Competition in the blogosphere

by Franca on 20 September 2010

Envy

Have you seen the video? If you haven’t seen it before, watch it it’s really sweet, but in case you’re reading this on a computer that blocks you tube or you can’t be bothered, it’s a little girl doing positive affirmations. She goes ‘I love my mum! I love my dad! I love my garden! I love my pyjamas! I love my haircuts!’ and so on for a full minute. And it’s so nice to see all the positivity and being thankful about what you’ve got. So cute!

I loved the whole thing – right until the end when she says ‘I can do anything good, better than anyone else’. Why ‘better than anyone else’? Why is a girl that age already setting herself up in competition to others?* What is it with all this competition? Shouldn’t we be enjoying the good things in life without always comparing ourselves to others? And if we want to do well, why does it have to be better than everyone else? Can’t we just be good on our own terms?

I see a lot of competition in fashion blogging. Obviously not everywhere, but it’s hard to avoid. It’s all about who’s got the most followers, comments, the best sponsors, the most coverage in the traditional media, what have you. People want to be on top ten lists. It just seems like such a limiting way of measuring success, ordering people into ranks by some statistic. The numbers don’t really mean anything very much, do they? I have about 250 followers at the moment. Does that make me 25% better than someone with 200 followers, or 20% worse than someone with 300? Clearly not!

And a lot of bitchiness comes from that competition. A lot of comments about other bloggers along the lines of ‘why are they so popular, they’re nothing special, it’s not fair’. Again, this kind of thing is more prevalent in some parts of the fashion/lifestyle blogging world than others, and I do try and stay away from the places where you get concentrations, but it’s near impossible to avoid completely.

Neither am I resistant to this negative feeling and jealousy, not at all. I’ve never said it out loud, but I definitely feel it when I read a blog with 5,000 followers and 200 comments on every single post, when all they do is sponsored content and re-post vogue editorials. I hate feeling that way, and usually my reaction is to take that blog out of my reader and never think about it again. This is the reason I follow hardly any of the ‘big’ blogs, because this has happened quite a few times and I hate being disappointed (because being ‘famous’ inevitable raises such expectations) and feeling negative about people. It’s the reason I refused to even look at Style Bubble for ages. Which was a silly thing to do really, because now I’ve added it to me reader and I love it!

And what makes it even sillier is that I feel that way despite having no ambitions whatsoever to become ‘big’. I am setting myself up as being in a competition that I don’t even want to be in. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want my little blog to grow, but organically and on it’s own terms, in a way that makes me happy and crucially, in a way that doesn’t become a full-time occupation. I don’t want to be in competition with anyone, I want to be in dialogue with readers and other bloggers. I enjoy the interaction. It makes me feel all fuzzy that some people actually enjoy reading about my silly rants and obsessions, and a few people come out to comment and say hi. But I am honestly, genuinely not interested in gaining sponsors, or media coverage, or being offered paid work on the back of this blog. And it is only if you’re interested in those kinds of things (and I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s not for me) the statistics matter at all.

So I guess what this post is a message (mainly to myself) to just chill out a bit, and enjoy the good things about blogging without worrying about numbers or what others are doing. I (we?) need that kind of reminder every now and then.

Thoughts?

* To clarify – I’m not picking on the little girl in particular. I am merely using he as an illustration of these ideas that are floating around the blogosphere and society in general.

Photo from here.

{ 26 comments }

Kristin September 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

not much for me to say here, except for "ditto" :o) I have the same aspirations for my little blog, and it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by some of the bigger blogs. I'll stop in at many from time to time to soak in the pretty, but I just love reading and supporting more personal efforts like yours that are much easier to look at without all the ad and sponsorship business. Sometimes, taking a deep breath and remembering what I enjoy about blogging and this community is the key to keeping myself from falling into the competitive side of it.

Cheers for a wonderfully written post!

La Historiadora de Moda September 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

What I wonder is where the line is between a big blog and a growing smaller blog? A number of people have said that they only read smaller blogs (on some other posts on other blogs), so what happens when the smaller blog they are reading gets bigger?

