Three Things That Almost Made Me Stop Blogging
I love blogging: I really do. It’s my job, my hobby and – without wanting to sound too cringey – one of my passions in life. I’ve been blogging for almost a decade now (longer, if you include LiveJournal, and similar early attempts at documenting my life online), and at this point, I can’t imagine ever giving it up.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. Blogging is awesome, but it can have some unexpected downsides, and there have been a few times in my blogging life when I’ve considered giving it up altogether. Here are the reasons why:
Creepy comments from fetishists and other male “admirers”
Dealing with creepy comments is one of the sides of blogging that people don’t really talk about much, but if you have a fashion blog, or post photos of yourself on your blog, it’s something you might come across every now and then. In my case, I get quite a few comments/emails/tweets etc from men with foot fetishes or ‘redhead’ fetishes, and some of those comments most definitely cross the line from “a bit creepy” to “totally inappropriate”.
When I say “creepy”, I should probably clarify that I’m not judging people for having a fetish: I’m judging them for trying to involve ME in it, by doing things ranging from pretending to be female in order to to try and dupe me into talking to them about my shoes, to sending me X-rated emails, or asking for photos of my feet. For me, that kind of thing is just totally unacceptable, and when it first started happening, it really put me off blogging – in fact, I actually stopped posting outfit photos for a while because of it. I remember feeling horribly guilty, as if I was the one who was in the wrong, and I worried that posting more photos would just encourage the unwelcome attention.
After giving it a lot of thought, I finally came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t allow the poor behaviour of a handful of people to stop me doing something I enjoyed, so I tentatively started posting outfit shots again, although I made sure to avoid photographing certain items which seemed to be more likely than others to trigger the creepy comments. One day, however, I suddenly started getting comments from men with a fetish for turtle-neck sweaters, and realised that it really didn’t matter WHAT I was wearing, or how un-provocative I thought it was, someone, somewhere, would have a fetish for that thing, and would want to tell me about it.
I also realised that I can’t control other people’s responses to what I wear or post: I don’t feel I’m doing anything wrong by blogging about my outfits, and I think it should be clear from my blog that my interest in clothing and shoes is centred purely around style, not around sex, so while those comments still creep me out when I get them, I now just try to delete them and move on.
(There was, however, once memorable occasion when I ended up calling the police over the behaviour of a fetishist. But I think that’s perhaps a story best kept for my book...)
People stealing my content / pretending they’re me
I’ve written about this at length, but still barely a week goes by without someone contacting me to let me know they’ve spotted me selling clothes on eBay or some other retail website, or making other appearances I know nothing about. Content theft is something that I don’t think people really understand until it happens to them, but once it does, it can really make you question your decision to publish anything on the internet ever again.
For me, the worst type of theft has been the times when people have taken photos of me and pretended they were photos of THEM. I’ve had this happen a few times now, with people using my face as their Facebook profile picture, as forum avatars, and as the “about me” image on someone’s blog. Not only is this kind of thing super-creepy, it’s also quite worrying, because while the incidents I’ve had so far haven’t actually harmed me as such, it bothers me to think of all the ones I DON’T know about, and what kind of commentary people could be attaching to my image. I’d be devastated if, for instance, someone started posting some kind of hate speech with my face attached to it: I mean, can you imagine?
The other types of content theft I’ve had include people taking other images from my blog and using them to sell things, or just copying and pasting entire posts (sometimes hundreds of them at a time) and claiming it’s their work. As I said above, a lot of people who hear about this kind of thing just think, “Who cares?”, but not only can it really damage my blog’s search engine ranking (which, in turn, affects my income), it’s really horrible to put time and effort into creating something (especially something that’s quite personal to you, as the posts on this site are), only to have someone steal it, and try to pass it off as their work.
Why did this make me want to quit? Well, just as the only way to stop fetishists posting creepy comments about your outfit/body is to never post any photos of yourself online, the only way to prevent content theft is to never post any content AT ALL. (There are various ways to protect your content, but none of them are failsafe, unfortunately, and if someone is determined to steal from you, they will…)
That would certainly prevent people from stealing from me, but it would also prevent me earning a living online, so it’s not really an option. Also, as with the point above, I think it’s important to remember that the people who steal are the ones who are in the wrong here, and telling those who are stolen from that they should effectively become invisible in order to protect themselves is victim-blaming at its worst. I’m not going to dye my hair to stop people sending me creepy emails about it, and I’m not going to close down my business to stop people stealing from it, either.
Being harassed by neighbours who read my blog
OK, so this one is more my fault than anyone else’s, but back in the early days of blogging, I made the rookie mistake of writing about “real” people and situations, and paid the price in the form of a campaign of harassment from someone (or perhaps a couple of “someone’s” ) who took exception to what I’d written.
I call it a “mistake”… Nothing I’d written was particularly damning, and I hadn’t named anyone, or, indeed, provided any details which would identify them. To make a long story short, I’d written about some incidents that had happened in the neighbourhood* (including me being chased through the woods by a teenager with a baseball bat), as I wrote about everything that happened to me in those days, and, in return, got a series of threatening comments from someone claiming to be a neighbour, who didn’t like what I’d written. Yes, I should have known better.
I do stand by anyone’s right to tell their story, and think it’s a shame that so much of my writing has to be censored for fear of negative reactions (My reaction at the time was that if you don’t want people to know you’re an anti-social neighbour, maybe try NOT being an anti-social neighbour for starters…), but I also have to hold my hands up here and admit that you have to be a special kind of stupid to write about your neighbours. Seriously. (Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the posts in question have now been deleted, for obvious reasons!)
This last incident is the only one that actually made me change my online behaviour – these days I never write about anyone unless I have their express permission! – but all three made me consider giving up blogging altogether, if only for a while. As you can see, though, I’m still here, and hope to be for the foreseeable future: if you’re a blogger, though, I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever felt like giving up, and what made you feel like that, if so?
*EDITED TO ADD: I didn’t word this very well when I wrote it, so I’ve updated it just to clarify that the incidents I’m talking about here weren’t in any way related to my blog: they were just random incidents that had happened in our neighbourhood, and which I’d blogged about, diary-style. The neighbour/neighbours I had the issue with took exception to the fact that I’d cast the neighbourhood in what they felt was a bad light, hence their comments to me. I definitely didn’t intend to imply that I was chased etc because of my blog!