Relatability and The Blogger: How Accessible Should Bloggers Be?
Designer bags, jet set holidays, high tech equipment and blow dries on tap - sometimes the life of a blogger can seem a world away from your own.
Just how relatable a blogger should be has been somewhat of a hot topic lately. From girls I know receiving negative comments on their channels about their change of content or choice of focus, to Marissa Carter, the CEO of Cocoa Brown Tan, stating that there is “absolutely no authenticity left in the [blogging] industry” in a recent interview, the moves of a blogger are under more scrutiny than ever.
To quote the almighty Frank Ocean, “I see both sides like Chanel”. Even as a blogger myself, I too have felt that pang of disgruntled jealousy as a fashionista I adore swans off to Paris with the latest Gucci on their arm and a new Net-A-Porter haul now uploading on their channel. I get that it feels like a million miles away from your own life, and I can respect and admire other women in the industry but also not follow their work because I don’t feel any synergy with my own day-to-day.
I also understand how frustrating it is to have £30 in your bank account and then see a YouTuber declaring that a pair of £300 jeans are a wise investment, and “not that expensive” if we’re judging by cost-per-wear. In the same vein, I’ve also been the other side. I have a few expensive bags that I’m rarely seen without, but in the same breath will try and embody the type of girl I feel I am - the meme-sending mate, the one that tries to be a bit funny, the girl you would want to get shit-faced on a bottle of cheap wine with. I understand that on some levels, those two elements conflict, and I understand how some people may feel that having gone from promoting Boohoo and MissPap to sporting Sandro and Gucci, that I’ve somehow lost my relatability.
I feel like there are two types of approaches to blogging. The relatable, and the aspirational.
The relatable is the internet’s big sister, brimming with invaluable life advice, honesty and a wicked sense of humour. Relatable confesses to buying Primark pants because they haven’t got any clean pairs left, and relatable is the girl you feel you know without having ever met her. The aspirational is the #bodygoals, designer lusting and drone-flying Maldives tour. Aspirational has the perfect tan, the perfect hair, the perfect home - she is the girl you want to be, but would feel painfully uncool around.
This is something that brands recognise, too. Relatable gets the high-street gigs, aspirational gets the big budget holidays. I’m not saying these two are mutually exclusive - rather that relatable and aspirational are two ends of a spectrum, and if you take a look at your favourite blogger, you’ll probably be able to roughly guess whereabouts they fall.
Take me, for example. I’m not a 5’11 bronzed goddess with cheekbones sharp enough to cut a quality Edam - instead I’m short, chubby and I don’t look good in candid shots. That plops me solidly down in relatable (because who tf looks good when somebody takes an unexpected shot of them). On the other hand, I do love luxury fashion, editorial-inspired photography and an expensive cocktail. That edges me up towards aspirational.
The truth is, I’m very often conflicted when it comes down to defining my own identity. Which one do I want to be? Which impression do I want to give? Do I want people to feel connected to me through my writing, or do I want people to take my style seriously? The difficulty lies in the fact that I obviously want both, and I imagine that reading this, you might be thinking, “well then just aim for both, duh”.
Of course, it’s not really that easy. Whether you recognise it or not, we gravitate towards different blogs for different reasons. In some cases the photography and styling is what we’re after, and thus the writing is secondary. In others, the written content is the star of the show and the photography is there just to act as a feature image. And if you’re known for one thing, as soon as you start to move in the other direction, your audience can become pissed off. Suddenly you’re no longer relatable to them - you’re not providing what you unintentionally promised and your change of direction almost feels like an insult. Do you even care anymore?
Being relatable as a blogger is such a multi-layered and interwoven ambition. Speaking for myself, I’ve started moving in an aspirational direction because naturally, as I’ve left university, started my own business and moved into the professional workplace, I earned more money. I love clothes, and so I’ve spent some of that money on luxury items and equipment to document it all in a style I like. I know that that isn’t everybody’s situation and so I may no longer be as relatable as when I was binging on Primark between seminars, but it is my situation, and I am being truthful.
This is a case for a lot of bloggers whose platforms have become successful, and as such they are more able to indulge in more expensive items or trips or lifestyles. What is problematic for the readers and audience, however, is that the traffic that has allowed these bloggers to do so has come from them watching and enjoying the original content that they found relatable - that they could identify with. This in turn, however, boxes bloggers in. Are we only allowed to create one type of content for the rest of our lives, for fear of alienating our audience? Can we expect them to grow along with us? Can we even ask?
It’s rare that I don’t have a unifying final thought to pull a post together, but I really feel like the issue of relatability and blogging continues to be an open book. On the one hand I don’t think bloggers owe anyone anything; it’s our life, our time, and our creativity - we should have the freedom to do with it what we wish. Nobody forces an audience to engage, and so if you feel that you can no longer identify with someone or feel that their ethos has changed, then simply move on. On the other hand, I do understand the frustration of bearing witness to a lifestyle that is so far removed from your own, when you feel like the person behind it once represented you.
On some level, we all look for ourselves in bloggers, whether we’re trying to see the person we want to be or the person that we are. No matter where you stand in terms of this debate, the important thing is to make sure you vocalise it respectfully - a 5 second impulse comment can easily do more damage than it’s worth. We all got achey breaky hearts, after all.
Let me know what you guys think below or come and find me over on Twitter or Instagram - I’m intrigued to hear your thoughts on this one!
(Photography: Liv Blankson)