The Story of My Life

Most parent bloggers have a gimmick, even if we don’t call it one or think of it that way.

Maybe you’re the “creative dad” or the “do-it-yourself dad” or the “sensitive dad” or the “tattooed mom” or “the vodka-drinking mom” or the “traveling mom”. Or maybe you filter every parenting experience through an “I’m a gay parent” or “I’m a single mom” or “I’m a stay-at-home dad” or “I have twins.” We all have a hook. I’m no exception.

Of course we do! With so many of us churning out post after post on the same handful of topics – say what you will about how unique your kid is or how groundbreaking your parenting style is, we’re all faced with the same issues and we all celebrate the same milestones – we need some kind of hook. Without them we’ll float away.

But does there come a point when our blogs, and even our lives, become so weighed down by the manufacturing of these moments, by constantly feeding these hooks, that it becomes detrimental? Are we straining so hard for attention that our lives are becoming artificial?

gi joe, blogging, cartoons, 80s, parenting, blogging, bloggers, dad bloggers, mom bloggers, parenting, kids, children, family, social media, facebook, twitterMy gimmick is my voice; my tone. I hate my kid! My kid is an asshole! I hate being a parent! Parents suck!

It’s not a gimmick because these feelings aren’t true; they are true, to varying degrees on different days. It’s a gimmick because it’s not the only truth; it’s just the convenient truth. The truth I lean on to differentiate myself and get clicks. Make no mistake: Dad and Buried is a character. It’s a character heavily informed by and not all that different from the personality of the person portraying it, but it’s a character just the same.

As I try to expand my reach and get more attention and grow the Dad and Buried “brand”, at what point does the gimmick take over? At one point does the character subsume the person who created it? And which one is raising my son?

I’m exaggerating a bit here; obviously Mom and Buried is raising my son. But in 2014 I think we’re all facing this issue, one way or another. As technology changes our focus from mere consumption to interaction and, increasingly, to creation, we’re all becoming actors in and writers and directors of our own stories. We’ve all gone from living our lives to adapting them for the screen, whether it’s via Facebook and Twitter or Instagram and Vine. We’re curating our experiences and presenting the ones that represent what we want them to represent.

People used to mock social media for being public journals of inconsequential thoughts and the banal minutiae of our daily lives, but more and more it’s becoming our highlight reels and our greatest hits. We’re not whitewashing history, we’re whitewashing the present. Which is fine. After all, where’s the harm in fooling Steve from 7th grade biology into thinking my life is one long stream of concerts and fancy meals and drinks on the beach? The people in my inner circle know the truth and besides, I’ll never see Steve in person again. Plus, the real story of my life is boring and bland and largely the same as yours. Who wants to read that.

We’re not fooling anyone. Even Steve from biology knows I’m bullshitting, because he’s bullshitting too.

gi joe, blogging, cartoons, 80s, parenting, blogging, bloggers, dad bloggers, mom bloggers, parenting, kids, children, family, social media, facebook, twitter
As a parent blogger, when the content you’re creating, and promoting, is essentially the nuts and bolts of your daily existence, there’s a fine line between sharing your authentic experiences and perpetuating a narrative that fits your blueprint. The manipulation that’s necessary to maintain the narrative and fit your life into your gimmick – in order to get traffic and grow readers and go viral – can begin to blur your priorities. The fake story you’re telling online can start to infect the supposedly real life you’re living.

If you become such a slave to the gimmick, or the vision, or the voice, the authenticity can get lost. Worse, authenticity might even stop being the goal. What comes first, the appreciation of the experience or the promise of going viral?

Ask yourself, if you didn’t have a blog to promote or an Instagram album to feed or a Facebook page to fill, would you even take that picture?

Sometimes a little manipulation can be a good thing; it can be motivation to step out of your comfort zone and attempt something you might not undertake otherwise. Some great memories can come from that. Except who are the memories for? You and your kids? Or your audience?

Are we manufacturing moments at the expense of living authentic lives? Are we promoting stylized versions of ourselves and our families and our kids’ childhoods at the expense of our actual identities and experiences and relationships? reality TV, blogging, cartoons, 80s, parenting, blogging, bloggers, dad bloggers, mom bloggers, parenting, kids, children, family, social media, facebook, twitter

I think we might be.

They say the very act of observation changes that which is being observed, and it’s true; it’s that exact thing that keeps any and all “reality shows” from actually being real. In telling our stories online every day, in constantly looking for new ways to stand out, I’m starting to worry that our real lives are becoming fake as well.

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “The Story of My Life

  1. I am an amazing person and an amazing dad. Never have to fake it. Never yell or get rattled. I walk around with perfect hair/teeth and a perfect job.

    Hell I am the model of perfection which is why people hate me on social media.

    Or maybe they hate me because I call them names. Oh well, who can remember perfection calls and I must answer.

  2. Great post, and on a subject I’ve struggled with since I started blogging. My own parent blog gimmick is as a dad to a child with special needs. The line I struggle with though is whether or not sharing every hospital stay, seizure, or fight with the school department is actually helping someone out there looking for a family to relate to or is it just me exploiting my son’s medical issues for some small amount of Internet fame.

    We are lucky enough that we live in an area where my wife and I have met other families with children on ventilators or with global developmental delays in person, but not all families are as lucky. Sharing the boring day to day stuff is actually exactly why I started my blog. To show families struggling with the prospect of taking their child home with medical technologies (ventilator, feeding pump, pulse oximeter) that life can have some sense of “normalcy”. Given the emails I’ve received and the public speaking I’ve recently been asked to do (as a result of my blogging) I know that I have done that.

    So for me sometimes it’s about NOT writing the post about spending the night in the ER for a seizure that didn’t break, or the fear that Liam is being ignored in his classroom because he can’t raise his hand or speak to get the teacher’s attention. Sometimes it really is about including the boring, the everyday, the banal minutia of my everyday in my blogging.

    Like you said, as parent bloggers we all have a gimmick, chisel long out some form of individuality in a sea of the same. When you feel isolated and different, sometimes the gimmick is just to try and be like everybody else.

    (sorry for the length of my comment. It’s just a topic I keep struggling with. This post just hit me hard.)

  3. You bring up some great points. Anyone who has been blogging for a little while should be able to recognize the issues you discuss. I certainly have thought of these things.
    Your thought about whitewashing the present and manufacturing moments is something that goes through my mind. I am in a moment and I start to think about how I can blog about it. I rush to take a picture thinking that I could post it. Neither of these things is bad but certainly may take away from the moments.
    I don’t only put the good moments. I think that would be fake and boring. I see others that do and find it disingenuous.

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