Lifestyle Blogging, Guilt, and Me

When I walk home from the grocery store, the first thing I see as I exit those automatic doors is the towering gorgeousness of a 13th century church just inside a 12th century city wall.  And every time I see it, I think, “I need to blog about that.”

This is, I’m starting to suspect, a symptom of a nascent “lifestyle blogger”–someone who blogs frequently, using usually instagramed or picniked photos, about everything from their breakfast to the way their shoes look against the pavement.  Heavy on the color saturation, easy on the text.  Usually with an underlying thesis of something like, “I love my freakin’ life!”

I’ve always had guilty relationship with these kinds of blogs–sneaking a surreptitious peek at Rockstar Diaries or Nat the Fat Rat when I think no one is looking.

“What are you reading about?” asks my husband from across the room.

“Oh…just…the news…” I call back.

Because I’m an intellectual, dag nabbit!  Or, at least, I want people to see me as one.  So I’ve often found myself concerned about the appropriate level of smarty-pants-poseurness I should be showing. (This, I realize, only shows how insecure I am in being thought of as an intellectual person.  But part of me wonders if every intellectual person in the world feels this way and we’re all being poseurs together…or at least 99%.)

Intellectuals are “supposed” to be forever interested in reading the NYT and forever horrified at anything that smacks of someone taking their privileged life for granted.  I’m “supposed” to be able to make witty jokes about obscure philosophers and make refined judgements on post-modern literature in my facebook status.  I’m “supposed” to be above things like incredibly upper-middle class Christmas card photo shoots in the Normandy countryside–in fact, I should probably feel somewhat aghast at them.

And the thing is that I do feel aghast!  And the thing is that I don’t at the same time.

I read these blogs, and write my own, and think of how silly it all might look.  What are my orange tulips I found in a street market compared to the suffering of women in Sudan?  What are your colorful Zara outfits compared to climate change?  What does that particularly good cupcake shop matter in relation to the tragedy of modern slavery?

But then…

Why not be happy about the way a blue vase looks against a white window sill?  Why not share a photograph of your baby wearing hipster glasses because it’s funny!  Why not document your walk around the block, or the blanket fort you made for no good reason, or even the day you sat in bed and blogged about blogging?  These are things that are happening.  These are lives that are trying to find as much beauty and happiness around them, in real time, every day, as they can.

I realize that my stereotype of “being an intellectual” is exactly that, a stereotype.  But I think that there is still a little truth to it in that we’re never “supposed” to get too emotional or too happy about any small thing.  And we’re “supposed” to be at least a little vocally angsty about something world-changing, that we are more or less really doing nothing else about.

And my stereotype of “being a lifestyle blogger” is exactly that as well, and these (all) women truly do have more complex lives that go through pain and anger and fear just like the rest of us.  But I think that there is truth in the stereotype that they are never supposed to get too angsty or too revolutionary about any thing–at least publicly.

And if you’re someone like me, in the middle, you live a split and confused life–noticing how lovely damp cobblestones and flower baskets on thatched-roof houses can be, but feeling like highlighting them in your blog would only make you seem in denial about the “real world.”

When is it okay to stop feeling guilty about being content?  Will anyone ever believe you?  Do you think it’s ever possible to really, truly be genuinely happy when there’s pain and suffering in the world?


  1. This intellectual poseur feels the same way you do, and I suspect many others do as well. I had a friend with 2 MAs (including Oxford) start his PhD at a prominent school. He confessed that he looked around and thought “when will they all discover I’m a fraud, that I’m not as smart as all these other people?”

  2. Yup, good ol’ imposter syndrome. It’s an official thing. I’ve read journal articles on it. Because I’m an intellectual poseur that loves looking at pretty pictures while I should be writing my dissertation.

    The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be….The impostor syndrome was once thought to be particularly common among women who are successful in their given careers, but has since been shown to occur for an equal number of men. It is commonly associated with academics and is widely found among graduate students.

    (emphasis added)

    Gotta love Wikipedia. So much faster than finding primary sources. 🙂 I’d love to see your church.

  3. Oh, that is lovely. Thank you. I love the old European architecture. I need to get back to Europe.

  4. So often I look at those same lifestyle blogs and think, “I could do that, too, and I would even have a few more interesting things to write about!” I would love to be a famous lifestyle blogger. I blog regularly anyway, but I just don’t seem to be able to get a huge following. Maybe it’s because I’m single. Maybe it’s because I don’t have huge amounts of money to spend on making everything look lovely. Maybe it’s because I can’t afford a nice camera to take those fancy pictures. Maybe my writing stinks. Maybe, maybe, maybe. So I do things like write my Master’s thesis about these blogs and secretly adore (or abhore) them alongside the intellectual blogs.

