3.02.2009

. . . Except this time I'd make-over my SOUL

I never considered myself to be someone who gets bogged down in the comparisons trap. I don't usually compare myself with my friends, or with women I meet at work, or church, or wherever. But recently I noticed that I was doing something different--I was comparing myself to other bloggers.

Part of the problem with blogging (as AmyJane relayed to me after reading an article on the subject) is that we get regular, sometimes voyeuristic, looks into people's lives and start feeling that we perhaps know them quite well. Whereas in real life we tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to us in attitudes, interests, religion, politics, income, whatever, many of the people we "meet" through blogging would not necessarily be in our peer group if we knew each other in real life. We would not actually be friends in real life. And it can be easy to forget that what we're learning about these people comes from a very edited perspective. If we did know them in real life or were friends with them, our view would be much more balanced. We would know the good and the bad, and that would help prevent the "Oh, if only I were more like so-and-so" syndrome.

For example, there is one blogger that I have read for a couple of years. Her blog is lovely and is full of details about her interests and hobbies and plans, but at times I actually find myself getting irritated with her for having such a glamorous, money-filled, and seemingly charmed life. "Don't you ever even stop to think about how different YOUR life is from mine before you go rubbing your vacations and your clothes and your projects and your schmancy eat-out dinners in my face???"

And the answer to that is, of course, "No." No, she doesn't think about my life. She's not my friend. She doesn't know me. She has absolutely no responsibility to be sensitive to me or to anyone else who chooses to read what she writes. Also? I don't really know her, either. I only know what she is choosing to put out there. I have no idea what her real, actual life is like. Her blog is what it is, and the problem is with me.

So does anyone else out there know what I'm talking about? Have you experienced this? Or are there other traps you find yourselves falling into as you basically follow the lives of strangers? (Note: if your traps involves illegal stalking, or, say, kidnapping of pets, then you really may want to look into that with a professional.) But for the rest of us, what do you do to stay balanced and to keep from becoming involved in such a way that you are actually affected negatively by what you read?

What I've decided to do for now is to undertake a bit of house-cleaning in Google Reader, which I think is going to be quite therapeutic. Here are the kinds of things I'm culling:

Most importantly, the blogs that give me a complex. There is nothing wrong with these blogs or their writers, but if I can't read them without getting jealous, or irritated, or generally mental, then clearly they are not good for me.

Design blogs. I have friends who are amazingly talented in the design arena. Take Alma Loveland, for example. When she reads design blogs, she logs pictures and ideas away into a folder and then later might create something wonderful based on that initial idea. I will likely never, ever, ever do this. It is not my gift. So when I follow the design blogs I just feel poor and talentless and like my apartment is a crappy sinkhole of mediocrity and always will be. And what's the fun in that? Am, however, keeping Design Mom because not only does she have great giveaways but every now and then she'll do something like redecorate her porch and it will make my heart melt in my chest, but in the good way. Also Petit Elephant because I know and love the ladies who write it.

Most of the librarian blogs. I had a good reason for subscribing to these last year--I was running a small, rural library and I needed information. I also just needed to feel like I was a part of (or at least aware of what was going on in) the larger library community. It has been months since I've read any of these, and I just feel guilty when I see the list of posts waiting to be read. But the fact is that I'm not reading them, mostly because my professional circumstances and responsibilities have changed and I don't need them in the same way I used to. Which leads us to . . .

Blogs I no longer need. I think timing is a funny thing. Something that was good and useful at one time doesn't necessarily stay good and useful. When I was newly engaged I subscribed to a bunch of wedding blogs to get ideas. Once I had my plans worked out, I un-subscribed because seeing all these other, newer ideas just cluttered my mind. It was better to just get what I needed and then move on. Interests change, circumstances change, needs change. And that's okay.

Blogs that I feel guilty about not actually reading anymore. Seriously, if I'm not reading them, then clearly I don't care. I can always go find them again and resubscribe if the urge or the need strikes.

Blogs I only added because it's what other cool people are reading. Don't get me wrong, I've found some real treasures this way. But in other cases I have to just admit that they're just not my thing (like so many of the design/style blogs).

Blogs that, while really cool, produce way way too much content for me to get through every day. I am looking directly at you with narrowed eyes, Lifehacker.

Blogs that just make me want to shop. I think that's all that needs to be said there.


