The growing danger of the blogging world



During my long absence from the blogging world I spent a lot of time on learning about journalism, as it’s one of my biggest passions and of course my bachelor specialization. 

Though the internet is an ever-changing outlet most professional academic magazines cannot keep up with, one thing has been obvious to me during my studies: the blogging world and news-world are not the same. They are not even equal in the eyes of journalism, as one of the key elements of it is independency. 

Before I continue I’ll make clear what independency is. Independency means not being dependent of any financial funds, which means sponsorships are off limits, just as receiving free goods in order to write about them and writing advertorials without making clear they were funded by others. A professional news outlet wouldn’t be trustworthy without being able to know what content was financed by a third party, as the highest bidder would have the loudest voice, and that’s not how it works - at least not in a free democracy as the one I’m lucky enough to live in.

If you’re a bit familiar with the blogging world I think you might see the dissimilarities immediately. The lifestyle blogging world is built upon advertorials, sponsorships, promoting items for money - without those things it’d cease to exist, at least in the way we know it. 

This might not seem like a problem. Though it’s easy to see that the blogging world is dependent of companies, it’s a transparent world. Most people know that a big part of what they’re reading is sponsored, and most rewarded bloggers make that clear as well. Transparency is another important value of journalism. So, in the blogging world it’s evident that the highest bidders have the loudest voice, and by making that clear bloggers are able to lead their sponsored lives while companies legitimize their way around full democracy. 

The rapid changes in technology nowadays make quick news freely accessible and profound, deep, and long-term news articles harder to reach, as in-depth articles cost a lot of money to be produced and the resources for those can only be found in successful companies. Like I said, most professional news outlets do not take sponsorships without mentioning the source. The blogging world, contrary to that, consists of aspiring writers who didn’t grow up with the elements of neutrality and the importance of independency in the back of their minds, so the danger of this is that third parties will ventilate their opinions and goals through this group of people. 

Though I don’t think it has not come this far yet as it’s mostly beauty and fashion brands that have been sponsoring this side of the media, it’s a possibility we as an audience and source of social media should be aware of. 

Today I read an article about one of the actions of the former mayor of Amsterdam. Radicalization and the consequences of that can be seen as a problem, and that’s something he wanted to fight by having a person make personal vlogs about the effects. Though the vlogs have not had any effect as the existence of the ideas was exposed just now and the idea behind it is highly doubted in mainstream media, I think it’s a perfect example of the dangers of journalism shifting in this direction. To summarize it - the people governing Amsterdam saw an effect they did not like, and they wanted to solve that by making ‘fake’ vlogs which would reach a younger audience through popular online media. This means a governmental institution would fund a project in order to strive towards the realization of their ideals, in an outlet formerly controlled by bloggers themselves, who were mostly funded by beauty- and fashion brands.

I think this is a big danger. What if political parties see the opportunity of dodging the old important elements of journalism by reaching out to bloggers and paying them to write a sponsored post, without accreditation to their financial resources - as this is not an ‘element’ as important in the blogging world as it is in mainstream media? 

I think that the rapid changes in the media world due to technological changes endanger democracy as we have known it for decades. This was just a quick example of what could go wrong, but I am afraid this shift might go faster than we expect it to as journalism is going in a direction that is hard to predict.

An example. Back in my ‘popular’ lifestyle blogging days I received money for writing about certain topics. I was working at a bakery at the time, where working one or two days a week earned me just as much a month as publishing one sponsored article would. Choosing between working at a place I didn’t like for 40 hours versus writing an article I did actually like and earning the same was a decision which was easy to make as a 16 year old girl without any former journalism knowledge. As the whole blogging world is built upon this I see almost no problem when transparent, but many companies ask you to not be transparent, to be positive about the product, and to basically lie to an audience for money. There is definitely a problem in this, but this problem is smaller in a superficial community based on fashion or lifestyle and being an influencer, than it would be in a political world. What if political parties get involved in this side of the internet and start taking advantage of aspiring writers whose passion it is to share their words, but who do need or want financial resources for that?

I do not think it has not come this far yet - at least, on the negative side. But, take PETA as an example. PETA has sponsored YouTubers to be in their ad campaigns to increase exposure. I think PETA’s a good cause, but what if the ‘bad’ companies start doing this as well? What if you as a blogger would receive thousands of euros to start writing about ideas fed to you by a party who doesn’t have just the superficial blogging interests as a goal?

In a world where technology are omnipotent and media are all-overpowering we need to be transparent, open, and always conscious of what we’re reading, especially because the fundaments of democracy and journalism are at stake.



