Over the last six weeks or so, perhaps longer, there’s been quite a bit of discussion in the blogging community about how we portray ourselves online.
I think it started when Essena O’Neill, the Australian Instagram sensation, who then turned her back on the social media platform, calling it “contrived perfection made to get attention.”
Since then, bloggers and Instagram-addicts across the globe have been critiquing how we present ourselves on social media. There’s been a bit of a backlash, I think, particularly with parent-bloggers.
A number of parent-bloggers I follow have taken pains to show the less pretty side of life: the tantrums during the beautiful country walk; the pile of never-ending laundry at the side of the perfect family photo; the 5am starts before CBeebies is even on air.
Other parent-bloggers have gone to the other extreme, or, mostly, were at the other extreme before the turn of the year. They write quite openly about how their toddlers are idiots (or perhaps MI5 agents), about how parenthood has ruined their lives, or about how they are a bit too familiar with Tena Lady since childbirth.
These bloggers do it for the laughs. And a lot of it is very funny. I believe it takes a lot of skill to write like that, and for all my study of writing, I couldn’t do it. More importantly, I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing that much detail of my life. I certainly (and this is me, not them), wouldn’t be happy if my children read my blog 5 years from now and thought, “Did I really ruin my mother’s life?”
But a lot of that writing is really important. Those bloggers are voicing things we’ve all secretly thought. One of the very best things about the Internet is its capacity to make people feel that they are not on their own. When all the other parents around you seem to have their lives completely together, reading a funny parenting blog like that can give you a real boost.
I don’t follow many bloggers like that, if I’m honest. I quite often read the posts that get circulated on friends’ facebook pages, but I don’t actively seek them out.
The bloggers I do seek out are those who seem to be really enjoying parenthood. I love it when parents appear to have everything working well: their children are thriving, their career is taking off, they have beautiful homes and good hair. To me, this is kind of aspirational. On top of that, many of these parent bloggers have a positive tone: they really enjoy their children, and they are not afraid to speak about loving them. In fact, I love it when I can see the pride people take in their children. Having children is hard, and we have to support each other through it. Celebrating parenthood is part of that.
Many of the bloggers I follow don’t have children, or don’t make them a focus of their blogs. But that sense of celebration is still there: they take joy in a perfectly styled room, or a beautiful garden, or an amazing meal. I love reading about these glimpses – however curated – into their lives.
Yes, some of them are impossibly beautiful, with impossibly stylish homes and impossibly perfectly cute children. Some of them really do seem to have everything falling into their laps. But most of them have worked very hard to get where they are, and the styling, and the decor and everything else, takes work. More and more, I am realising that many of the people I follow and think of as incredibly successful in their niche actually have a background in PR or modelling or styling or fashion or journalism… They are already ahead of the game. So the posts where these ‘super-bloggers’ admit to things being less than 100% perfect are comforting, in many ways.
I think most parent bloggers just want to document the experience of being a parent. They want, in a small way or a big way, to help others on the journey. That, for me, is the most important part of all this. Whatever we share needs to help someone else in their situation. It needs to provide a solution, or comfort, or distraction. It needs to connect people together. Otherwise, there’s no point. We’re just clanging cymbals.
We need aspiration on the Internet. We need reality. We need ‘how-to’s’ and tutorials by people who do things well. And the best thing is that in virtual reality, there is space for all this.
The Internet isn’t a ‘one size fits all.’ Nor is blogging. Nor is parenting. Or Instagram. We have control over our content – we are the authors, no-one else. We choose what we share, or what we don’t share.
As I’ve been working a bit harder on my blog over the last few months, I’m trying to keep three words in mind. These words sum up how I want my readers to see my blog. I want them to think it is: 1. Useful. 2. Beautiful. 3. Real.
So here is my promise to you: I will try to keep things on this blog useful, beautiful and real. Some things might be useful, and not particularly beautiful (hello, Laundry System). Some things might be just beautiful (occasionally). But what I write will be grounded in reality.
Part of that reality is the real love I have for my family. And I won’t apologise for that.