  5. What is the guilt? From enjoying pretty, temporal things in our own lives and/or enjoying them online? I know what you’re saying about “those” blogs, but I know that in my own emotional response (and what I hear in this post) there is more resentment over success than guilt for enjoying pretty things.

    I mean, you’re not really suggesting we should feel guilt for liking how things look, either online or in real life? I don’t want to get religious ;), but the 13th AofF would seem to absolve such guilt. Instead, I think it bothers us that, as far as these blogs go, such seemingly-trite and sometimes-smug and relatively-shallow observations should be so damn successful.

    Your three examples, after all, are not just lifestyle blogs but hugely popular ones, and I don’t think we’re upset about the injustice and disease and human slavery / pretty things dichotomy so much as understandably envious that some people apparently love their own lives and/or are stunningly successful at the business of writing/creating/photographing the same sorts of things we also do every day, only in frumpier clothes.

    It’s like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop thing, only harder for us to reconcile because all three women running Rockstar Diaries, NattheFatRat and DesignMom are Mormon, mothers who’ve figured out how to love their husbands, their kids, AND have financially rewarding careers that far from taking them away from their families, actually require them to spend time with and glorify them. What’s not to want?

  6. I feel sooo much the same way. I’ve been crippingly insecure my whole life, and though I love the intellectual things, I also feel like I’m not qualified for them. I love the pictures they post on the lifestyle blogs because they’re gorgeous. But I hate those blogs, too, because — let’s be honest — I’m bitterly jealous of their gorgeous lives, their traveling, their expensive cameras, their hipster babies, their perfectly decorated homes. Oh, I know they’re more complicated than their blogs show. And in a way that bothers me, too, because I hate the idea that we should only talk about the pretty parts of life. I get criticized often for talking about things that make others uncomfortable, and I explain that I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe in ignoring the hard issues. The lifestyle blogs contribute to that attitude, the one that condemns me for “stirring up controversy” and “causing trouble.”

  7. About posting the picture of your church, though — I don’t think you should have any qualms about doing it, I don’t think it’s anything like the lifestyle blogs. I love doing that kind of thing occasionally, because it makes me feel appreciative for the things I do have. I take random pictures of nature all the time because I’m in love with the gorgeous world around us. I post pictures of beautiful buildings because I think it’s good to take pleasure in simple things sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating our lives and talking about simple things once in a while. The reason we don’t like the lifestyle blogs is that they do it exclusively.

  8. I feel a leeeeettle bit like my thesis got lost in my rambling based on the comments. So…maybe this:

    I think lifestyle blogs have a lot of virtue to them–so much that I emulate them in my own personal blog. But, I feel embarrassed about it sometimes because my rather highly educated friends often judge them as being trite, insincere, unrealistic, etc.

    But my defense is that the things in these blogs (and mine) really are happening–and the flowers and cobblestones really are beautiful– so why can’t we just be happy about beautiful things?

  9. Shannon: Valid probable critique. But I really don’t think I’m jealous… You can roll your eyes at that, but, no really.

    The problem I hear from others (and think at times myself) with just enjoying beautiful things via blog is the problem of a privileged class–so caught up in how wonderful their life is that they fail to look around and see how they could be using their resources to help those who need it?

    Like, I’m serious about the Zara outfit critique. My brain goes: “Why would I post about the blouse I found at H&M and the coat I found at Zara and the dessert party I went to for New Years …when I could be spending that same time writing my congressman about education reform?”

    see? cue the guilt.

    And I think the only reason why I have popular ones here is because I first came across these blogs via a glamour article or some such thing not that long ago, so of course they’re the popular ones? If you have other ones you know about that aren’t as popular, pass ’em my way!

    Finally, I think you might have missed that I think I was being rather more critical of “the intellectual” take on these blogs than on the blogs themselves. Or I was trying to, anyway.

  10. I actually think I’m agreeing with you, though it’s gotten a little confused… I don’t care for the lifestyle blogs, but that’s personal preference, not because I think there’s anything wrong with them. I don’t care for an attitude of dismissing simple things either, or feeling guilty for talking about your new coat instead of writing your Congressman. Of course there’s always something more important out there, but refusing to take time to appreciate small things in your life isn’t something to be glorified.

