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!
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.
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.
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.
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