The Cult of Side Eye: Fame and Blogging

4ed52b7429991528e46b0e4881512045This morning was a waste. Instead of curing male pattern blandness or writing the Next Great American Cocker Spaniel Novel, I hunted virtual big game. There were villains, unleashing side eye on the innocent, and they must be stopped!

You see, this isn’t my only home on the internet. Away from our wonderful world of sarcastic ranting, I run a small, personal sewing blog. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff – pretty dresses, witty commentary, and sewing pattern reviews – but I love doing it. Unlike other parts of the internet, the sewing community is almost universally supportive, which provides a lovely mental respite. In the four years I’ve been writing it, there’s been nary a death threat nor a hateful body snark in the comment section. Meanwhile, my first big post for Spinsters earned both, in less than two days.

Unfortunately, checking my stats this morning was a wake-up call. A handful of people found my little slice of paradise, thanks to a site called Get Off My Internets. Despite an hour of perusing threads, I couldn’t find the link itself, but instead discovered an entire side of blogging previously unexplored. This is a site, complete with its own blog and forum, dedicated to making fun of other bloggers. There are threads for all the most popular blogs around, in which people discuss, tear down, and debate every aspect of those bloggers’ posts. From what I could glean, before running away screaming, a lot of that involves speculation about these bloggers’ personal lives. It’s a supremely meta, worldwide burn book. 

It’s, also, fucking terrifying.

First off, blog hate is understandable. The first rule of writing is that universal adoration is a pipe dream. People will find you annoying for all sorts of reasons, no matter how inoffensive your work seems. That’s just fine. I’m a believer in feeling your feelings, as Kate and Mae can tell you. (They’ve had to listen to this motto a thousand times, at least.) If your feelings say that I’m a man-hating socialist, that’s cool. Personally, I think have some redeeming qualities, but you can’t win ’em all. What scared me about this site wasn’t the hate itself, but the in-depth research and dissection happening in its forums.

There were threads debating whether someone had gained weight, because she was pregnant, or just because she’d eaten too many of her picture-perfect cupcakes. People discussed the financial details of bloggers, down to how much their husbands made at their jobs, and the imprudent travel habits of one D-I-Yer. The attacks were personal, detailed, and sounded like the most salacious tabloid headlines. Only…they weren’t attacking celebrities. They were attacking normal people, who happen to blog.

Is there no longer a line between blogger and celebrity? There’s no denying that the internet is a public forum, of course. We write with the knowledge, often with the hope, that other people will come along and read our work. And yet, most of us don’t blog out of a desire for fame. The statistics are just too dismal. There are millions upon millions of blogs, filling every niche from snarky twenty-something feminism to anthropomorphic basket-weaving. The number of bloggers who have earned traditional fame–TV show, movie contract, book deal sort of fame–is scant in comparison.

We started Spinsters out of a desire for community. Kate, Mae, and I would meet for dinner and rehash all of the ridiculous things that we’d experienced that week, from workplace sexism to dating disasters. Our stories were normally funny, but also touched on what being a modern, single, twenty-something meant. We decided to blog, out of a suspicion that those experiences were common to other women like us and should be shared. Since then, our lives have changed quite a bit–from promotions, to big moves, to marriages–but we still blog for the same reason. We believe that speaking out, that sharing our rants, reminds other young women that they’re not alone. Plus, it’s really fun to wax poetic about beards every now and again.

Who’s to say that other bloggers, who may now be popular through their efforts, didn’t also begin out of a sense of community? Surely, it’s one thing to dissect people who put their lives out there for actual media consumption, for traditional fame, and another entirely to denigrate normal people who are sharing things on the internet. In this modern age, when so much of what we everyone does is on the web, that harsh spotlight could fall on so many perfectly innocent people.

There is a reason we blog anonymously. Originally, I thought it was to protect us from the censure of friends and family, but maybe the world at large is more the threat. If one lifestyle blogger is open to weight comments and financial dissection from a community of haters, why couldn’t three funny harpies be next? The internet is a fish bowl. I suppose it makes sense that, somewhere out there, piranhas are lurking. We have been warned.