  11. Honestly, I feel like these books are picture books for grown women. I look at a few, I think they’re pretty, and then I move onto the real stuff.

    I don’t have a problem with them, but I do often think that the amount of time and resources that goes into them is awfully over-the-top. I sometimes wonder if those women do things just to blog about them.

    And at the same time, when I look cute, I think I could totally blog my outfit.

    Then I remember that I hate taking pictures. So even though I have a reasonably cute house and wear reasonably cute clothing, my absolute loathing of cameras protects me. And in a way, I’m grateful for it.

  12. so why can’t we just be happy about beautiful things?

    We can. The trick, in terms of blogging, is to move from thinking about the “how it reflects me” of it, or “what is worth blogging about” and into the expression of personal thought on topics you are interested in and also appreciation for what you find to be beautiful or compelling. Work to get it articulately accurate then let it go off into cyberspace, freely. It’s easiest to do if you are comfortable in your own skin.

    I have friends who have, like me, messy lives, sometimes laced with tragedy, but they love to express the things they love and appreciate in photography or thought. And some of them do it brilliantly on their blogs, which are gorgeous and/or fascinating. And I enjoy their ability to do so. The photographers’ works are beautiful, and I enjoy beauty and their ability to create it. And my philosophical friends are fabulous at finding and sharing new and intriguing ideas.

    But I know that they are not their blogs. Their blogs are simply creative works, like my mother’s embroidery is hers. And I am not my blog either. And my blog is different from those of my talented friends because my interests and skills are different from theirs. (I don’t particularly enjoy messing with photography and though I enjoy reading and hearing witty philosophical repartees, I’m generally a dead sober conversationalist.) And I think that’s good. When I think of blogging in terms of “supposed tos”, or how like or unlike another it is, or whether or not people will roll their eyes at it I lose its purpose. It is best when I simply use it as a tool for expression of what I honestly have been mulling about or find compelling or enlightening (not what I think others judge as worthy) or for sharing experiences with people I love.

    When I use that medium that way, and honestly, without worrying about what kind of message I might be sending about me, it actually feeds my own soul, helps me sort out my thoughts and helps my connections with others. And it becomes a pleasure.

  13. Do you think it’s ever possible to really, truly be genuinely happy when there’s pain and suffering in the world?

    Ah, the elusive “happy”.

    What is it you mean? Chipper? Satisfied? Content with everything just the way they are? Free from care or trouble? Cheerful every day? Unconcerned about things? Permanently positive or perky? Living a life full of pleasure? Undyingly optimistic? Fully satisfied? Always merry? Sure that life is grand?

    If so, the answer is no, if you are a thoughtful person.

    On the other hand, do you mean grateful? Focused? Able to work to right wrongs while feeling at peace within your soul? Cognizant and appreciative of beauty? Sober and wise? Far-sighted? Purposeful? Gentle? Grounded? Fulfilled? Aware of daily small graces? Full of love? Hardworking and creative? Appreciative of humor? Able to see and appreciate blessings?

    If so the answer is yes.

  14. I found this post in a random Google Search and I’m so glad I stopped to read what you have to say. Very interesting indeed. I would never claim to be stupid or dumb or anything else in that family but I also wouldn’t classify myself as an ‘intellectual’. I’m a college-educated young woman who is interested in history and WWII as much as I am the Fall line for 2012. I started a Blog in 2009 and it has become exactly what you state above- pictures of my house, my clothes, some thoughts I have but there’s always images and I rarely will delve into any type of family issue. I often think about and worry that people will think I have no substance due to these posts. If I write a whole commentary on a new shoe I got, does that mean that I’m completely bone-headed about current affairs?

    After silently griping about this for awhile, I became confident in my decision to have a “light” Blog. First and foremost, I would never feel right going into any depth online about issues I have with other people or family issues that are rooted deep in me and are unresolved. For me at least, those don’t belong online. Secondly, I spend much of the work week entrenched in meticulous work at my desk. I work for a huge company and there’s a lot of loss involved with my line of work. Sometimes, it is hard to take- but it is what I do and I take pride in entrenching myself in it. Thirdly, due to the nature of my job, I like a break from “deep thought”. I want to come home and write something quick. Display the daily things that make me smile and help me get through the harder times. I want a light blog because I simply use it as a fun outlet.

    I do see where you’re coming from and definitely appreciate your thought process, thanks for sharing.


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