Couple blogging is dreadful – but so is the cruel logic of the internet
Ross and Sally’s Louder than Silence blog is almost too easy to poke fun at. It revels in its own banality and self-absorption to the point that it almost seems like a fake. It’s too perfect, far more twee than a parody could ever be; a dizzying caricature of saccharine, Instamatic’d east London that seems to represent some horrible, narcissistic end-state of online self-publicising.
But criticism would do well to stop there, as the authors have had some serious online ire directed at them this week, and mocking them is too like shooting hip fish in a vintage style barrel.
It started when a fairly restrained Guardian article quite rightly pointed out how nauseating ‘couple blogs’ are, with their stylised, carefully arranged images made to look like everyday life – everyday life if it’s a Vogue Interiors shot, with all the bad bits edited out. These blogs take self-congratulation to their logical apex, like the round-robin Christmas family newsletters that make sure you’re aware that Milly just got into Oxford and Mike’s flying high at Price Waterhouse Cooper. On the web, the effect can be even worse, with a lack of humbleness that feeds on a trivial loop of congratulatory comments.
Its contentedness is made worse by its smug, heteronormative monogamy. It is revelling in its own ordinary success story – a story that legitimises itself as ‘edgy’ due to its nod towards fashion, money, privilege and youth, but one that ultimately arrives at a place that’s utterly conventional.
The Guardian article went online, with a link to Sally and Ross’s blog, so this story doesn’t end there. The comments below the piece reflected a view also found on Twitter – “I checked out some of the blogs mentioned in this article and now I want to stab things”. Shortly after the piece went out, the pair closed the (now re-open again) blog, shut their Facebook page and protected their tweets – so it’s not impossible to imagine the nature of the public’s reception.
It didn’t take long before Vice, with trademark terseness, produced a spot-on but cruel piss-take of the post; cue, of course, more bile.
It’s easy to bait hipsters: the stereotype is of an idiot, with no awareness of the world around them, a hugely inflated sense of their own importance and ridiculous clothes. But these are young people. They do have to go to work, and walk on the streets where they live. Their crime is boasting, but they don’t deserve a witch hunt.
It’s probable that they don’t view their blog as showing off, nor see it as preposterous. The price they’re paying is a high one for naivety, and for not realising that curating images and words in a particular way develops a style and an end product that will be viewed as the sum of its parts, despite intentions of just ‘blogging about things that we … like’. Just like Max Gogarty , they’ll experience how brusque anonymous individuals can be when backed by a group. In the same way as their blog, online voices are individual parts that – when they come together – can swiftly turn into something different, in this case, something that distinctly resembles bullying.
Ross and Sally are copying what they see around them: aspirational lifestyle magazines, retro styling in products from breakfast cereals to holidays, endless consumption and an emphasis on experience mediated by sticking a camera phone or Twitter update between you and everything that’s real. They’re perhaps too young to have worked out these nuances; maybe they never would have. It’s not generous to attack people publicly because they haven’t got the nous to come to this conclusion themselves, but this is the logic of the social web.
They still don’t seem to ‘get’ why people have objected so strongly to their work; they’ve already suggested that it’s good old fashioned jealousy. In all likelihood, it’s more than that, and is rooted in a widespread rejection of self-satisfaction. American bloggers might get away with more self-publicity, but there’s a stronger tradition of humility on British shores. Their insensitivity is highlighted in one post on their blog, where they explain how it hasn’t ‘felt appropriate’ to blog due to the riots, before swiftly moving on to plugging their guide to London.
Whatever the events of the last week held for Ross and Sally, you can guarantee that their readership stats went off the scale. Such is the perverse nature of the online world that, in the end, maybe they will have the last laugh.
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