One of the great things about blogs, whether you’re writing your own or just reading some of the awesome stuff from around the web, is that you get to hear lots of different stories from real peoples’ lives. I have a definite voyeuristic streak, so I find the goings on of other people intensely interesting, especially if, despite the blogger leading a very different lifestyle, she and I have stuff in common. Better still is when she’s accomplished something big that inspires me to work on my big goals, too.
What I’ve found, though, is that there’s a big difference between bloggers who are inspiring and those who are alienating. At first, I wasn’t able to articulate the distinction – probably because I wasn’t precisely aware of it. I would just inexplicably become a less frequent reader of a blog that I had been an avid follower of, for reasons I couldn’t explain. Eventually, I’d cut it out of my daily rotation, but if someone had asked me why I’d probably have said that the content didn’t interest me anymore. But that wouldn’t have been exactly true; these would just have been the only words I to describe why I’d dropped it.
However, as time has passed and I’ve read a whole plethora of blogs – personal finance and otherwise – I now have a way to explain why blogs that I used to find fascinating are now a total turnoff: the bloggers behind them tell their stories in a way that’s alienating as opposed to inspiring.
What do I mean by alienating, and how does it differ from inspiring? In general, I think that bloggers are alienating when they:
- Only discuss successes, never failures
- Are aggressively optimistic and upbeat, with never a moment of self-doubt
- Don’t ask questions
- Present themselves as authorities on a topic, as opposed to one person with one idea about how to do X
- Give unsolicited advice
- Express themselves in a tone that’s prim (as opposed to conversational)
Alternatively, bloggers who are inspiring:
- Tell their stories of success with humility and are sure to acknowledge help that they received in achieving a big goal
- Aren’t afraid to admit failure and discuss struggles
- Ask for readers’ questions and opinions
- Provide advice to readers when it’s expressly requested, and include snippets of emails or tweets of the question being asked to credit the reader with the idea for the post
- Are clear that their way of doing something (like paying off debt or styling a scarf) is just one way, not the “right” way
- Express themselves in a tone that’s friendly as opposed to stuffy
In short, bloggers are alienating when they try to make it appear that they’re perfect. I’m not inspired by a personal finance blogger who makes all the right choices (allegedly), hits every monthly savings goal (apparently), never blows her budget (or so she says), then *presto!* has paid off all her debt. When I read blogs like this, I immediately feel that a) this person is obviously superhuman and I’m not, so there’s no way that I can do what she’s done and b) there’s so much that she’s holding back. I guess what I’m saying is that while I intellectually understand that there’s no way any person is as flawless as this type of blogger professes to be, creating the illusion of perfection does absolutely nothing to draw me in as a reader or make me feel that I’m as capable of success as she is.
To be fair, I don’t think that any blogger is trying to alienate her readers. I just think there’s a fine line between alienation and inspiration that, unfortunately, a lot of bloggers cross at some point. This is especially likely to happen when bloggers are successful at meeting their goals and/or their blogs become popular. But avoiding that line is do-able if we all remember to stay humble, write about our trials as well as our triumphs, and remember that we’re all just regular people trying to figure our shit out. That’s pretty much it. I don’t know about you, but bloggers who keep those basic tenets in mind are writing stuff that I want to read.
What do you think?