* This is the extended version of my reflection analysis that I wrote for my Fashion and American Culture course.
As you probably know, I have been blogging for the public for almost 2 years (and for myself for about 10 years). Within this short period of time, I’ve learned and grown a lot from my experience. I developed a wide variety of hard and soft skills, made connections with a number of amazing and inspiring people, and best of all, had a lot of fun unleashing the inner creative in me. No one can get hurt from the content I produce… right?
Although fashion blogging has helped me explore my creative side and developed critical skills, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any negative consequences that come from what I do. While reflecting on my work and discussing critical themes that have influenced the global fashion industry in my Fashion and American Culture course, I began noticing and analyzing potential negative effects that can come from this rise of new voices.
From reading bloggers who aspire to be heard by the masses, the following recurrences have forced me to question the ethics behind the fashion blogging industry. My main purpose behind this critique is not to attack my fellow bloggers, but to encourage them to be more aware of the influences they have on their environments through their images, writing and use of technology. The rising popularity of the fashion blogging/vlogging culture has made me realize that I need to be more responsible with what I choose to show in my content. As the Internet becomes more accessible to people, more of these people are depending on the Internet as a source of information. That’s nothing new to know but there is not a time when the Internet is ever more powerful than now.
1) Promotion of Materialism
Many consumers fail to realize that many images that they see on blogs don’t best represent realistic situations. Oftentimes, our photos stretch the boundaries of reality. The images that these bloggers produce – many of which are produced with the help of photo editing programs – and publicize are glamorized. They have similar effects to commercials and ads that pop up around us, encouraging readers to believe that they need to give in to their material wants and conform to society’s beauty standards in order to feel self-fulfilled, successful, happy and etcetera.
As fashion and lifestyle bloggers become more popular among netizens, they gain more attention from a variety of brands that are willing to sponsor or pay them for their endorsements. That just means that they have an incentive to try to sell what they’re wearing. As Internet influencers, bloggers tend to have a huge audience who will want what they see. But whether bloggers are publishing sponsored content or not, we should keep in mind that the audience will still be susceptible to the powers of glamorized imagery and language.
I am not saying that we can’t spoil ourselves now and then (even I have trouble restraining myself) but I think as bloggers, we should be mindful of how often we tell others buy this and that. Of course, there are many professional bloggers out there, including my favorites, who do an amazing job at not aggressively promoting the products that they are sponsored to use, and I respect that very much.
2) Lack of Depth and Authenticity in Writing
The reason why blogging is so popular is that it allows bloggers to express themselves freely. Their words are meant to be uncensored and are supposed to reflect the voices of the original authors. A year after I created my blog, I starting writing posts for sponsors who were willing to pay me for my time and effort. I noticed that my voice became less and less apparent the more I wrote for them. Not only that, the writing that I produced showed less depth and instead, focused more on the products that I had to include in my posts in a surreptitious manner. I became so caught up with the benefits that it ended up being at the cost of my originality. I eventually became a blogger who conformed to perform the new role assigned to me: a salesperson.
There is nothing wrong with making a business out of your blog, but it does bring the blogger’s true self and motives into question. Are they creating content for the enjoyment of creating content or for materialistic gains? In my opinion, it’s acceptable to blog for the former or both reasons but never only for the latter. I never quite understand why anyone would choose to restrict themselves from truly expressing their thoughts and fabricate their public image online. If I can’t do that offline, I don’t expect myself to fake it online.
Last year, I noticed that I had a repeat of this feeling of loss of depth and authenticity in my writing with my last internship. Going in, I was hoping to get a better insight on what working in fashion journalism could look like. Given that I was able to exercise my voice as I please, I still had to abide by the editorial guidelines. Now, fashion writing is a much more difficult skill to obtain than one assumes – or at least top quality writing. In order to write well, knowledge of not just fashion trends that evolve over history is required, but knowledge of history itself is as well. And let’s not forget terminology. As grateful as I was about what I was able to learn from my internship, I realized that I wanted to pursue writing that had more… substance.
3) Obsession with Social Media
As serious/professional bloggers, we are always looking for new strategies to grow our blogs. Of course, social media is without a question one of them. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and etcetera. The more accounts we have, the more time we are going to spend time on them. While networking and promoting our content are integral in a growing blog career, they shouldn’t take up our lives, obviously.
For a while, I developed an unhealthy addiction for Instagram. Not only did I spend too much time on it, I felt compelled to return the favor whenever someone liked or commented on my photo. I treated it as if it was common courtesy, which was what I shouldn’t have done. This reminded me of my experience at last summer’s conference.
Bloggers become so caught up the numbers that they can forget what really matters: living in the moment and appreciating the real world. I honestly could care less whether I have 20 or 100 likes on a post, and I think that’s the attitude everybody should have when they’re posting content on social media. In the end, it doesn’t really matter as long as you enjoy doing what you’re doing, right?
Here is a link of a video of Michelle Phan encouraging others to disconnect from the digital world. It’s encouraging to see someone whose business is entirely based on the Internet world advising others to take the time to focus on what’s happening in the present.
4) Exploitation of People and Environment
Bloggers are also referred as influencers in the marketing industry because they have become one of the sources that this generation often look toward to help themselves make consumption decisions. That could be dangerous because if bloggers are promoting fast fashion brands, their endorsements may indirectly lead to an increased demand for clothes produced by people living under unfair labor conditions. Not only do the costs of the workers’ labor become cheaper, more greenhouse gases are emitted due to rise in demands in the textiles industry.
I recently watched a documentary called Sweatshop, which sent three bloggers to try and live the life of a Cambodian sweatshop worker, and would highly recommend everyone to watch it. Another documentary that I’d highly recommend watching is The True Cost, a documentary that also explores this issue but takes place mainly in Bangladesh (Have you heard of the Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013?).
I hope to write a post that will further explore this issue and the sustainable fashion industry in the future.
5) Perpetuation of Female Stereotypes
Because the earnings of professional female fashion bloggers depend on how well received their works are by the public, they must often conform to society’s set of beauty standards (for example, creating looks that make their faces seem smaller and legs seem longer). Such beauty standards can easily lead to women feeling unhealthy emotional pressures to conform to social expectations. Female readers may be unaware of the fact that these images produced by the bloggers are likely to be fabricated.
Another issue to keep in mind is that oftentimes, the audience is left in the dark when it comes to how much brain power it takes for these female bloggers to succeed. What they don’t know is that blogging requires a variety of analytical and technical skills – from trendspotting to planning to photo editing and more. They only know that these bloggers “look pretty” and are well liked at doing what they do. Unfortunately, the glamorized portrayals of themselves help perpetuate the idea of beauty as a woman’s duty and does not create a space for women to show how well-rounded and capable they really are. The beauty found in their looks, in other words, is often a hyperfocused subject of matter when we talk about fashion bloggers.
Of course, I’m going to continue blogging, but I expect to do so with a different mindset. Once again, I want to emphasize that I do not intend for this to be a personal attack on fashion bloggers. but rather, something to ponder about if you really care about your audience.
Disclaimer: None of the images are created or owned by me.