I wrote this post urging newcomers to the UK blogging community to not feel left out after seeing regular sprinklings of tweets from people voicing their isolation. I didn't fully grasp at the time that it wasn't just about people trying to find their tribe, but people genuinely being made to feel left out by certain bloggers mocking them, throwing snide into the Twittersphere, and even indirecting mean sentiments about other bloggers in blog posts. The first I heard of this negative downturn in what I'd assumed to be a very positive and connected community was when I saw In The Frow tweet this:
Further digging showed me that evidently some bloggers have run out of things to say, so they've started criticising other bloggers for.... being happy? And... positive? How dare people be positive! Other things bloggers have come under fire from fellow community members include helping bloggers, advising them, and - wait for it - creating opportunities for bloggers to MEET! Apparently this is just not on, and means that some bloggers are getting too big for their boots. Don't even get me started on bloggers who have the audacity to earn a living from blogging, that's got the backs right up of the bloggers who do it purely for the 'passion'. Well, this was all a bit depressing, but then something even more shocking happened. I can take criticism so long as it comes from a good place, but I felt attacked rather than guided when a huge, successful blogger deigned to drop by my little blog and leave me a comment. A pretty gobsmacking nasty comment. I'd written this piece about advertising your blog with other bloggers, and had clearly written in the post that it's NOT the fault of the blogger if your ad doesn't do well, offering some advice on how to make your ad better. I had a really enthusiastic response back from one of the bloggers mentioned, and another one was so happy with it she wrote her own blog post a couple of weeks later on exactly the same subject.
If this blogger had bothered to be professional and contact me first with her concerns I could have cleared this up with her. Instead she took the step of leaving me this staggeringly unprofessional (and patronising "you've tried to be positive") comment to shame and belittle me. It's also very hypocritical when she knows full well that my blog is my livelihood, so why is she declaring that I'm unethical and potentially damaging the livelihoods of bloggers? I should mention at this point that this blogger and I are not complete strangers; I got her a place on a blogger panel I was organising last year at one of London's largest cultural institutions, and just a few weeks earlier we had both been speakers on a panel to a room full of brands including River Island, New Look and ASOS. At both events she'd been very friendly and professional, so it made the comment all the more shocking. I emailed her to point out all the things I felt about this feedback from her, and how surprised I was to see it given our history. I got no response, just lovely, eh? People often comment that attacks amongst bloggers are down to jealously, but this blogger is huge - at the top of her game. There's nothing for her to feel insecure about with me, and we've both been very vocal on joint panels about a common goal we share to stop brands taking advantage of bloggers - why would she then turn on a much smaller blogger? It's like Angelina Jolie interrupting her busy schedule to visit the set of Hollyoaks, tell one of the cast members she's shit, and strut off before the Hollyoaker can reply.
I deleted this comment and closed them for this post, I could have replied and defended myself, but I don't want any needless negativity and bitching on my blog. It's my job, and whilst I welcome debate, I don't want a silly cat fight between two professional bloggers on there, it's ridiculous. I don't think bitchy bloggers do themselves any favours whatsoever; PRs have told me several times that when they're looking for new bloggers to work with they'll avoid ones who are coming across catty on their Twitter timelines. It was actually a PR from a massive global makeup brand that DMed me to alert me to this comment on my blog, she was gobsmacked, as have been the people that this blogger and I worked together with last year.
Things haven't gotten better, just this week I saw something about "more blogger drama" being stirred on Twitter, and these tweets were frustrated reactions to the negativity:
A few weeks ago a blogger got really upset when she launched her business idea to help out bloggers, including scheduling tweets for them, and this unleashed some scathing twitter comments, bitchy indirects, and even blog posts on the subject. Let's be clear - she was offering to provide a service, not destruct the blogging community in one fell swoop. I've seen one blogger tweet something along the lines of 'I don't have to like everyone in the blogging community' and they've done it more than once. I'm sorry, didn't your first anti-community statement make enough impact? Why do you feel the need to stir up more negativity? It's an absolute given in life that you're not going to like everyone you encounter - at every job you work in, every social event you go to, heck there's even been buses I've been on where I've taken a dislike to some twat spewing an obnoxious tinny baseline from their headphones, and I've wanted to say "play it out loud, or turn it off because this hissing beat thing is killing me." If I came out with what I'm feeling to bus twat does that make me "real" or "genuine"? That seems to be the argument for everyone being negative in the blogging community, even when they're reacting to totally non-twatish things: "I'm going to be real and say I don't LIKE this person." 'Saying it how it is' has become the motto of the bitch, the person who wants his or her negative feelings towards another known. It's a cowardly sentiment to hide behind, that somehow being incendiary makes you strong and passionate. No, love - it makes you a cow. You can go all throughout your personal and professional life NOT telling people that you don't like them and they'll never know. I'm no behavioural psychologist, but if I was I'd conclude that you are 100% less of a prick when you resist the urge to purposely make people feel bad.
