about my blog / autobiography

To Blog or Not to Blog: The Validity of Blogging in a Time of World Madness

Dear readers, it’s been three months since I last wrote to you and I wanted to thank my existing readers for their patience and extend a warm welcome to my new blog subscribers! The last months have been exceptionally busy workwise, but due to massive renovation work at DGiL HQ every day has also been extremely disruptive. I’ve got enough material to write dozens of posts about flaky builders who just show up randomly or don’t bother to show up at all. I honestly think the stress caused by dealing with unreliable builders has knocked off some years of my life!

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(Photo from Shutterstock)

However, the main reason for my silence was a severe case of winter blues and the current social and political climate in the world. The significant world-wide events that took place over the last six months and devastating personal news of a friend’s cancer diagnosis have had a major effect on me and made me question the value of social media and blogging. I couldn’t justify to myself writing a blog post about street art or about a TV series I had just watched while there was so much unrest in the world. When a friend unexpectedly died from a heart attack I was truly shaken up and low for weeks. It didn’t help either when friends mocked me at a wedding party last autumn whilst taking a photo of the pretty looking cake and jokingly said they would see it appear on the blog. Although I tend not to capture my day-to-day personal life on my website, I felt really hurt by this comment. Is this how outsiders view my blog then, just another superficial website? I know my website is far removed from serious journalism, but I’d like to think that I’m offering something positive and meaningful to at least a few readers, rather than merely sharing pictures of food I’ve eaten. This incident made me reassess my online presence and the value of it in an age where anyone can share their thoughts via digital media, ordinary people can become celebrities because they appeared in sex videos and obnoxious business moguls who write the most offensive tweets can become world-leaders.

The world is flat and more 21st-century beliefs

The most important tool I acquired at school has been the ability to judge the reliability and viability of information sources. Who is the source, where was it published, what are the author’s arguments? Are his claims accurate? These vital questions seem to become of less importance as the speed at which the news is spread is getting ever more relevant. No matter if it’s entirely accurate or not, what matters most in the age of social media is who was the first one to post something online before it went viral. What worries me most about this is that established news outlets follow this example and often copy newsworthy tweets without proper fact checking (or spellchecking for that matter…). Sensationalism and big scary headlines is what appeals to the majority of people and they’re losing track of the human side to news items. I was shocked to hear the appeal of Dutch police on the radio the other day asking the general public not to spread a video of a teenage boy being hit by a car and dying at the scene. The video had become viral on social media. This is not a film or a game people, this is a real boy you see dying on the screen of your mobile phone. Imagine what this must feel like for the grieving parents, friends and family. More and more troubled teenagers who are bullied by internet trolls commit suicide on Facebook Live, and are even being encouraged to do so by their online audience. Such stories fill me with sadness and anger.

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Aristotle first coined the idea that Earth is a globe in 350BC. Globe-sceptics now claim that planet Earth is in fact flat. (Photo from Shutterstock)

Another thing that makes me angry is the willingness of people to share and spread beliefs that dismiss crucial events in history. There are suddenly entire movements of people who claim that the earth is flat or who claim the Holocaust never took place and that Hitler was indeed a swell guy. And what about the self-proclaimed health and food bloggers who invent miracle diets without having had any appropriate training and are actually endangering the health of their followers? My husband and I keep having discussions about this and asking ourselves if people have always been this hateful and superficial, but is only more visible now because of the easy access to digital media providing them with a platform to share their beliefs, or is the information overload in our Digital Age just dumbing down people? When I mentioned my concerns about the influence of social media in modern society to a friend, she recommended the British TV series Black Mirror. Hubby and I bingewatched it in a few days as it’s absolutely brilliant and paints a rather grim yet realistic picture of a future where people rely too much on technology and distancing themselves from the human side of life. Frankly, this future isn’t too far off.

Blogger tip #1: stay true to yourself

When I first started blogging, I was obsessed with my stats: how many people visit my website, how many followers do I have on social media? Why does this person have so many likes for a picture of his cat while I have hardly any for my more sophisticated arty photos? It’s very easy to compare yourself to others and feel the pressure of having to write posts that appeal to the masses in order to acquire a big following.