Memory-remedy

A few days ago I traveled to my parents to spend an evening drinking tea, listening to Elvis, and eat pepernoten* way too early for this time of the year. At a certain moment we were talking about the old days (because that's what you do when you're lying on the couch with glasses on your nose and way too much candy in your stomach). At one point my mother told me that when I was young and my parents took me to a movie - it didn't matter whether it was a stupid Disney movie or some kind of thing I did not even understand - my sister always had to comfort me after because I always started crying once we were walking back to the car, back home. 'Sjoukje, it's just a movie!', I imagine having been said - but apparently it wasn't about the emotional or cinematic qualities of the movie, but about the fact that it was over.

At a certain point I got older and movies were visited with friends and rather than with tears my cheeks were covered with nacho-crumbs, but I can remember that I have always been extremely sad when something had ended. A holiday ('I do not want to leave Corfu-hu-hu-hu, I said cryingly), a family occassion ('so, what now?!'), et cetera. 

This hasn't exactly changed. In my head it's never the good memories that are dominating, but the fact that something will never be the way it was. 'But, it was good, right?' is a counter-argument which makes me angrier than anything - as the 'was' shows that something belongs to the past and 'is' not anymore. And what does something that 'is' not bring you?

I do have to say that this tendency has been developed by the way my head is wired, or by the way I actually wired it myself. I always lightly torture my own feelings and brain by watching old photos (of pictures of others on my worst enemy, Facebook - I blame you!) - or by thinking of times in little boats when I stroll down the Oudegracht and memories come marching into my brain like the little men of Buena Vista Social Club. Well. I usually delete confronting photographs from my laptop, phone, walls, whatever could hold them - but I also attach memories to everything that remains. Doesn't really work either.

That's one of the many things my head does I honestly can't comprehend. Why are things that used to influence my life in the past but now do not anymore still so all-overpowering? It will probably have something to do with chemicals in your brain that are looking for a certain kind of comforting happiness-feeling that you cannot find because it simply doesn't exist anymore, which results in an anti-climax counter-reaction. But why don't the things that happen to me now satisfy me in the same way old memories seemed to? Am I addicted to nostalgia, which would mean I am one big contradiction as a person? Maybe I am jealous of the old version of myself - though I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Oh well.

I luckily don't cry anymore when movies end (unless they were beautiful), and going home after a holiday doesn't make me as sad as it used to anymore. All that's left now is finding a solution for my all-overpowering memory-problem. Maybe more candy. Or wine.

Some things I missed








So. Hello. 

You might not remember me. 

On a very very standard day, more than three years ago, I was lying on my parents' couch with about three liters of tea in my stomach. Back then I had been writing little things for as long as I could remember and I finally built up enough confidence to share those things with 'the world', as the Internet is often called. I thought of a fancy French-sounding name nobody had ever heard before and registered a little place on the internet which has been here since.

I started writing about makeup and fashion and food and more things I find a bit superficial now, but people seemed to like it. I built up some kind of following, started earning money, wrote my days away... but then realized the sponsorships I accepted did nothing but add money to a bank account for causes I did not support, and the bags and watches I had been sent only ended up in a far-away corner of my room because I was not really interested in the material things that came with being a 'lifestyle' writer on the web.

So I stopped. More than one and a half year ago I just decided I'd never write anything for Lemontierres again, and I kept up with that pretty strictly.

Loads of things have happened since that boring day in 2014. I left my parents and moved to Amsterdam, started studying philosophy and journalism, made new friends, read tens of books, got a boyfriend, lost that boyfriend, drunk thousands of cups of tea but even more wine, and altogether forgot about this little space on the internet.

I never stopped writing, though. I formed a Dutch blog because at that time I could express myself better in my native language, wrote some opinion pieces for another website, and of course for my studies produced many articles I spent all my energy on.

The 'need' for writing has never stopped, the outlet just changed. 

Today is another boring day. I was spending some time on the internet again and decided to check out some comments left on this blog. I was overwhelmed by how often some articles had been read, how many remarks I had missed, how some people had told me my words 'inspired' them in some kind of way... and was about to have a huge panic attack - but then realized I could use this as a little excuse to actually start doing this thing I loved so much a few years ago again.

I will not ever write about bags and watches and makeup again. Books might be involved, maybe, maybe plants - but as you might notice I have grown up, and so my topics of choosing have as well. 

So. Here I am again. I have no clue what to do with this newly found fit of inspiration but let's see. 

Hi former audience, if you have grown up with me... welcome back.