Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Months and months ago, I stopped following three style bloggers on Instagram. One had recently given birth and her feed became inundated with pictures of her (adorable) new bundle of joy. Another was grieving the loss of a family member and each snapshot was a dedication to her deceased loved one. The third had begun a new exercise regimen and her fashion-related photographs were swapped out for post-workout images of her flexing her biceps. In other words, their fashion-related photographs—which was initially the reason I followed them—were exchanged for content that was unrelated to their blog topics. By no means was the decision to unfollow them personal, but my philosophy is this: if I like your content, then I subscribe. It’s that simple. I don’t follow bloggers because we’re cyber-friends. I don’t follow bloggers because they follow me. I follow because I sincerely enjoy the content, and when the content is no longer my cup of tea, I unsubscribe.
So I unfollowed them.
You know what happened after that? The three of them promptly unfollowed me too—and that experience was my firsthand experience of the follow-for-follow culture that has taken over the style blogging community.
I have to admit that I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed that they unfollowed me. I was disappointed that they unfollowed me after I unfollowed them—it was as if they stopped following me solely as a result of me unfollowing them (and not because they were no longer interested in my content).
Now, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I despise the follow-for-follow (and unfollow-for-unfollow) culture. I absolutely loathe it. And my disdain reached an all-time high a month or so ago when, while browsing Facebook, I came across a status update from a member of Bloggers Like Me. She adamantly declared that she was no longer following or liking anyone who didn’t “return the favor” because she had goals to reach. Sadly, there was a multitude of bloggers belonging to the group who shared her sentiment and left comments under her status update agreeing to follow her if she followed them. (Side note: Shortly after, one of the members stated that she had to unfollow some of the members she initially promised to follow because their posts included too much profanity and semi-nudity. There lies another problem in requesting that people follow you without providing them with an actual reason to follow you. Not only do you not know if they sincerely enjoy your content or if they’re following due to a sense of obligation, but when you participate in follow-for-follow, you don’t really know who you’re following).
Reciprocation has become such a common practice, weaved into the fabric of the style blogging community so seamlessly that it has become an expectation. Etiquette, almost. In order to grow our blogs, we’re taught to comment on other blogs because they’ll “return the favor” and comment on our blogs (which for some, is a tried-and-true method of growth). In turn, that ups the number of comments we receive which puts us that much closer to free merchandise and brand partnerships and superblogger status (or so we think). It’s often said that blogging is not an island and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, but this widespread ‘rule of reciprocity’ is just one thing I cannot get behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting one another. I’m even for self-promotion when it’s done properly. But more than anything, I’m for creating content that is compelling and worthy of being liked without excessive solicitation. Yes, we all have goals, but perhaps one of the goals should include building growth by providing engaging content rather than relying on the “follow for follow” method of growth. We need to ask ourselves if we’re contributing to the conversation and saying something of substance or if we’re regurgitating what’s already out there and simply adding to the noise. If we’re concerned about our numbers because they’re not what we want them to be, we should use them to challenge and motivate us to create compelling content rather than utilizing a disingenuous method of progress. As a matter of fact, it’s the times my numbers were (pathetically) low that I was most creative because I had to delve deep and really think in order to generate engaging content. For example, my most recent stream of content—100 Brown Girls Blogging, The 5 Cs of Personal Style Blogging, In Defense of Bombshells—was created and published during a time when my statistics (and consistency) were at a low point, and each post was liked and shared with little to no solicitation on my part.
I’ve been blogging off-and-on for about three-and-a-half years and as evidenced by my most recent posts, my mentality about style blogging has changed drastically and my observations of the style blogging community have left me jaded and cynical. In my opinion, style blogging is no longer about content. It’s no longer about community. Hell, it’s not even about clothes anymore.
It’s about ego maintenance.
Instead of challenging ourselves to create content worthy of being liked and shared, we request follow-for-follow under the guise of “support” in order to protect our egos (because it’s all about the numbers, remember?). In reality, we’re simply trying to boost our numbers with the hopes of securing sponsorships and partnerships. It’s as if everyone wants the numbers, but nobody wants to do the (real) work. We want the gold star without putting forth the effort. Look, this is the thing: we shouldn’t be asking people to like us or follow us or share our content in exchanged for liking or following or sharing their content. We should be asking ourselves if we’re creating content worthy of being liked and followed and shared.
So here’s my promise to you: I promise to work my ass off to create and publish content worthy of being liked and followed and shared. In return, I ask that you only like, follow, and share if you genuinely and sincerely enjoy the content on my site.
So what do you say? Deal?
Labels: MY WORDS