I miss the exciting days when the Internet wasn’t in every home yet, when we got our software updates as floppy discs taped to the front of computer subscriptions and when we would find out about the best new websites from the incredible Connect magazine.
As people swarmed to get connected, blogs started to pop up. They started as a way to document our lives. Blogging started out as ‘web-log’, where we would share our diaries, often completely anonymously, hoping that what we wrote online would have no connection to our real lives.
I remember reading one by a taxi driver who shared stories of her passengers under a pseudonym. There was another one about a woman who would go on dates in the search for love but never seemed to find someone who was just right.
Then came the travel blogs, sharing adventures and free advice for backpackers. I started my first one back in 2006 when I joined the staff of a cruise ship company and posted photos of the ports and a few funny stories about the passengers.
People with something to really talk about found a voice online. Parents began to talk about the unglamorous sides of giving birth and raising their kids. They talked about poop explosions, birthing scars, the really hard days when they didn’t think they could continue, and they found understanding with other people who have been, or are going through the same thing.
Then along came the money.
Ads started to show up on the tops of websites or down the sides. Brands found opportunities to sell their products through people who used them. While, for the most part this worked in everyone’s favour, as bloggers got to share their honest recommendations and brands found a new advertising stream, it muddied the waters of honest blogging.
Now every second post is about toothpaste or a cleansing face mask with smiling faces of the new ‘influencers’ showing off their rejuvenated features, happy that they were chosen to receive a free sample of something they’ve never heard of and won’t buy again.
The very worst of the worst are the ‘Income Report’ posts that share how they made thousands of dollars in a month. As well as completely losing sight of sharing meaningful content, they serve as ways to start people off on pyramid schemes with affiliate links, which the post writer will get paid for every time a new ‘blogger’ signs up to the scheme. They often appear on ‘Travel Bloggers’ who are travelling the world and sharing their adventures.
Of course they are, they’re given an income by selling the dream that anyone can afford to live off their own blog (as long as they convince enough other people to sign up through this particular link).
On the other hand, I look for, and value honest recommendations and reviews of products that I need or are related to my interests as long as we’re honest about what’s happening and why the content creators are talking about it. The brands that are supporting the blogging community are giving us the money we need to keep going. Web hosting isn’t free and the hours and hours of work that our sites and online forums need to be paid for somehow.
But where do we go from here?
Like I mentioned, I understand and value the real reviews and honest recommendations but what we really have to be is a group of journalists, asking important questions. We need to be the over-sharers of too much information or the support that people need when they have a problem that nobody talks about.
We need to give honest, uncensored opinions on issues that we’re careful about talking about to our friends.
As a Dad-Blogger, I work hard at mixing real, personal content that I worry about posting, with sponsored pieces that I’m both interested in the brand and have something useful to say about it.
Written by James Smith, writer and creator of SocialDad.ca