I will be keeping these, though:

Blogs written by my friends. Unless any of my friends start giving me a complex. Then they're out. This hasn't happened yet, but you never know.

Blogs with amazing food in them. Because I can't go without my food porn. No, I can't.

Blogs that make me want to simplify my life rather than clutter it.

Blogs that teach me things I am currently interested in learning.

Blogs that make me laugh.

Blogs that inspire me.

So. I'm interested to hear how all of you make sense of this in your own reading, and how you decide what makes something RSS-worthy. Let's have it!

44 comments:

TheMoncurs said... [reply]

I recently went through the Great Google Reader Purge of 2008. I realized it was taking me forever to get through everything in my reader every day. If it was well-written, inspiring or thought provoking, I kept it. Everything else went. Including a plethora of Mormon Mommy Blogs by people I knew. I just realized that I didn't want to spend my day reading about trips to the zoo and how much we love daddy (unless the writer could write about these things in funny, interesting ways).

I do feel a little guilty about tossing the blogs of many friends but oh well. I have a toddler and very limited computer time and I want to make that time count.

Penny Lane said... [reply]

If you work hard enough, and blow off enough social occasions, and stare at the internet enough, and get nerdy enough, and repeatedly ignore entreaties from your friends and loved ones to please God stop blogging about the attire of other women at church and to get out of the house it's a beautiful day!, then you, too, can...have a blog.

Mrs. Hass-Bark said... [reply]

It's funny because Kip and I were just talking about how we have definitely fallen into the comparison trap on more than one occasion. I find myself getting frustrated that I don't have time to do the things people blog about, or that my husband doesn't do the sweet things other women blog about.

I haven't tossed any friend blogs recently, but I am getting better about not subscribing to random personal blogs. I do subscribe to frugality blogs (but not if you update more than once a day...grrr....) and cooking blogs without knowing the writer, but that's it. I used to have lists of photography and crafting blogs, but I deleted all of those because I started to feel totally inadequate.

JackJen said... [reply]

I'm glad you've diagnosed this as an actual PROBLEM, because I, too, suffer from such a problem! Just last week I did a blog-purge... (I kicked Pioneer Woman to the curb...can you believe it? Well, except for her cooking blog. Kept that. Because I've always wanted to die of a heart attack).

stupidramblings said... [reply]

What about blogs that used to be mildly hilarious, but haven't been updated in nearly two years?

(word verification: nettedho)...

jeri said... [reply]

There are friend blogs that I never read that I feel guilty about (the ones that are SSB without the funny). And the cooking ones who update 28 times per day.

Others that have been kicked to the curb - blogs that give snobby parenting advice, like "my children are allowed to watch TV for 2 hours a month and they cultivate their own organic herb garden". Yeah right.

Eva said... [reply]

Ahh, blog comparison. What irritates me is when a seamstress blogger who I can tell (through photos and other references on her blog) is less skilled in sewing than myself, makes herself out to be an expert. Lending advice and knowledge to her hoards of waiting readers, that kind of thing.
It makes my skin crawl.
Obviously this is my own problem, they're willing to put it out there in a way that I'm not.
Still bugs me though.

Petit Elefant said... [reply]

I've actually eliminated blogs from my reader for this very reason. And I hope my life doesn't look swanky and make you grumpy when you read. Rest assured, there are dishes in the sink, and I haven't cleaned the bathrooms in a while. A long while.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

I've been pretty good at keeping the clutter down. Library blogs are gone if they're just book reviews. My Misc. section is mostly just comics and blogs that really do provide interesting information (Mental Floss, The Art of Manliness). It's my People I Know section that I should probably purge. I subscribe to one blog written by a girl, not even a friend, who was in my ward until she got married and it mostly just seems to be about how weird she and her husband are. Anyone that offends me (especially if they don't even spell Barack right in their uninformed rantings), as unintentional as it may be, should probably go too.

In fact, I'm going to go purge right now. Even if I only end up deleting three subscriptions.

Jonathon said... [reply]

I should probably clean out my Google Reader, too. You know there's something wrong when you procrastinate reading the blogs you've subscribed to because it feels too much like work.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

Update. I deleted 14. From my "Friends" list.

This feels good.

Th. said... [reply]

.

Stupid lives! Look at that!