It can be hard not to compare the number of followers and the number of comments that people get on other blogs, especially when there is a certain tight-knit aspect to the style blogging communities. I feel petty when I feel that way, but I have to admit that it sometimes bothers me when I visit a number of blogs and see people have commented on them on a given day, but they haven't commented on mine. I think it's an instinctive response, but I really hate feeling that way.

Cynthia September 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

See, and now I feel guilty because I often read and much less frequently comment. You never know how many lurkers you might have.

Sidewalk Chalk September 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm

What a well-written and thoughtful post. I know how you feel! I especially get frustrated when I read a newer blog and wonder what I'm doing wrong when they're growing at a faster rate and get more comments all the time. I try not to let it get to me, and try to think of the positive aspects of why I blog, but that built-in competitiveness definitely provokes a self-consciousness.

Rachel September 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Hear, hear. Honestly Franca, sometimes your post appears in my reader and it's as if you've tuned into my thought stream. I love the little girl video and your post sort of ties into something I've been thinking about and trying to focus on in my life. It's about the similarities and differences between happiness and contentment. Not so much in blog world (since I'm coming to the conclusion that, at the moment, I prefer spending time reading and commenting on other blogs to writing my own) but in other areas I've been battling some feelings of jealousy and discontent and so have really been trying to focus on and enjoy the things I have instead of comparing to others all the time.

Bethanne September 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm

This is my first comment on your blog, yay! I've been reading for a whopping 7-ish months!

I follow a few of the larger, sponsored blogs but really all I do when I visit those pages is look through the outfit pictures. Sometimes I read a sponsored post because I'm new to this whole fashion&style thing and I just have no idea what's out there. But the blogs where I spend my time and read every word that's posted are the smaller ones like yours: ones where someone's really just posting about what they like and putting a fabulous personality out there for others to enjoy. I'd honestly like to be more involved than I have been in blogs like this, in reponse to and in appreciation of the folks like you who are looking for connections and mutual inspiration.

So, thanks for blogging (and thanks for making me comment!)!

chelsea September 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I am a very jealous creature. I compare myself to other bloggers frequently and it makes me feel bad about myself. I try to not have any negative feelings toward them, because I know it is my own envy making me feel this way. So I delete them too. The big blogs with the sponsers, fame, and million oppertunities. Not only am I jealous, but I never feel I connect with the blogger because they have so many followers and never have time to respond to me. That is completely understandable, but doesn't keep me coming back or commenting.
It is funny that you would write about this now as I am reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and he speaks directly to this society that constantly compares themselves to one another. It is rarely in a positive way. We do not compare ourselves to those who have less very often. If we did maybe we would be more thankful for what we do have and be more altruistic toward others.

sacramento September 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm

You have answered yourself. And i understand. I have not commet on somebody´s blog with 245 commets thinking,what for? Whill she/he read them or care for my commet?.
I keep on my blogroll mainly people who inspire me.
I see my blog as a way of expresion free to all. And that, when you have to pay for everything, is very good.

Sarah September 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Thanks for a very thoughtful and true post. I've definitely felt the competition especially in fashion blogs. You want people that love your blog and you want to get sponsors all that. But I've realized that the people that do it just for the followers or whatever don't last. The ones that last do it because they actually love what they're doing and it's fun. I have to say that my blogging is a fun release after work and I really do enjoy it. If it ever became like a full time job I think I'd die.

http://wearingitonmysleeves.blogspot.com

Style Eyes September 21, 2010 at 7:10 am

I do try and avoid getting competitive as I think that blogging loses its enjoyment.

Funny though I have never experienced any of the nastiness which I have heard others talk about. I have always loved blogging because I find the other fashion bloggers so lovely and supportive. Perhaps I am just completely oblivious to it or perhaps my blog just isn't big enough for people to be jealous of. That is just one thing that would worry me about getting too many followers.

