The Downsides to Creating an Internet Persona

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Although I've been “blogging” for nearly 10 years (it seems like forever!), the “profession” and title “blogger” has really only come into it's own recently. In such a new industry, things are still working themselves out, but THE one thing I've observed and believe to be true is that our readers want personal integrity and honesty most of all. They WANT to trust us and they WANT to relate to us on a personal level, they don't always want to see a fairytale life in perfect photos and tweets, they want to see the no-makeup days, the sweats and sneakers days and the difficult days.

In such a new industry, things are still working themselves out, but THE one thing I've observed and believe to be true is that our readers want personal integrity and honesty most of all

I know what you're thinking though: “no they don't! they want beautiful images and perfection, they want to live vicariously through bloggers as if they're celebrities – those bloggers are the ones getting book deals and hundreds of comments.” In a lot of cases that's true, and there's an argument to be made for creating the type of fashion/lifestyle blog that readers can simply escape into, and use for entertainment purposes – what's referred to as aspirational blogs as opposed to inspirational (more reality, and blogs that actually inspire to you by relating to you).

Generally I do think blogs are better when they're inspirational, but that's probably because those are the types of blogs I like to read. I've always preferred looking at pictures and reading about women who look like me, have a similar style, and budget I can relate to – reality over fantasy – so that's the way I structure my blog (I read magazines to escape into fantasy, not blogs).

If you're so inclined though, you can decide to create a character for your blog; an image, or idea that's yourself, enhanced, or even not yourself at all. But once you put yourself out there as “the next Martha Stewart” or similar, you're in it for the long haul, and think about the downsides:

It's really hard to maintain

What if you don't feel like being your “character” one day, or you accidentally post something on Facebook that isn't consistent with the persona you try to portray on your blog? If your readers are following you for an escape/fantasy and you always post outfits in heels/skirts and full makeup, maybe they don't then WANT to see the casual days or the no-makeup days, or they don't want to hear about your “down” days.

You'll get called out

Readers can get very protective of their favorite blogs and if they find an “inconsistency” in your “story,” they won't be shy about calling you out for it (there are entire websites devoted to that, by the way). Not that you should cater specifically to your readers constantly, but you are your blog and your brand and it's important that you maintain consistency and integrity if you want to keep readers and/or monetize.

You'll alienate readers

Over time, with a fake persona or character, you'll lose a lot of your readers who will get tired of seeing the same images and ideas over and over again. They'll want to come up for air at some point. I'll admit, I used to read Martha Stewart consistently, but got burned out from all the “Martha Stewart-ness.” When I stopped reading, it was like I could finally take a breath. This is the same way I felt when I stopped reading fashion blogs; like I could breathe again. I was drowning in perfection and characters and people I couldn't relate to in a million years, so I quit reading. Of course, there are people who will always gravitate towards that idea of perfection and ultimate beauty and those types of blogs, but I'm convinced that if you want to blog for the long haul, you need to be you. Just you.

When it comes down to it, why work so hard to create/maintain a persona that isn't authentically YOU? Why not just be yourself? One of my favorite things is when my friends tell me that my writing sounds just like I talk, or when someone recognizes me from the outfit I posted that day. It's not WORK for me to maintain my blogs and social media accounts because they're just an extension of me. Honestly, I curse a lot more in real life than I do on my blogs, but my dad reads my stuff, so I'm just being polite 🙂 But you get the idea.

I vote for real.

 

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16 Responses

  1. Dana

    Grechen, thank you so much for this. I have a relatively new blog, after blogging a couple years and then taking a break. I want very much to be myself when I write, like I was with my old blog, but sometimes it’s too easy to start comparing myself to others, and to beat myself up for not having pro pictures, the best clothes, or model looks. I agree with you, that it’s better to be genuine and a lot less upkeep in the long run. Thanks for your articles…I’ve been reading IFB almost daily, and it’s keeping me going. All my best to you and the other writers here.

    Dana
    http://styleforth.com

    Reply
  2. Chrissie

    Cool and very relevant article! I was just having a conversation on a blogging forum a few days ago about this. I was saying that reading some blogs is just like reading copy in vogue and we all preferred bloggers that were more personable and emotive. It’s taken me a year but now I write in the way I speak, all Northern (UK) and such like. Since I made that change I have so many more readers now and we have a right laugh :0)

    Reply
  3. Emily Jayne Lewis

    I do agree. I like to see nice photos and well presented blogs, but if your always wearing heels in your daily outfit posts, I highly doubt you wear heels everyday and it seems unrealistic. After a while I just turn off. I do like to read blogs for inspiration and role models.