But to answer your question, Nem, I think this is why I don't use a reader. I use the list on my blog and hit others as I remember them or find links to them and that is all.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

I have found myself thinking many of the same things--I ended up reading a bunch of blogs from people I marginally know, and mostly I just feel inadequate. The parenting ones really get to me--I'm terrible with a camera and all the pictures of my kids aren't artsy at all. But that's OK and it doesn't matter. Time for a purge!

Edgy said... [reply]

I went through a blog purge on Friday. I just started looking at what do I truly enjoy reading. I also decided that anything I habitually mark as read without actually reading the post probably ought to go.

And I got rid of my news feeds. They just update too regularly and I'd rather not deal with the I Ought to Read That Article So That I Am an Informed Person But I Don't Really Want To attitude.

Oh. And I deleted the Congress Happenings blog. I found myself getting irritated that congressmen apparently have all the time in the world to offer up 75 bills a day but not do any actual work. And I was tired of reading Orrin's words as he'd address the senate and sound like a yahoo.

Maleen said... [reply]

I hear you about actually wishing bad luck on these people that seem to have EVERYTHING go their way (and then immediately feeling guilty for it because most people have plenty of bad luck without someone cursing them).

As for purging: If I see a blog bolded in Google Reader and I inwardly groan, then I know it is time to unsubscribe. Why torture myself when there are so many good things to read out there?

JustMe said... [reply]

I read your blog because you're mostly funny. I don't know you but we might be friends if we were in the same ward. Except you would probably think I was an older sister who was a big strange but still funny.

Most people I know don't blog - or they don't blog enough. I gotta get my fix from strangers. :-)

Rachie said... [reply]

Just had to drop you a line and say ku-DOS on the excellent use of a Clueless quote! Loved it!

Jenny said... [reply]

Why do we find the need to compare any part of ourselves AT ALL? I have been tempted to get bogged down by this, but then step back and look at the reason why I (ME) am blogging. The rest is frosting. I enjoy finding new treats out there, but cannot become a slave to what others are blogging about or how creative and froofy their pages are. It is what it is, and I live a VERY FULL real life outside the blog. And it's real, too. Stinky bathrooms are calling me now. I'm off, and wielding the toilet brush! Ah-hah!

CoolBoy said... [reply]

I think the reason for the first half of this post was to convince people who get offended to stop reading your blog (like those people who always used to get offended by Snide Remarks but then kept reading it so they'd have a reason to write a letter to the editor). And you even have a Nemesis account gmail now, so you probably get emails from crazy people on occasion.

It makes sense though, you won't actually get to know a person based on the "interesting" things that they decide to publish to the universe (at least, you would hope that people would be selective about that kind of thing), so trolls probably get annoying.

marlamuppets said... [reply]

all roads lead to clueless.
gosh, that movie is really deep. :)

Anonymous said... [reply]

YES! Was just thinking that about Dooce this weekend. She's always off enjoying another beautiful vacation or decorating her daughter's room with $60 curtain rods. As I read her stuff, I've found my jaw getting more and more tense. Have also recently let go of Mimi Smartypants and Go Fug Yourself. I didn't know it was possible, but you really can have too much snark! These days I'm only keeping those that lift me up, teach me something, make me laugh, or make me think.

(word verification: clotra)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Coolboy my brother, I promise that wasn't actually what I was thinking when I wrote the first part of the post. It's hard for me to imagine that there are people who read my blog and then immediately feel horrible about their lives. (Maybe when I lived in England, because DANG that was awesome.) And when I do get bad feedback from people it doesn't seem to be because they are jealous of me--they just think I'm stupid, or a jerk, or I have made fun of something that is precious unto them.

John Dent said... [reply]

Well, there's a good excuse for all of us to include more food porn in our blogs!

Nemesis said... [reply]

TheMoncurs, I think you've hit a very important point here, about how your time is valuable and you can't afford to spend it on things that really aren't worth that time. I was thinking yesterday about how there are so many things I want to do but never have time for, and yet I seem to have PLENTY of time to be on the computer. It's an issue.

Hee hee hee, Penny Lane. Is this someone you, um, know? ;-)

Hass-Bark, I subscribe to frugality blogs too. They make me feel like I am being frugal, even if I put none of it into practice.

JackJen, I haven't been able to drop the Pioneer Woman cooking blog yet either. But it is a comfort to know that even if I DO, I can always just visit it when I want (usually around the holidays because HOLY COW) and browse around.