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The more likes your blog has, the better person you are? (Photo from Shutterstock)

I wish I could write simple short posts, but instead I spend a lot of time and effort in doing research and fact checking, whether it’s a post about the Dutch colonisation of New York or a street art meets classical art project in London. If I could distance myself from my academic background whilst blogging, I could probably write a few posts in a day, instead of spending a few days on writing just one blog post. But this is who I am and I want my readers to appreciate my blog posts because it reflects my views and personality. So when a reader makes the effort to leave a comment or share one of my posts on their own platform, this actually means more to me than the number of likes for one of my photos on Instagram. I might not have as many online followers as some of my fellow bloggers, but I have been very fortunate to have received paid work through my online writings and invitations for events and trips abroad. But most of all, I have met some really fantastic people such as Sami of Street Art United States, street artist Dr Cream and have been given the opportunity to interview some really interesting people such as film critic Kim Newman. None of these opportunities would have arisen if it weren’t for my blog. While I almost considered stopping blogging this winter, I remembered my most loyal reader, Esther who is chronically ill and is mostly homebound. She always makes the effort to read my posts and leave me a sweet comment. Every time she reminds me of the fact that she gets to see more of the world through my eyes while my posts guide her to the most fabulous street art projects, impressive art exhibitions and beautiful holiday destinations. Even if she were my only reader, it would make up for all the time and effort I put in my website.

Last week I met up with some friends during the special Late Shift event at the National Portrait Gallery and shared my recent glumness and sadness for the world. They all asked after my blog and when I told them I hadn’t felt the inspiration to write about art events or any other articles that had nothing to do with ‘the real serious news in the world’, they all admitted they had felt exactly the same over the last months, but came to the conclusion that we mustn’t lose sight of the beauty in life and that we should continue to celebrate art and culture, now more than ever.

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So, thank you dear readers, Esther, friends and family for encouraging me and supporting me to refind my joy and passion. Here’s to a new year of (optimistic & well-researched) blogging!

Do you have any similar stories to share? Please feel free to share them with me in a comment. Thanks! Zarina xx

 

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21 thoughts on “To Blog or Not to Blog: The Validity of Blogging in a Time of World Madness

  1. This has pretty much been me since last November, for both my Dutch and English blog. It is difficult to find the meaning again sometimes, isn’t it? ALso re: the academic background – that also felt very close to home.

    This is my first time visiting your blog but I will be around for more. Your writing is such a great find in the midst of other blogs.

    • Hi Iris, many thanks for your kind and honest comment! I’m still struggling with this actually, and that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been that active on my blog. I find it difficult to find a balance between light-hearted articles and more serious ones as I can’t ignore what’s happening in the world. However, I don’t want to come across as a miserable grumpy person and I also don’t want to share too many personal things as my audience includes (potential) clients and tourists who visit my website expecting fun London tips and aren’t necessarily interested in my dark thoughts 😉

  2. Pingback: ‘Art Can Change the World’ – In the Footsteps of Robert Rauschenberg | Dutch Girl in London

  3. Hello Zarina,
    Not every day in life is great, for no one. So for me, honesty is the best thing to find on a blog / site / social media / … Glad to find it here. Enjoy the arts in your way, we will need it in these times. I’ll try to do the same.
    Cheers
    Ferdinand

  4. I was enjoying reading this eloquently written article and almost jumped off my seat to the mention. Very humbled and flattered Zarina!

  5. Hey Zarina, a great post that I feel like many can relate to with everything we’re surrounded and overwhelmed by on a daily basis. On a personal level the idea of stopping, or not feeling like blogging or sharing is relatable and I’m glad you’re back to sharing. While talking to Robin tonight I mentioned having surrounded myself in a little bubble online but those great people amongst the scenes I’m involved are what keeps motivation high, even after pulling through darker times. Keep going and keep smiling!

    • Hi Ben, many thanks for your encouraging and kind words! It means a lot 🙂
      I’ve always been a very positive person (as Robin), but after quite a lot of personal setbacks in the last years and now with everythinh happening on a worldscale, I find it very difficult to remain an optimistic person. Whenever I go back to NL, I’m so shocked to see how cold and rude society has become over there and it makes me so sad. But then I see how wonderfully generous and warm the modular synth community is, with no big egos and how we’ve made some real good friends through which fills me with hope again. I know it may sound rather glum, but I sense I’m by far the only one which is quite a relief in a perverse way 😉

  6. I posted this one on my fb. It hit home with me. Trying to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and walking on, it blew me away!
    For me, it is a question of finding my bootstraps in the first place! So I keep standing a little, looking around, asking myself if I should realy wait for finding them at all or just step out of the shoes and get me some new ones, just to at least be able to get walking at all.
    A bit of `scenery-talk´ there, but I´m sure you catch my drift.

