Whatever happened to individuality in blogging?

Unpopular opinion: I don’t view plagiarism as flattery. Instead, I view it as someone creating a knock-off version of myself/my brand and expecting no one to experience second-hand embarrassment over it. I understand what trendsetting is, but there’s a humongous difference in idolizing someone to the point of losing yourself to look like them and putting together your own look/creation using many channels that inspire you.

From where I stand: mucked stall next to miniature paint donkey
Next to Josie after mucking her and her sister’s stall (yes, there is dried manure in there, and manure’s just a fancy way to say livestock poop)

In case that didn’t get through to you, here’s another for size: you can be an identity thief and steal someone’s look/likeness, or you can add someone else’s style to your mood board of various other styles to create your own.

The former is creating a knock-off of your idol; the latter is creating your own exclusive brand using the influence from the world around you and your imagination.

Personally, I find the latter tastes sweeter, feels cozier, and leaves a lasting impression on people. It’s what gets me compliments, like You pull off multiple colors, patterns and textures so well when you layer! Why isn’t this in a magazine?? and all that loveliness. I used to think you needed earrings for people to compliment you on your style, so I was really bummed when I couldn’t wear them anymore, but I found my style in layering.

I was one of those girls in school who had the preppy looks of the popular kids, and could even run with them, but was too soft-spoken and timid to actually be part of the popular kids. Plus, well, I didn’t want to be popular; I didn’t care about following trends because I just wanted to dress like myself.

One of the things that has kept me blogging all these years is the ability to express my individuality so openly and connect with other people who do it as well, at the same time befriending people outside my homeland. This is also the hardest thing, due to saturation in the blogosphere and some people thinking it okay to steal my style.

In school, teachers always told their students not to mind if something was stolen, but there wouldn’t be laws protecting people against theft if it was really something we’re supposed to be okay with. The world isn’t run by the Trinkets trio. We wouldn’t tell victims of identity theft to suppress their pain and anger — that they should feel flattered someone used their credit card/stole their face/etc. You can’t use someone’s photo without a proper license/express consent without risking a lawsuit.

Not everyone understands this, but those who do are typically angered by plagiarism — and rightfully so. In my experience, it’s the majority who agrees that plagiarism is wrong and the stealing boogers who believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

So, I’ve finished this point.

Blogging used to rely on individuality, but now so much of it relies more on meeting search engine optimization (SEO) standards, which in turn makes everyone’s blogs read the same. Don’t even get me started on the followers game.

As per SEO standards, the above header is unlikely to be accepted by SEO “gurus”. SEO “experts” say you should follow every. single. aspect. of SEO to ensure you rank well in search engines, and plugins like Yoast help you do just that.

The thing that too few of those “experts” acknowledge is that, by implementing all these SEO tactics, you’re not formatting your blog for people — you’re doing it for algorithms (robots).

I’ve written and read blogs that have been heavily prepared for SEO, and it’s miserable. It doesn’t read like something written for people, but something written for robots. People on the web don’t need to be artificially reminded of why they’re on your post, so you don’t need to channel your inner kindergarten teaching voice to make sure they stay on target.

The common denominator across blogs that focus on SEO and/or use plugins such as Yoast is, they all start to look the same. They’re not memorable because they follow structure akin to assembly lines.

The longer bloggers blog, the more they understand the important balance of SEO and formatting their blogs how they want. Veteran bloggers tend to care less about following SEO guidelines — not because they “don’t need to”, but because they realize they needn’t follow everything.

Unspoken blogosphere rules include discussing religion and politics.

The general consensus is that, if bloggers had “normal” jobs, they’d be fired for talking about political shit. Political shit includes religion, freedoms, rights, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health, disability, economy, and literally everything under the sun.

Having an opinion in and of itself is absolutely terrifying, but I’ve found it gets the people I want reading my blog doing exactly that. I’ve a fancy for posting and reading controversial blog posts, because it allows me to engage in actual meaty discussions rather than half-baked opinions that were too diluted to rock any boats.

I grew up surrounded by GIRL POWER. Music and strong female characters influenced my life in ways the people around me never would, and I held onto this even when my stepfather tried to take it away. Neither he nor my mother could, even when they tried to ground me from all those things. So I’m totally not sorry to announce how baffled I am at the idea that bloggers should not discuss politics, especially when they’re personally affected. Stories are how we learn empathy and get outside our cozy, little bubbles.

I think part of it is in the oppression of women. We’re reprimanded for holding strong opinions, especially when they disagree with men.

It’s difficult to find male bloggers whose blogs are not about writing, blogging, making money, politics, and/or religion. Male bloggers are forgiven more often for blogging about any of these things, even on blogs where the focus is not related to those at all.

Of course, men get away with many things women don’t, regardless of toxic masculinity and misogyny. This is how the world works, since not enough of us with platforms use our voice to discuss the taboo.

Several years back, 20-something female bloggers posted about sex toys they received for payment, because a) the payment was great for that stuff back then and b) they had their own reasons. Younger bloggers, myself included, took issue with this; I surmise it’s because, like me, they were raised in a society that denies women their sexuality and desires, labeling them Jezebels. I wouldn’t doubt it’s the same reason so much of the world still blames women who’ve been raped/assaulted, claiming men aren’t at fault.

In my late 20s, I’ve realized why they might have blogged about sex toys, wondering if perhaps they even felt empowered. I feel empowered when I discuss reusable menstrual products.

Bloggers have the ability to change the world, but we waste it when we refrain from the controversial and worry instead about pleasing the people.

We have the ability to change the world, dammit.

Out of all the blog designs in the world, many of us choose instead to create clones of blogs we love, because if that design/format works for that blogger, why won’t it work for us?

Instead of relying on our own styles, we look to marble contact paper and influencer pink. We share photos in Insta-glam places instead of the not-so-pretty places that make us check our privilege.

Woman squatting between two miniature paint donkeys wearing red halters, hand under older one's chin
Not very Insta-glam, but definitely my aesthetic

My own style of cozy grunge chic doesn’t fit into such a bubble, but this theme was my IDGAF to the blogosphere/influencer community.

As if you need permission: talk about politics, religion, sexuality. Discuss all the ways you contradict yourself on the daily. Make inappropriate comments and jokes, like how your pantry smells like scented tampons and you can’t figure out why. Bring your own style to the table, especially if influencer pink is the color most likely to piss you off.

Express yourself, as unique as you are, because that is the only way you’ll get anywhere in an over-saturated blogosphere.

#LetsDiscuss is hosted by FYFA & ISAM.

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Comments on this post

I’ve never been able to figure out SEOs or any of that stuff. Once upon a time I briefly tried, and then I promptly decided I didn’t care in the least. I agree with you about plagiarism too—while it might be flattery, it’s still wrong!

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Just love this post! Thank you for raising so many important points and for being so honest about it. It suppose it is also about conformity so that one meets the requirements to work with bigger brands. Also about staying safe online as people don’t want to have to deal with conflicts or stalkers or abuse.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the hard work that goes into blogging. And I understand people want to make a living from it in most cases. But I do miss the variety that comes with coloring outside the lines.

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Me too! It’s refreshing to read blogs that aren’t obviously written to sell something.

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