    Reply
  4. Sarah Lee

    A lot of great points here- if you started a blog to share your life, why would you create and share a life that isn’t really yours? I love showcasing the occasional glamourous events I go to, but I also have fun showing some gorgeous images from a beach I went to, complete with me in the background with wind-blown hair and workout clothes. I’m aiming for a mix, partially because that’s authentic to my life and partially because that’s what I relate to the most.

    I mean, Atlantic-Pacific is one of my all-time favorite fashion blogs, but sometimes I wish I could see what her eye looks like behind the giant shades or read about how she put her outfits together. Of course, she isn’t obligated to cater to what I’d like to read, but I do feel like I “know” her much less than other bloggers I love.

    Sarah 🙂
    http://sanfranista.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Grechen Reiter

      great point sarah – about “knowing” bloggers. i have always read blogs because i WANT to know the blogger, and relate to her. i read magazines for “pretty” pictures.

      Reply
  5. Chary

    Keeping it real: “Honestly, I curse a lot more in real life than I do on my blogs..”

    I like that, and I’m totally the same way! Thanks Gretchen for another read! I have to admit, some bloggers are not the way they are in person.. and it’s such a turn off to see them in that kind of persona.

    Reply
  6. Aida

    This article is amazing. I loved big shiny glittery blogs before because like you say I could live vicariously through them but then I realised that the writers or these blogs were sometimes personas and that what I was wanting my life to be like wasn’t that real. I could never create an internet persona for my blog because its way to personal. I want people to be able to relate to me and I want to be able to relate to other bloggers too!

    Great article!

    -Aida

    http://sunshinesuperwoman.blogspot.co.uk

    Reply
  7. Lexi

    A good piece of advice I remember hearing in regards to personal branding is “Be who you are, times ten.”

    If you’re creating an entirely new persona for yourself, it’s going to be very easy to detect where as if you just emphasize the characteristics about yourself that make you unique, you’re being “true” to yourself while giving your readers something to identify you by.

    Reply
  8. Ashley

    I tried to keep my swearing to a minimum at first, as not to offend. I still try to be good, but it’s hard when that’s how I talk!

    xo Ashley
    thetiniestfirecracker.com

    Reply
  9. Bridget

    Thank you, Grechen! My blog has been a lot of trial and error over the years…. a lot of error. And with that I have been focused on “getting out there” through social media to enhance my brand. Thank you for saving me yet another “error” with this and reminding me to keep it real! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Hey Mishka

    This is a great post, and it’s a topic I bet a lot of us struggle to balance. There are certain bloggers I have on a pedestal that I actually don’t want to see in sneakers and sweats, because that doesn’t make any sense for their brand or their blog. But there are some who seamlessly share the ups and downs, and still keep everything rolling without disrupting the essence of their content. Some of us never reach a level of pedestal-worthy glamour to begin with, so to suddenly show photos sans-makeup or carelessly styled looks, it’d be pretty confusing to our readers.

    (And I think I’m included in that last category ;D I’m already kinda casual, so casual Friday would be pretty scary!)

    xx
    Mishka
    http://heymishka.com

    Reply
  11. Xina

    well i can def def def relate to this. ive entered my tortured blogger stage but things like this snap me out of it. no i cant be rumi or bryanboy or chiara who dont even write content and wear like chanel and fendi and all kinds of stuff i dont think ill ever afford. i actually write, do good photography and im a weirdo but thats y people read my stuff. they know me. they like the same stuff as me. and they dont mind im a friggen badass lol crazy person sometimes / (most of the time). screw all those people. that is all. http://www.therenegadefw.blogspot.com.

    Reply
  12. Sarah's Real Life

    I’m with you 100%, girl! It’s basically the gist of my blog’s “about” page. As for blogs I read myself, it’s a mix of idealized and real, although sometimes it’s hard to tell whether some of the idealized ones actually ARE real – maybe some people really are that fabulous? I like to imagine that the most perfect bloggers have really bad breath or something else you can’t tell from the internet 🙂

    ~Sarah of Sarah’s Real Life

    Reply