GUEST POST by SARA CHAMBERS
I remember when I first discovered blogs and began bookmarking them like crazy. I was fascinated with the everyday lives of people I met through this forum and I even imagined how we would be the best of friends if we lived in the same place. It was a way to connect and it was a way for me to push myself creatively. I was inspired to create my own digital space and ask how I could contribute to the conversation. Most of all I admired the people behind these spaces.
As blogs progressed, became more accessible, and were even touted to every business owner as a must-have in content creation strategy, the criticism came pouring in. I even felt myself participating at times. I began to denounce a new blog within moments of being on the site if their design didn’t capture my attention. I began to write off blogs that didn’t fit my style. I began to notice when many bloggers were posting the same type of outfits all the time and little by little I started to lose interest in so many sites that were on my regular rotation for years.
Even though there were reasons that I didn’t care for the space any longer, be it that I grew out of it or even just couldn’t keep up with all the new ones forcing me to create a priority reading list, I never once thought about vocalizing those reasons, I just stopped following them.
I might be the naïve one here, but it was only recently that I stumbled upon a few blogger forums, where the sole purpose was to connect and chat with others online who had the same contempt and critical comments about popular bloggers and social media influencers. I was in shock. I’m certainly aware of online bullying and trolling wasn’t a foreign concept, but there was something about this space that affected me deeper. The comments were cruel. They accused bloggers of lying about illnesses and they name-called like they were on a schoolyard playground. They made my stomach turn. I even saw a few comments that echoed my own criticisms of these bloggers and I felt ashamed for relishing in any of my negative thoughts myself, but most of all I felt disheartened by the words that were spurring one another on, only fueled by hate.
I found myself hoping that none of the bloggers would ever read these words about themselves, but I knew that they probably all had at some point. This overwhelmed me and even made me consider my own space.
Now, my little blog isn’t big enough to warrant anyone chatting about it on a forum, but it made me think. What would people have to say about me, my life, and my creative endeavors?
I count life as a journey and we should feel free and confident enough to use the Internet and our own digital spaces as a tool for exploration and discovery. For me, blogging was a way to do just that, to try new things, experiment, and document. I was thrilled when anyone read it or took the time to comment. I wondered how I might have held back or not pushed publish on several posts if I were concerned with how it would be received and if I’d be made the center of cruel scrutiny. I wondered if I would have continued at all. Of course, had I done that I would have missed out on quality connections and abounding creative growth. It’s possible that I might have not challenged myself in photography and my written observations would have remained in my mind. For the first time, it made me grateful to exist in the shadows of blogging.
As communicators, entrepreneurs, and hustlers in the digital age, we should expect to encounter some criticism, but sometimes it can feel less constructive and more like the mean girls' side of the high school locker room. Digital anonymity doesn't give us the right to act or speak with hate and maliciousness. It simply breeds more hate giving others’ permission to act in the same manner.
This revelation challenged me.
I knew that it wasn’t in my character to share such hateful thoughts and criticisms in a public way, but I began to consider why even have them in the first place. I began to meditate on what it would look like to banish those kinds of thought patterns all together and not even allow them a place to grow. What would it look like to take the absence of digital bullying a step further? How could I not only change my actions, but also my perspective?
I know that the forums will continue to exist and I know that Internet trolling and online bullying will continue, but what if those of us who are committed to creating positive environments for others to document and explore made it our personal mission to lift each other up, not just in our words, but also in our actual thoughts? I’ve never been more convinced that we need to rally around each other and create a community of positivity that celebrates everyone’s journey, seeks to build up one another’s confidence, and allows us a safe space to grow into who we want to be personally and creatively. I think we could all thrive in a place like that.
Sara Chambers is a writer, photographer, and designer doing her best to live a creative life in the desert with her energetic toddler and handsome husband. She loves collaborating, community, and coffee. Alliteration is clearly her favorite literary device and she’s a fierce advocate for the oxford comma. She hopes to inspire creative women to use their collective power for good. She spends her days advocating for vulnerable people as the Senior Copywriter for Food for the Hungry. She also blogs her observations and creative journey over at chickswhogiveahoot.com and shares her daily snaps on Instagram at @chickswhogiveahoot.