– Grace

Coincidentally, my dad just sent me this video of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves on Jimmy Kimmel. It seems remarkably apropos, no?

20 thoughts on “The Cult of Side Eye: Fame and Blogging

  1. Imagine how small and boring your life would have to be in order to have to resort to doing something like that, just to get your kicks! I mean, I’m all for being snarky and sharing anecdotes about ridiculous stuff that happened irl, but to seek out strangers and obsessively tear them down like that…those are some freakin’ problems, yo.

    Pretty much my entire online life is just sewing/knitting/crocheting/crafting/diying blogs, so I guess I really lucked out in avoiding the Evil Corner of the Internet. Having said that, I have to admit that I actively avoid checking out stuff like that, so that helps in keeping my own little corner of the web all sunshiney and shit.

    • Oh! I meant to add that there are definitely some bloggers that I would freak out about meeting, which is more than I can say about celebrities-who-aren’t-reba-mcentire. So, I think the fame aspect is definitely subjective, but I do think most people are in it for the community and sharing, rather than some sort of pipe dream that this’ll lead to a book deal or reality show or whatever. That doesn’t mean others don’t think of them as “famous”, y’know?

  2. Yeah, there are some awful people on the internet who don’t know how to play nicely with others. I read your blog because of how funny and relatable it is, and I am sure the majority of your readers agree. I promise to never try to figure out any of your BMIs or favorite puppy treats.

  3. This is so very annoying I must say. There are some weird people out there and it can be frightening to say the least. In fact, even family and friends can be downright unrelatable when it comes to sharing your stuff. You know what I mean?

  4. People discovered this blog or the sewing one? Also, should I have been discussing beards all this time with other women? I mean, other than my mother, who thinks that I needed to be TOLD that I have chin hairs now, as if I actively avoid any sort of reflection of my face and never saw them?

    Anyway, I didn’t find a category for my own blog (fiction, mostly) on Get Off My Lawn, but maybe somebody has it buried somewhere in some other category. Not that I would benefit from learning this; I don’t handle even the gentlest of criticism well at all. I don’t get comments on posts, so there’s my little slice of obscurity.

    I’d seen that “mean tweets” video before and admire the celebs’ ability to read them aloud. And your own strength/fortitude for writing about stuff like this!

  5. This is really frightening. I don’t even understand why people bother to troll at all. What are they doing with their lives? I’m lazy and feel like wasting my live away but I still don’t think I’d have the time to attack people in the comment section of, I don’t know, an online article in a newspaper about the colour of apples… It’s bad enough I read stuff like that, just out of boredom or laziness (ok, not about the colour of apples), so when I don’t like the article itself or a comment (the first question should be why I started reading the comments then), I just stop reading it. What the hell happened to these people? Why do they accumulate so much hatred? Why do they keep it and let it grow and share it and never ever seem to question their decision to do so? Why can’t they just crochet and shut up? Or watch stupid television and shout loudly at the TV, like my grandparents did. I really, really don’t understand how anyone would want to waste so much energy on hatred. Especially as there are so many things to hate and fight for. People had been fighting for civil rights or against poverty all their lives and nevertheless there’s still so much left of this for us. Hatred against human rights violiations seems like a rather good idea for me, it’ll keep you occupied forever.
    Oh dear, I hope I won’t get trolled now for this comment…I’m not hoping for a book deal, btw. Just sayin’.
    But I’ll definitively will check the DIY blog scene out, as I like to crochet. Sometimes I crochet to shut up myself, too. It helps.

  6. I like your blog, straight talking, sarcasm, humour-what’s not to like? 😀
    Like all bloggers we take the time to write about the things we like/dislike. Those people have taken the time to instead figuring out what type of person they are have chosen to spend their time ‘b1tchin’about someone elses world.
    If you think about it those uninteresting people have a ‘community’ of their I have no interest to join 😀

  7. Yes, blog world can be a alarming place. It’s amazing what some people take offense to and the cruel way in which others can criticize. Hoping to take a break from all of the nasty on Feb. 14 at the Cougar Den. Come by for some liking!

