that girl was not influenced she was creepily trying to stepford you)

    Mana
    Fashion and Happy Things

  • sher
    February 28, 2016

    ugh i feel you! i actually had it happen before, and it was almost worse in a way because it was someone i knew IRL who started to copy. how do you even begin to have that awkward conversation? i took the exact same do-nothing approach as you and it still kind of bothers me. my philosophy though is to just let it go – i do my best to focus on making new content for myself and my site and i think that copies are just pale imitations of the real deal. not to say the copier couldn’t come up with anything great and original on their own! i actually think they can which is why its so sad and frustrating that they don’t.

    i wanted to ask if you would share how you got the left arrow to go to your previous post. haha i know this is a post on copying but i hope you don’t mind sharing… is it a plugin? or part of your native theme? i’ve seen it on the nytimes but never on another blog so would love to know if you are willing to share 🙂

    sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

    • Amber
      February 28, 2016

      It’s part of the theme!

  • Alysa
    February 29, 2016

    Not sure what I would do about it either. Probably complain a lot to my husband and friends and ultimately do nothing haha The only issue comes up would be if I were creating something tangible to sell and people were copying that so they could make money off of it. I’ve seen that happen to some friends of mine, and it really sucks!
    My question for you would be this: a while ago you posted some pictures of your phone with images from Netflix on it as a way to talk about tv shows, and I thought that was a great idea! I don’t feel right just taking pictures off of the networks websites for tv shows, but I talk about tv shows a lot. Would it be bad to be inspired by that idea and do something similar? Because I thought that was a fabulous idea.

    • Amber
      February 29, 2016

      I don’t think I can claim to have been the first person to have done that, so I don’t think I could complain about it being “copied”!

  • Suzy
    February 29, 2016

    That is really creepy, kinda reminds me of that movie, Single White Female. Have you seen it? Maybe you should watch it lol 😉
    As long as you try and not let it get to you – I mean, you’re unique and you’re you. No-one can take that from you!
    Suzy x
    http://www.suzyturner.com

  • Julia
    February 29, 2016

    Wow. It is creepy to have someone copy you. And I mean not your work or ideas but your way of life. I can’t say I was concerned about my work. After all I saw some of my thoughts on other sites but this is why I write, to influence people. It is weird to have a clone of your life. Never thought about this before. Did you ever read about the copycats in Japan? Actually they try to copy their idol and they are allowed to do that. Weird.

  • Anca
    March 1, 2016

    It sounds creepy.
    It happened to me to be imitated on a forum. When I was talking about my husband I would use “Mister” because I wanted to protect his privacy. I didn’t write on that forum for a few of months as I was busy with other things and I went back I saw that someone was using “Mister” to talk about her husband. That was weird as the forum was not in English and I was the only one using that term. Anyway, after she saw that I was back on the forum she used again “my husband”. Weird.

  • Ms Patricia Lynn
    March 4, 2016

    Why, yes, yes I have.

  • Nicola
    March 6, 2016

    I would be tempted to post a photoshopped pic of me pretending to have shaved off all my hair and see if they copied that. Or would that be too mean? 😁

  • Katie Halsall
    March 15, 2016

    Aw man, stuff like this makes me happy about being a small blog! I’ve definitely worried about posting things though. Sometimes I’ll think up an idea, and then yep, something similar appears on my timeline. Often I just give it a bit of time before doing my thing so it doesn’t look like I’m copying – even though I actually wasn’t to begin with – because I worry what people will think. I think being inspired from someone else’s post and then putting your own spin on it is great, but just full on copying isn’t. It can be a fine line which some people unfortunately cross.

  • Rose
    March 31, 2017

    I had a recent university grad create a Twitter account that was identical to mine including my blog name of all things which is copyrighted. I couldn’t believe the nerve she’d have to do that and I was very aware she’d seen my blog and Twitter account. She thought because she wasn’t following me that I’d never find out even though she was tweeting to my niche. I tried to let it go figuring she was a young girl who may not know it wasn’t okay. Then one day I clicked a link to something she tweeted about her thesis project and realised she had used my copyrighted blog name along with the same themes, subjects, and some of the content from my blog in her university thesis project without any citation to my blog! I was livid. My blog sets out to educate but that doesn’t mean you can steal its content. It was baffling. Anyhow, I decided to reach out to her and I told her I held the copyright to the blog name and that it was illegal to use the name including in her thesis project but that I wished her luck in the profession. She messaged back claiming she didn’t know and she changed it. I think she was embarrassed she got caught and all but stopped tweeting. Had she not changed it, I was prepared to send a cease and desist letter and an email to her professor as I really felt someone should not be aspiring to my profession if they can’t understand copyright and clearances as well as thorough research.

  • William Goodwin
    July 12, 2019

    That’s a bit creepy… I find everyone is a copycat these days. I don’t know if it’s just pure laziness or a mental barrier in need of climbing. I was searching…notice I said “searching”… for information on the proper size of a fabric grow bag for heirloom tomatoes. I know… I must sound as weird as your copycatress… Anyway, dozens of sites popped up on google search so I begin reading. Every one of them was the exact same wording… Not one different thought or information or an idea, just cut and paste with every site. Anyway, your website is beautiful and you have nothing to worry about my dear but more copycats…

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Single White Female Syndrome: Dealing With Online Imitators and Blog Copycats