Stupid, that does put one in a bit of a quandary . . . but then I also think it's perfectly fine to quit writing a blog if it's just not important/necessary/whatever enough anymore.

Jeri, exactly. I mean, if the parenting blogs give you good ideas or make you feel a sense of solidarity, great. But if they just make you feel like you don't measure up, that's no good.

Eva, that would be mightily irritating, I agree.

Petit Elephant, no way have I felt that when I read your blog. Yours is loads o' fun.

AmandaStretch, good luck with the purge! I like how this kind of purge does not involve retching or a ruptured esophagus or anything else worrisome. And congrats on being 14 feeds lighter!

Jonathon, YES. Seriously.

Th., your way does avoid the Google Guilt, and I commend you. I tell myself the reader is a time saver because I don't have to go click on blogs that aren't being updated, but it also means that I CAN'T miss anything. It is a mixed blessing in that way, kind of like Tivo.

Yay, FoxyJ, Purge away!

Edgy, I absolutely did the "mark as read thing" too. And it's so funny that all of us are doing this around the same time. Something in the air, perhaps?

Maleen, yeah. I'm sure I bring bad karma on my self when I act that way, so I'm just going to remove the temptation if I can.

JustMe, you bring up a good point. I actually have made several good friends from blogging. Because sometimes you CAN tell that you would likely be friends. I think my problem comes when I'm reading about people who have lots more money than I do, or who live in glamorous places, or are living the life I always wanted for myself, or whatever it is that makes me so stinking jealous of them.

Rachi, HEE! Somebody got it!

Jenny, absolutely. And it's good for me to remind myself that other people have real stinky-bathroom lives too--just before I delete them to keep myself from being a Crabby Patty.

MarlaMuppets, yeah it is. Yeah, it is.

Anon, that sounds like the way to do it. One thing I actually like about Dooce (when I'm not busy coveting her house) is that she will talk about the bad things in a way that a lot of women won't. But yeah, it doesn't really matter how they're writing, what matters more is how we're READING them, I think. ps. I think Clotra is probably the she-warrior on the Magic Schoolbus series who fights against pulmonary embolisms.

Cicada said... [reply]

I purposely post unflattering pictures of myself from time to time because I worry that otherwise my readership will kill themselves because they can't be me. (That's a joke.)

Roxie said... [reply]

I actually read the blogs of my friends. Everything else gets a glance over, a skim, and then a mark-as-read. The majority of my Reader though is news feeds, especially the BBC, so that I know what is going on in the world. And with those I mainly just read headlines.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I'm not reading all that many blogs and blogreader keeps me from getting overwhelmed, but I have noticed a few things lately:

I find myself trying to blog for some audience (either real or imagined) instead of myself. Not why I started, at all. I've turned into a comment junkie. And junkie is indeed the right word--as in totally addicted to the feedback of other people whether they be strangers or no. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that when I get a comment from you I feel like I could run a marathon on the high. (Almost embarrassed--blogging has given me a frightening hazy line between public and private.)

I also feel like biting all they way through my tongue when I read horribly boring mommy blogs that are getting 20 (admittedly lame) comments for another version of how-wonderful-my-kid-is. Green with jealousy; then I have to say, "Wait, STM, this is your friend, remember?" Oh, yeah.

I will be keeping you, of course. You deserve all 14 bazillion hits you get because you could write about dog pooh and it would be funny and/or interesting.

abby said... [reply]

I always feel weird when I meet people in real life and I know what's going on in their life because of their blog. I've actually pretended I had no idea what they were up to because I felt so voyeuristic.

I love the list format of Google Reader it makes my professional reading much more efficient. I just read what I want.

Lifehacker overloaded me until I started following their recommendation of subscribing to the Lifehacker Top feed
http://lifehacker.com/tag/top/. I get about five a day instead of a thirty.

I still think it's cool I met you once in person. Voice is one of my favorite blogs.

Claire said... [reply]

Any blog that is overly gushy about husband and/or children: gone (even, or especially, if I know the person). Yours is a wonderful list!

Maree said... [reply]

LOVE the idea. I, too, am thinking about taking the axe to Lifehacker--but then I see an article about something interesting, and I just can't do it. Most of the time, I hit "Mark as read" instead of actually READING them. I'm LOVING Google Reader though, because I can see at a glance if there's anything remotely "important" I should pay attention too. Time to pare down there too though. Good reminder.