    Thank you for being so honest and “out there”, whilst still completly close to the heart. I cried a bit when the emotions took a hold of me half way through. This is a good thing. Mind you. When a blogger, any blogger (I know I am complelty biased since you are my sister in law, but I can still recocnize good writing when I see it!) gets to my core feelings, I read again and find myself in it. Anyone who can make me think like this, occupies my mind like this, has a good way of looking at the world with a heart.
    I am glad you refound yours. ❤

  7. Beautifully written! I do feel the same way sometimes, however I tell myself if I can bring a bit of happiness to others amidst all the sad news in this world then it’s all worth it. Keep inspiring people 😊​

    • Beautifully written! I do feel the same way sometimes, however I tell myself if I can bring a bit of happiness to others amidst all the sad news in this world then it’s all worth it. Keep inspiring people 😊​

      finastyleblog.com

  8. I feel truly honoured by you mentioning me in this blog! And that while you make my days so much lighter by sharing your world! Thank you so much and please go on writing!
    Maybe lighttherapy is an idea for winter blues? I tried it this year for the first time and I think it has helped me….
    Liefs voor jou en Robin ❤

    • En jij ook bedankt! 🙂
      Een vriend van ons heeft ons ooit zo’n speciale lamp gegeven, maar ik weet niet waar het is gebleven na de verhuizing. Zal op onderzoek gaan! Goede tip 😀 xx

      • Ik heb er een van Philips gekocht deze zomer, hij is heel klein (15 bij 15 cm en niet dik) met blauw licht, 3 standen. Je hoeft er niet regelmatig in te kijken zoals vroeger het geval was met die lampen. 20 tot 30 min. per dag is voldoende. Ik doe hem aan als ik ontbijt, lunch en bij het avondeten. xx

  9. Dear Zee, Wow, I’ve been bouncing back from my own case of severe winter blues, so I find YOUR post possibly the most relatable thing I’ve read online in the past months… reassessment of my online presence, check. The second-guessing of everything as far as its social-appropriateness for posting (I have a very mixed friend circle, making choices like those, more confusing), or even sometimes grasping what NEEDS posting, what tone to write, say something… check. Not to mention, not one, but two overwhelmingly-vast projects/personal work – one musical, one is writing – which have me working sometimes in what feels like a quiet vacuum, from which I’ll emerge, wondering, WHO out there presently has the attention to care about anything I’ve made like this? Ha… “this is not a time to be so thin-skinned,” I keep telling myself… Hopefully I listen to myself, too. 😉

    For me, it’s become harder and harder, trying to choose work projects that actually mean anything, as I regularly need to assess the client’s own interest and engagement with the outcome. (I put in a year plus on a ‘shelved’ project for which, even though I was paid in full, and have never felt more wasteful of my time, or emptier – aka “that’s just business”, wasting a year of your life, when “that year” was actually supposed to matter)…

    There are always bright days. But, equally, an unhealthy mixture of “so-so” and “dark days” marked by this kind of World-Vigilance, all the necessary fact-checking, which we all feel we must keep now, policing the media, policing our leaders, and make sure everything’s cool everywhere else. Because we must wonder, if WE didn’t — would a competent person still be in charge, watching out for us? We all realize that we can’t afford to be at all lazy… Except, a bit more like that restless night’s sleep, JUST before an exam… Being afraid to take our eyes off the ball, risk losing that bit of control, which we still need for security. Darkness in the world, causing us to stay focused on the News (or otherwise), out of fear more times rather than real interest…

    I found your post very relatable Zarina, so while you are not alone, but YOUR post has provided me with an avenue to emerge from the same (grim) shell. So Thank You dear Zee!! ❤ Your posts always engage and get me reading eagerly, for which I am most grateful! Hugs to you & Prof…

    • Hey Doc, thanks for sharing your own personal and honest story here! Sorry for not having been in touch lately, but instead of socialising I kind of immersed myself in work and dealing with endless home improvements. I need a back-up plan for next winter 😉
      All the best to you, little Intern and the missus. Take care and talk soon again!! xx

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