I have been a member of any number of organizations over the years that have made me promise to behave myself in a manner befitting the dignity of the organization. I'm sure you have, too: think back to those oaths you might have taken as an inductee to the National Honor Society, or in 4H, or in the Girl Scouts ... they probably said something about your actions out in the world representing the group as a whole, something about you being an ambassador, right?
But what about personal bloggers? Especially the ones who are "big" enough to be public figures?
Recently, MckMama, a well-known mommy-blogger, found herself at the center of the social media spotlight during her bankruptcy hearings. The story, as well as I can piece it together (I welcome corrections and additions), goes like this: MckMama was a fairly small-time blogger, until her unborn son Stellan's heart condition and her plea for prayers increased her traffic dramatically. She won what is described by a number of sources as a lucrative advertising contract with Blog Her, and was able to secure other opportunities as a result of her readership. A lot of what happens next is murky, but it *is* clear that she was living large--larger than her blog income would support, all the while painting a rosy picture of her domestic life, and claiming later in various blog posts that she and her husband were paying off their debts. It's fairly certain that she was dispensing marriage advice while in an abusive relationship of her own. And it turns out that MckMama also plagiarized some of her blog posts, resulting in the termination of her BlogHer advertising arrangement. While there doesn't seem to be one single obvious reason for people's hatred of her, many people claim that she inappropriately used her blog to gain personal and financial support over the years, and some of those people used her blog to track unreported income and send it to the bankruptcy court judge.
I am not a judge, and I'm not about to pass judgement on MckMama's actions; I simply don't know enough about what has happened, and there isn't enough unbiased information online. It's not clear whether the bankruptcy scandal will have any real impact. She continues to write, to post what are (in my opinion) lovely pictures of her children (and other people's children). But what is interesting, to me, is what this all suggests about our expectations of personal bloggers, and personal blogging.
Personal blogging offers the illusion of truth: when you blog about your life, readers begin to trust you, to believe that you are a truth-teller, even if you're not necessarily revealing all of the more sordid details of your experience. So when they discover that you're not really the truth-teller they thought you were, or when they discover that you've omitted important details in your narrative, even if your dishonesty has nothing to do with the stories you told them (*though in this case, some people may have been conned out of money by the story, or at the very least emotionally manipulated), they may, understandably, feel betrayed.
The complication is that blogging is storytelling. Like we would do with any narrative, we choose pieces of the story to tell that suit our purpose. We don't film ourselves 24/7 (at least, most of us don't ... though I recall a few bizarre experiments in which people tried this). Even the most "real" personal blogs are fictions, because of these choices. And yet.
And yet, we hold bloggers accountable to certain standards, don't we? To standards that we don't even use, perhaps, for celebrities, whose images are more obviously cultivated for public consumption? Just like we expect the Girl Scouts to act a certain way even when they're not in uniform?
I'm not defending MckMama here. But I'm interested to hear what you think. Do personal bloggers take an unwritten oath to tell the truth? Do you expect personal bloggers to be truthful even in situations that have nothing to do with their blogs, outside of their blogging personae? How, if at all, do you think the size of a blogger's regular readership shapes our expectations of their actions? What about the blogger's content (e.g. do you have different expectations of a food blogger, an ALI blogger, a mommy blogger, a wellness blogger, a DIY blogger, a political blogger, etc.)? Does this expectation extend to photos (e.g. a food blogger's photos that he/she has manipulated using Photoshop)?
And: as a personal blogger, can you have your cake and eat it too?
(Optionally Gluten Free) Tarta de Naranja (Orange Cake)
This cake is the sort of cake you can have, and eat, too. It was the last treat I made for my son's Spanish club meetings, and its flavor reminds me of a dessert my family loves at our favorite Basque restaurant. Adapted from Savoring Spain and Portugal.
1 1/4 c. flour (you can use almond flour; just add a bit more baking powder)
1/2 t. baking powder
3 eggs, separated
1/2 c. plus 2 T unsalted butter
2/3 c. sugar
grated zest of one orange
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
orange sections (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8 inch pan, cut a round of parchment
paper for the bottom of the pan and place it on top of the butter,
butter the parchment, then flour the entire pan.
In a small bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. In a medium
bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks
In a large bowl, using electric mixer set on high speed,
beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg
yolks, one at a time. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture, orange zest, and 1/4 c. of the orange juice. Fold the beaten egg whites until just combined. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, about
30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack for
10 minutes. Then turn out onto the rack and let cool to lukewarm.
Transfer the cake to a platter.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 c. orange juice with confectioners' sugar until the sugar dissolves and pour evenly over the cake. Garnish with orange sections if desired.