Recently I heard about a spat between a blogger and someone who had served them. While the whole mini saga was interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking, one thing stood out to me. In the exchange the former was referred to by the latter as “a food blogger” as if that carried some kind of negative connotation. As the blogger later pointed out – while he may well be a “blogger” (imagine that said with an affectionate smile or the grimace of disgust that I imagine it had been spat across the internet in this case – up to you!) he is a customer first and foremost and should have been treated that way.
It’s not the first time I’ve noticed that same kind of distaste levelled at bloggers. At only a few years in, I’m a relative newbie to the blogging scene but I’ve seen that while in some quarters bloggers are hailed, revered and generally seen as a force for good there seems to be a growing camp who see bloggers (I only speak for food bloggers since I’m rubbish at everything else) as the scourge of the food world.
So when did blogger become a dirty word?
Don’t worry, I get it. I get that blogging has changed. What was once a rather cute little hobby has become a multi-million pound business. That honest ‘web log’ recording what someone had for their tea and how they made it in their own, rather ordinary kitchen, or the greasy burger they thought was gopping and why they’ll never go back there has morphed into stylised pictures, sponsored posts, and carefully curated content (yeah, that’s a bit of web jargon right there for you). The ‘real’ stuff can so often seem lost among the Millennials alternative to glossy mags right there on the internet.
And that’s before we even get to the free stuff. Yep – bloggers get free stuff. I know you know. I could sit here and look at the debate on whether they should or whether they shouldn’t, or muse on why it annoys people, or how much work goes on behind the scenes that merits that free stuff, but that’s for another day, another person blah blah blah. But it goes without saying that it’s a gripe. Not to mention the fact that some of them earn so much they can actually make a living out of their blog and don’t need to have, as the critics would put it, a “proper job”. (Not my view, note the: “as the critics would put it” before you start attributing it to me).
But among all that, are ALL bloggers really that bad? It’s the age-old adage of whether you should tar everyone with the same brush. I’ll start with myself, since I know more about me and my own blog than others (good job, really, else that would be weird), but I know I’m not alone.
My blog is my hobby. It was born out of a desire to combine my love for writing and my love of food. It doesn’t make me any money worth talking about. I guess it could if I really wanted it to, but I don’t want to. I’ve got a full-time job. I earn my living as a journalist and I like to think that experience helps me write, but I see the two as separate. One’s work, one’s fun.
This blog hasn’t won awards. I’m not sure it ever will. I don’t call myself a restaurant critic. Yes, I write about places I’ve been to, and sometimes I might not like what I had. Sometimes I think it’s because it wasn’t executed well, but more often than not I’m happy to admit that while I love food, I’m no expert and it may just be that I didn’t like something. Yes as bloggers we should know our stuff, but most of us aren’t from a culinary background so chances are that knowledge stops somewhere.
And yes, I get free stuff. I don’t ask for it, I don’t seek it out. It gets offered. I like to think this is because the restaurant wants my opinion, values my blog and my writing and I’m heartened that most of them are confident enough to invite someone in for free and take the gamble that they’ll tell the world they’re shit. (They rarely are by the way). But it could just be that they see it as free advertising, who knows.
Despite the freebies, I spend a blimin fortune eating out. My recent holiday was effectively a food and wine tour around Europe and most celebrations/milestones/dates/fun with friends (the list goes on) involve meals that more often or not are paid for out of our own hard-earned cash. That’s because food for me is a passion. It’s a pastime. It’s something that gives me pleasure, interests me, and is common ground for so many of my friends and relatives. And so I’ll spend more on food in a month than I ever will on clothes, or make-up, or stuff for my house.
That love is why I blog. And it’s why the vast majority of bloggers blog. Yes, I’d be the first to admit that it’s a bit of a sad state of affairs that parts of the blogging world have become far more cynical than simply writing about what you love. It’s sad that some people see bloggers paying for things as a rarity. Or can’t trust what they write because they may have been ‘bought’.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some bloggers might be in it for the big bucks, the free stuff and the dream that one day they can make or break a reputation, whether that be restaurant, chef, make-up brands or hotel. But for every one of those, there’s one who beavers away because they want to share something with you. If that’s what you want, go and find them and focus your efforts on them. Leave the others be because someone somewhere probably wants to read them. And let’s credit each other with enough intelligence that we can make our own choices.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be critical. Or address the issue. I guess all I’m trying to say is that I don’t think any of this means that ‘blog’ should automatically become a dirty word. And not all bloggers are baddies.
Not me anyway 😉
(NB The picture at the top is also not mine. It is courtesy of janeb13 via Pixabay. Just to be clear.)