Franca September 21, 2010 at 8:45 am

Thanks for your comments everyone and for sharing your feelings. It's hard to admit to feeling jealous, so thank you for not making me feel bad about it.

I agree the line between 'big' and 'small' isn't very clear cut. I didn't mean to say that I don't read 'big' blogs as a rule, there are a few wonderful big ones that I love and read regularly, and like chelsea, I appreciate that if you're hugely popular, the kind of one-to-one interaction I like becomes impossible, so I'm not judging anyone. I'm mainly just weary of reading famous ones because of my own negative feelings about some of them, which isn't very fair to everyone else. If one of the people I've followed from the start suddenly went stratospheric, I obviously wouldn't abandon them!

I do think fashion bloggers (or my bloggy 'friends' anyway) are really supportive, but I've seen lots of slagging off elsewhere in fashion blogging, probably more in the kind of blogs that are concerned with designer fashion rather than personal style. I've noticed that Sea of Shoes seems to inspire lots of vitriol, and I've never even been anywhere near her blog!

allthisknavery September 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I really loved this post… I feel much the same way! There are dozens (probably more) of newer bloggers that are more 'successful' than I ever have been in the year since I started blogging. I know it's partly because they're prettier and/or better dressers. I try not to let it bother me, though, because you can't compare oranges to apples. Oh, ha. Wow I'm a dork. Anyway, like you, I do follow a lot of blogs with smaller followings because I also really like the interaction you can often get with those bloggers. It really does make it feel more like a community and less like you're just stalking someone famous. Does that make sense?

-Megan

Rebecca September 21, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Good thoughts! I agree. And I often find myself unsubscribing from the bigger blogs too (unless they're just fun to browse through).

The Waves September 22, 2010 at 5:48 am

To me, this topic is a bit of a double-edged sword. I really enjoy having a small following, but I do also recognise that slight stint of jealousy you are talking about. If I have a major peak in the amount of readers (say, if there was a link from a more popular blog), it does make me happy, but I also instantly start second-guessing myself and develop major anxiety issues over things like privacy. I want to stay true to myself and feel comfortable writing about whatever pops into my head, and a bigger, more aggressive readership would certainly make me feel self-conscious. But then again… it wouldn't be so bad to have more people visiting either… Like I said, a double-edged sword, and I try very hard to not think about it! (I have also stopped visiting Google Analytics, just to be safe!)

Retro Chick September 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I have a weird relationship with this, as my blog is part of my business I want it to grow and earn more money from it, but I'm also terrified of losing control of it to sponsors and it not being about me and the stuff I like anymore. I would hate people to think I'd written about something just for the money, I never have.

I think jealousy is natural, it's how we know where we want to be, but it's important to keep it under control. Jealousy shouldn't make you feel negative about someone else or yourself, but help you realise what your ambitions are for yourself.

Audi September 23, 2010 at 12:49 am

This is a great post, and a great topic. I used to spend a fair amount of time looking at how many followers and commenters other blogs had, mainly to find out if there was any correlation between the content, quality of photos, the person's style, etc. and the blog's success (assuming you can measure success in terms of numbers of comments and other such metrics). After awhile I stopped caring about that stuff, or even looking, because I felt it led to this feeling of competition which I think is unhealthy. I barely even look at my analytics page anymore, and it's quite liberating. Currently I have no idea how many readers, followers, etc. I have, and for me it's better that way; I always think about writing to an audience of one. To me it's more important to connect with individuals than to try to accumulate a mass of faceless fans, so in those terms it really doesn't matter how large or small the actual audience is. I don't consider a blog to be successful if it has 10,000 readers but doesn't make a connection with any of them (such as blogs that don't allow comments, for example).