Thank goodness for people like Jemma who have taken steps to counteract this negativity in the community with initiatives like The Girl Gang. This tweet above is because one night Jemma felt her Twitter feed was getting too negative so she asked people to recommend the funniest, most inspiring and positive women to follow. I hope she culled some of the naysayers - I know I have! If you think a collective like Girl Gang is twee or pointless or hiding something sinister (as some have felt the petty urge to comment) then just don't participate. That simple. Join, don't join, just don't be a dick.
The worst thing to come from the negativity in the community happened when I was at a lunch for freelancers, including PRs, journalists and digital marketing types. We got talking about the tensions in the blogosphere and some of the things going on, and one member of our group, a man, said "well, what do you expect when a community is mostly women, I'm sorry - but this always happens." Some of the older women nodded sadly, perhaps remembering a time when they'd been part of a female shitstorm, created by women for women. I hate that women are seen as a foregone conclusion of perceived certitude, that there will never be and can never be a harmonious creative community of women without some in-fighting and general bitching. His comment depressed me more than the one from big-blogger. Side note: of course there are men in the blogging community too, and they can be just as bitchy and negative, but it's the women that get landed with the "that's typical of them" eye roll from outsiders.
The truth is that, despite the random bitchy types in a group, women can champion each other, drive each other's success and support one another. Historically, women have been amazing at forming community groups and being each other's cheerleaders. This week I felt like I had the physical tension of two months of negativity metaphorically massaged away when I attended an event for women organised by two bloggers. IRL Panel was about coming away from social media and having a discussion amongst women in real life. We piled in to Twitter Headquarters, consumed free prosecco (air punch!) and vodka, and listened to a panel of amazing women talking on the subject of permission - who gives us permission to be ourselves, to achieve our goals? Is it okay to give ourselves permission? What do we do when negative people deny us permission to be happy and successful? It was all much needed and bloody brilliant. One of the panel said there's no point in women comparing themselves with others, we're all individuals and just realising we are limitless. Another said you might create envy in people, and their negativity is them not being mature enough to deal with it, but it's about them not you. I will do a separate blog post on this event because it wasn't all about the negatives of female communities (although those bits were SO goddam relevant), some really powerful and life-changing sentiments came from this night, and I've been feeling so different ever since. It wasn't just me feeling like this by the way, another woman in the audience literally cried.
I've seen some other positive comments I can't find at the moment: Zoe London saying that it makes her so happy when others in the community comment on her YouTube videos, and general gratitude and love expressed by women to other women for the support.
When a famous YouTuber copy-pasted Abby's photo and tweet and passed it off as their own work on Facebook, the community rallied to help her. On another great note, the negative feelings circulating have made bloggers ask themselves what it means to be a young woman in a community of other women, but also an amazing driven individual.
When I see people tweet that they're having a down day, or are in a blogging slump, it's great to see the community love they get.
Maybe the negative bloggers feel insecure or jealous or like they don't belong. Maybe they just like stirring up drama for attention. No one is happy and brimming with positivity all the time, and certainly no one is suggesting bloggers should fake happiness or sod off the internet if they're feeling sad; we can support each other through bad times as well as the good, and clearly the community does this. But when it comes to taking the time out of your day to knock someone on social media, on your blog, on their blog - can you not. There's no need, keep it to yourself. I'd like to end with this from Jemma, and dedicate it to people who revel in being mean girls: