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Don’t Believe Everything You Pin

messy craft room

The real workspace of an anonymous crafter doesn't look quite as good in real life as it does in staged blog photos

Craft blogs are enjoying a lot of attention from readers these days. Between appearances on the Martha Stewart show, book deals, and tons upon tons of DIY projects being “pinned” on the idea-sharing social media site Pinterest, craft blogs are becoming a reliable replacement for the moribund magazine industry (RIP Readymade, Domino, and Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion!)

Last weekend, we posted an article with true confessions from craft bloggers. Some of the more shocking confessions struck a nerve with some readers. Several commenters were disappointed in the information they read as bloggers candidly (and anonymously) shared some of their past blogging faux pas.

What do you think about this statement: “I’ve lied when doing a review for a paid post. I’ve said I liked the product when I really hated it, and I didn’t know how to back out or tell the sponsor I didn’t like it.” How about this one: “I do a lot of Photoshopping to make [my crafts] look nice. I’m pretty skilled, so I can do a good fake job without anyone noticing. I also fake a lot of my crafts; I don’t glue stuff down . . . I’ll just place it on top for a photo.”

Some commenters on the post expressed shock and disappointment that craft bloggers would do such things. Reader cBer said: “Photoshopping for better results? Lying about a sponsor’s product? Misrepresenting your actual cost? ‘Accidentally’ hitting the random button again defeats the purpose of a random button… Your personal integrity is worth much more than this.”

craft spaceBlogging With Integrity

I always get a little irritated when people wantonly criticize others, whether it is regarding parenting choices, craft blogging, or being a moral and upright citizen. Especially when it comes to integrity issues. For some bloggers, integrity means never selling ads, never promoting any product they haven’t purchased with their own money, or never sharing a photo that has been Photoshopped. Wait a minute.

Is a photo edited picture a lie?

Most of us would answer no. (If you are a user of Instagram, then you better have answered no!)

Integrity is not a black and white item. There’s a sliding scale of integrity, and each person has his or her own line in the sand. A line that makes them feel icky if they cross it. We can all agree on a few blogging integrity points: you should disclose sponsorship in posts it pertains to; you should give credit if you use another blogger’s intellectual property (photos, words, or ideas). There are a few more to think about at Blog With Integrity.

britney spears retouched

Britney Spears released photos of herself to demonstrate the changes photos go through in the media - the left side is the original photo, and the right side is the retouched photo.

But where does photo editing, project cost estimating, and failed craft swapping fall in the integrity continuum? Where does getting paid to complete a project using a certain brand of yarn fall on the spectrum? How about holding a giveaway for a product you would not use? Using fake food props? Airbrushing a model so she looks thirty pounds lighter? Getting paid to play certain songs on the radio?

Oops, those last few weren’t things that bloggers do. They are things our regular media outlets do every day.

Craft Blogging is Aspirational

Like a home and garden or fashion magazine, craft blogs are often inspirational and aspirational. Aspirational media presents images to readers “which they can aspire but, perhaps, never actually achieve.” Think about your favorite craft magazine (Martha Stewart Living, anyone?) or home decor TV show. Anyone who has tried a Martha Stewart project knows that they look perfect in the magazine but often fall short when an everyday crafter attempts to recreate them. Home decor shows look great on TV, but behind the scenes the projects are sometimes slipshod, or have been constructed by someone other than the designer who appears on screen.

Salon.com on TV show Trading Spaces:

You will never see the crew, the cables, the stacked furniture, the crowds of people that only increase in size. You’ll never see the sewing coordinator who has done all the sewing. You will not hear him tell a homeowner working in front of the camera that she won’t hurt anything because the machine isn’t threaded. You also will not know that some of the scenes that take place on Day 1 actually were shot near the end of Day 2. And you will never know how many retakes it took to get the scene right.

Just like most other media, including news programs, novels, celebrity gossip sites, blockbuster movies, and reality TV, blogging is about heightened reality. NOT cold hard facts.