Ashe Mischief September 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

It's really great that you wrote about this, Franca. I think at a certain point, when you realize all the hard work, time, and energy you're putting in to a site, it's kind of inevitable NOT to get jealous at a certain point. Does that make it okay or healthy? Not particularly. We're all doing our own little thing in the blogosphere, and … it's silly to get jealous when we are only seeing these small little pockets of someone's life? Since we're behind a screen, we can't see if there is blood sweat and tears flowing from another blogger's face, or if they're falling through it all with ease…

It can be a good thing though– I think jealousy can fuel us to try and be our best selves, to work our hardest and produce content we're really proud of. And that's never a bad thing.

alexandratherese September 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I feel exactly the same way, thanks for voicing what so many of us are thinking! I don't tend to follow big blogs as I don't feel that there's a real person writing them, but more of a "brand", whereas I like reading blogs where when you comment you get a reply and people are there for their passion about fashion or whatever their chosen field, not because they want sponsorship etc.

Thank you xxx

Lorena September 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Franca I really enjoy the posts where you give a piece of your mind :)
I totally agree with you.
You should do something because you like it in principle and if other things come your way because of it … well good.

silviasiantar September 25, 2010 at 5:59 am

i totally agree with your on this dear

following your blog now!!!!

xoxo
poisepolish.

Best Foot Forward September 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I'm relatively new to the blogosphere, and I really loved this post. There are days when I feel like my blog is so silly in comparison to others. But then I remember how much I enjoy writing it and that I'm doing it for me and no one else. Yay for small blogs!

Between Laundry Days September 25, 2010 at 9:08 pm

These words are EXACTLY how I've felt about this stuff. Now, I'm not as eloquent as you, so it's come out in a mess of words and gestures, in conversations with Joe. But this is a fantastic post. Just wonderful!

Emmett Katherine September 27, 2010 at 12:03 am

I found this article through an IFB link and once i started reading this article I couldn't stop.

you had some really insightful points and this phrase stood out the most
"I want to be in dialogue with readers and other bloggers. I enjoy the interaction."

Maybe its just me because I am new to blogger but i like the little blogs (I don't care if they have 1 follow or 1 million as long as they had a litle blog feel/the blog author is genuine)BETTER because they are people's actual thoughts and opinions.

I prefer to see the creativity and originiality on a little blog, rather than a re-post of a magazine article… because I could have read the magazine online, or go buy it.

I thought blogs were suppose to be personal… but maybe I'm behind the times!

EmK

Cloud of Secrets September 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for putting so many of my feelings into well-chosen words! These sentences particularly spoke to me:

"I’d be lying if I said I don’t want my little blog to grow, but organically and on it’s own terms, in a way that makes me happy and crucially, in a way that doesn't become a full-time occupation. I don’t want to be in competition with anyone, I want to be in dialogue with readers and other bloggers."

While I fantasize (a little) about cash and gifts coming from (appropriate) advertisers, I honestly don't know how the "pro" bloggers with huge followings maintain fun, conversational, and inspiring relationships with other bloggers. That's been more rewarding to me than huge one-way followings would be.

I'm happy with my little blog world and with the friends I've made over time — people who are intrigued by my aesthetic and vice versa; people who really want to converse and build a written relationship.

Anyway, I'm honestly not ready to wrangle business deals, or to keep up with hundreds of comments as I like to (i.e., personal responses and blog return visits).

And truly, I've become a little uncomfortable with blogs that are trimmed with a long column (or two columns!) of adverts. I feel that the blogger has chosen a path of commercial opportutity, rather than building reader relationships. Their unique content is cluttered, even hard to locate amid the banners and badges. Oh, and those blogs can take a long time to load!

jesse.anne.o September 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I feel the same way – I think I mentioned that when I was talking about how and why I decided not to go to IFB and how the one blogger's definition of a "passionate" readership was not mine (http://jesseanneo.blogspot.com/2010/09/godspeed-clothes-lover.html) — and mine was also dialogue!

I think, for me, there is a split between the for-profit and for-the-heck-of-it blogs because the for-profit ones sometimes build in sponsor product as content and the for-the-heck-of-it ones don't usually. I also just like reading thought-content…not only outfit content. (And I think if someone has their own business and blogs, that's different than sponsored products, in my head!)

Amy September 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Totally agree. I think if anything, we're all in this together.

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