EdgyK said... [reply]

I have thought about this many times and how I view many blogs as entertainment, something like TV. I haven't been blogging very long and the first thing I noticed is that everyone feels the right to brag about all the wonderful things in their life or gripe about all that crap. We don't get a lot of the in-between. My life is all mostly the in-between stuff so I don't feel like a successful blogger.

Elsha said... [reply]

If I'm always marking as read without reading- gone. If the blog is updated so infrequently that I have to click through and read old posts to remind myself why I read- gone. If the writing irritates me more often than not- gone.

After deleting a bunch a while back I've mostly just tried to be pickier about new blogs I pick up. And I try to limit the informational type. I subscribe to one food storage/preparedness blog and one financial blog but no food blogs or design blogs or craft blogs. I check them out occasionally, but I spend enough time reading blogs as it is.

Jill said... [reply]

I've been there, I understand. I just stick to blogs I like, for whatever reason I like them. Ones that make me feel badly about myself, I stop reading. Or take a long hiatus from. Also, funny you said food porn...I adore cupcakes and like to send my friend pictures of them and we came up with a name for my one-day bakery...Cupcake Porn. Although, don't think it'd do well in Utah.

Stephanie Graham said... [reply]

I know, I know your whole post was about purging, but I have a great binge for you. You gotta try: http://foodporndaily.com/ It's a fabulous site of amazing pictures... and that's all.

Warning- remember to have a hankie over your keyboard to protect from drool...

Audra said... [reply]

I don't have a reader. I have some links on the side of my blog and I generally read those and then some other ones I have tucked away that I mean to add to my link list. I don't check any on a regular basis but family and yours. And my blog is basically for family and friends and anyone who wants to see INSANELY cute kids... because they are INSANELY cute! But there is really no purpose it it! The only blogs I seek out is on adoption because that is something I know about and have insight into and they give me insight and I find kindred spirits.

Blogs don't make me feel inadaquate... Relief Society in general does. We have an enrichment coming up titled "How to become an 8 cow woman"... like I am not already. And apparently learning how to "fit the mold" will make me an 8 cow woman... sigh... can you tell I am looking forward to Thursday?

Giggles said... [reply]

Audra-
Could you blog about your 8 cow Relief Society meeting? I can't for the life of me figure out what in the world they would be doing for that and I am insanely curious. All the ideas that come to mind just make me laugh.

pinky said... [reply]

blog comparison. oh how i do it and then wish i hadn't. i should not be comparing my own unique thoughts and such to another persons because if i conform to theirs then i'm not unique anymore!! i hear ya miss nem!!

i think i'll be going and clearing out my google reader also...

Nemesis said... [reply]

Jill, I would shop at your Cupcake Porn bakery just FOR the name.

And Stephanie G, I think that you are maybe the devil.

Audra, I can. not. wait. to hear about the Enrichment lesson.

Eva said... [reply]

I found your blog by accident just as I was starting college and you were about to move to the UK for school... I think somewhere around the time when we were both trying to figure out what to pack :-)

And yeah, it does feel like I've known you for years even though you have no idea who I am. But hey! Progress! you can now facebook stalk me if you're so inclined :-)

erin said... [reply]

Okay I swear I wrote a post here. Did you delete it? :)

I was just saying how funny it is that you wrote a post about this because I'm about to leap onto a blog project for my master's program, and I might use some of your ideas here.

And I agree with you in downsizing the lists in Google Reader. I got rid of a ton that I feel like are a chore to read.

Z's Wife said... [reply]

I just use the little links list on my blog and get to them when I get a minute because I can't handle using the RSS feeds. It hurts my head too much. I actually found your blog about a year ago completely by accident and you had me hooked at shotguns in the food storage! I'm pretty sure you're the only blog, besides people I actually know, that I read regularly.

Holly said... [reply]
This comment has been removed by the author.
dayna said... [reply]

can't believe i found your blog today, just as i am running out the door. this post is EXACTLY what i was just whining to my husband about last night. i was feeling all fine and happy in my new life in a new state in a new home, until i started reading some blogs..and the low self-worth didn't just creep in; it full on tackled me. just trying to throw it off this morning and get back to real relationships. thanks for the great post.

Breanne said... [reply]

Wow I am totally inspired and empowered to get rid of all my complex-inducing, not-really-intersted-in, long-winded blogs in google reader! Your blog, of course, will stay. Thanks!

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