Craft Blogging = Fantasy

Blogging is still a developing field. Most people have been blogging for less than five years, and the term “blogging” is only just about 10 years old. Most craft blogs are written by one person. One person who writes every post, takes every photo, designs every project, and does all the other work of producing the blog’s posts. That one person might not be paid for her effort, or she might be making a bit of money. The lucky bloggers make equivalent to a part-time income, and the very lucky make a modest living with income associated with their blog.

There are many ways one can be an excellent blogger, but one of the quickest ways is to do a very good job of creating a fantasy for the reader. A fantasy that their home can be as whimsical and colorful as yours, or that their children will always have a beautiful bento lunchbox, or that your crafts are easy, fun, and cheap to make.

Most bloggers don’t have it all figured out yet. They have to learn everything through trial and error. BUT, there is nothing wrong with creating a fantasy on your blog.

Nobody Has a Degree in Blogging

Blogging is the wild west. There are still few rules, and nobody has blogged long enough to be the sheriff of blogging town. As far as I know, no university provides a degree in blogging. In other words, everyone is a self-taught blogger. Some of us have journalism backgrounds, or are more familiar with the MLA Handbook than others, but blogging has a very low barrier of entry. To start a blog, one needs internet access, and to be able to navigate to blogger.com. Aaaand, you’re in business.

Because most bloggers are self-taught, they have to experience the normal learning curve that goes along with discovering the mechanics of doing something. The most natural way to learn is to fail. When you succeed, you rarely learn from the scenario. It’s only through doing something humiliating like giving a product a positive review because you didn’t know what else to do, that we learn certain important lessons (like, what to do when we don’t like a product but we are obligated to write about it).

Blogging Confessions are Just That… Confessions

retouched craft photo

Retouched craft photo by Carolina Moore, Always Expect Moore

In our previous article that contained anonymous confessions, we allowed people to lift the ruffled ombre curtain of blogging and tell the truth for a minute. Like a Craftaholics Anonymous, we encouraged bloggers to share that one time they made a move they weren’t proud of. It’s an amazing jump to conclude that people who make one mistake have no integrity.

Sure, you want to believe your parents never had sex in order to conceive you, but the fact is, they did. Ewww, no they didn’t.

Every human being is just as vile as the next guy. As much as we hate to admit it, we have all told lies, mistreated people, or done some other unsavory thing in our lives. We have all done a laundry list of things we aren’t proud of. And if you haven’t, then you’re lying to yourself. And if you think your neighbor, husband, or mom is better than that, then you’re deluding yourself as well.

Don’t Put ANYONE on a Pedestal

For some reason, people just love to put others on a pedestal. We all know that we, personally, suck, but that our best friend has it all. How does she do it anyway?

Bloggers are micro-mini-celebrities, which means that some readers hold them to a higher standard than they hold themselves to. Readers love to wish they lived in Centsational Girl‘s home, or had Tatertots & Jello‘s taste, or were as fun and funny as House of Smiths.

But guess what, bloggers can’t share even 1% of their lives on the pages of their blogs. It’s just not possible. Blogging is a snapshot, taken from a specific angle, in a specific moment in time. Sure, the house might be clean and the lighting might be good for that moment, but readers don’t get to see the following minutes when the toddler unloads a box of tissue in the room, and the dog tracks muddy footprints across the kitchen, and the blogger yells at said toddler and dog because she is just a normal (frustrated) mom like everyone else. Only she has self-imposed blogging deadlines.

Bloggers are real people. They have the same real problems and challenges as everyone else. Don’t put them on a pedestal, because you will be disappointed when they fall off of it. And they all fall down — celebrities, pastors, parents, children, spouses, police officers, bloggers, and you.

Remember that line from the Bible? “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Your Personal Integrity IS Worth More Than This

Still, cBer had a point. Bloggers do need to think about that line in their own personal sandbox marked “my integrity.” What will you do for a buck? What will you NOT do for a buck? Can you bring yourself to write an unflattering review of a sponsor’s product? Do you clean up your house before you photograph it? What lines are better off not being crossed, and which ones don’t apply to you?

Will you check the “color correct” button next time you are importing photos to your computer?

p.s. If you didn’t like those blogging confessions, then for the love of all things crafty, don’t go check out these real craft spaces of anonymous bloggers!

don't believe everything you pin

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