  8. this is the number one reason i was afraid to start posting on a blog… sad to say that others opinions mean that much to me. it’s like a virtual high school pep rally full of viscious, insecure children. Reading this though made me think, who cares? Thanks for the post. I’m going to post my first official blog post within the week thanks to this!

  9. This is not something I understand, but I am very aware of it. My teen-aged daughter loves to write. I was encouraging her about 2 years ago, and suggested she start a blog to write about things that interest her. I figured it would be a good outlet for her and might get her in touch with some similar minded people. She was bombarded with mean, vicious comments from people like this. It was a while before she even told me, and at one point she was taking it very personally. After a while she learned to report them, block them, and otherwise ignore them, and continues to write in spite of them. I think there are just awful people in the world. Thankfully there are many wonderful people too. The internet is a way for abusive people to be abusive confidentially and without a lot of (if any) consequences. It is sad, and pointless, and a little worrisome, but like anything there is always good and bad. I read things all the time that I don’t agree with or might find mildly offensive….but I just ignore it….move on to something else….block the person if it’s bothersome enough…but I see no purpose in berating them. I was NOT aware that there are blogs set up for the purpose of berating others…that is ridiculously sad. I have yet to experience this myself.

  10. I say kudos to you for braving the degenerates of the Internet and putting your writing out there anyway. All three of you are awesome. I hope your positive comments always outweigh the negative ones (and the negative ones can only be coming from jerks who hate themselves).

  11. Oh, dear God. You’ve exposed the dark underbelly of the blog universe. How utterly naive I’ve been to think that I might not become fodder for some schoolyard bullying. Ugh. I can’t un-see that blog. Sigh. People. Sometimes I wish they were just soylent green. Or silent green.

  12. The Internet is full of awful people. Thankfully, there are also some incredibly wonderful people out there too. Like a lot of the commenters on this blog.

    It’s easy to be judgemental and plain rude. A lot harder to have nice things to say. And sadly, it’s the vicious stuff that “sells” on the Internet too.

    A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I was seen as a BNF (big name fan) because of a fansite for Buffy/Angel I used to run. Though, that community was awesome. The blogging community can be, some of the times, but because it’s so easy to lash out at people’s personal things more, people do. Sad.

  13. That’s…wow, I would never have thought trolls were dedicated enough to do research like that. I’m almost impressed, in a seriously-where-is-your-soul kind of way.

    I’m sorry you’re a target of theirs, though, Grace (and I totally respect and share your reasoning for taking a pseudonym). I’m glad you see that you have quite a fan base here, and we’re delighted that you continue to share your humor and honesty with us.

  14. GOMI is a terrifying place–I recently heard of it because I know a couple of popular mommy bloggers (who are lovely, delightful people) who have been viciously ripped apart on that site. It made me afraid to even comment on their photos on Instagram after seeing one of my comments taken completely out of context on GOMI. So my rule now is to stay off of GOMI.
    That being said, I found the link to your site, and it was on the SOMI (stay on my internets) section, and was mentioned in the context of people looking for good sewing blogs to follow. I would post the link, but honestly, I think it is better for the soul to just stay away altogether and not risk getting sucked in to the negativity.
    p.s., I just found you from Mood, and I think you’re such a doll! I love your dresses and your fun writing.

  15. I had no idea that site even existed! The internet is such a double edged sword. It can be such a great way to showcase art and create community. On the other hand, people also hide behind their computers to do cruel things that they would never do in real life. This was really great to read, especially as someone just getting into blogging.

  16. I will pass on reading that “site”. It seems to me that somewhere along the growth of the internet and blogging, some people assumed it was there “right” to say whatever they felt and “evaluate” others in real life. We watch this on tv shows constantly. There are now more tv shows where expressing critical evaluation of real people is a main theme and it has definitely caught on to the internet. Now we have “sites” created just for this? Oh crap! Snarky and mean have become entertainment for the masses, when in “reality”, it’s called bullying and it is a crime. I applaud you for bringing this to light and will not be adding myself to the “views” tally for these “sites”.

    I just stared following this site and hope you continue. I have been enjoyed your sewing site for awhile.

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