Most parent bloggers have a gimmick, even if we don’t call it that, 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.
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?
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.
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?
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?