Writing

The Trouble with Lifestyle Blogger Envy

KinfolkPhoto via Kinfolk

Yesterday I read an article that made me want to (awkwardly) fist pump the air.

It’s called The Minimalist Pixie Dream Girl: Who She Is and Why I Hate Her by Chelsea Fagan at The Financial Diet. (I recommend reading this funny and well-written post.)

Fagan writes of the dangers of following “general lifestyle porn” made by the “minimalist pixie dream girl,” a.k.a. that beautiful young woman you see on Instagram or Tumblr with flawless looks, style and decor. You know, the one that makes you feel like an oily-faced, dimply-assed fraction of a woman. In this post, let’s call her Kinfolker.

Fagan says, “She’s the kind of beauty we’d call “effortless,” which can be directly translated to “thin, with good skin, expensive (but minimalist) clothes, and hair that always looks done without ever looking touched.” It’s a lie, created with “no-makeup makeup,” and art direction, and vaseline on cheekbones to give you that dewy, beach-babe look when you are sitting in an air conditioned apartment in Williamsburg.”

We all know that girl.

Girls, actually.

Or rather, we don’t know them. We follow them online. Because we want their lives. Or, if you’re a blogger, you want to look like you have their lives.

Fagan comically points out, “She is never actually doing anything, of course. She is sipping her tea, staring out the window, sitting curled up on her comically large white couch with a few magazines strewn about her. She is not there to inspire anything other than insecurity, because her “achievements” include keeping everything incredibly white, not gaining weight, and having a messy bun that is always on the verge of falling but never actually does.”

Reading this article made me come to Jesus with something I’ve been in denial about feeling.

I try not to pick on my fellow women. Being a woman is tough, and the last thing we need to do is to tear each other down. However, I couldn’t help but snicker when I read this essay (I’m a shitty, shitty feminist). Fagan said what the little voice in my head screams every time she sees a photo of tiny-nosed, blonde-haired beauty eating lox and bagels on her lox-colored kitchen table next to her similarly blonde-haired and blue-eyed dog in her Dwell-esque tiny house.

These girls have a lot of followers simply because of the beautiful lifestyle they create. People eat up their nicely photographed glitter shit featured on Crate & Barrel plates.

When I first started blogging, I got the horrible, no-good disease that is called envy, and at times, I wanted to be like them. I thought that if one morning I woke up and my Jewish nose was gone, if my house was as bare as a baby’s bottom and I took enough selfies of me standing pigeon-toed in front of a white wall (with my tripod and timer), I’d become a popular blogger. And then I remember that I didn’t give a crap about that stuff growing up, so why should I now? The Internet is the largest of high schools, with direct or indirect peer pressure running rampant. Though my mother raised me to have confidence in who I was, I’ve not been immune to feeling like the crud on the bottom of a Kinfolker’s Toms wedges.

I do know a few Kinfolkers. They’re not all bad. Some of them are actually photographers or designers who just happen to be beautiful and have darling houses. As much as you want to hate on them, you can’t. They’re genuinely cool and talented.

Then there are the girls who orchestrate the facade. I knew one gal who would make her husband pose for creepy photos of them laughing while drinking coffee on Sunday morning, laughing while running through a field or laughing while standing in their manicured back yard holding their manicured dog. I always imagined that one day both her husband and dog would bolt in the night, broken and tired from forced smiling.

Oh, and then there are fashion bloggers.

Though I don’t share the same sentiment with Fagan in that I hate the idea of the minimalist pixie dream girls/Kinfolkers, I do think we women often need to remind ourselves that it’s ok to be imperfect. It’s ok to have a messy house, messy hair, messy face, messy body, messy workspace, messy children and messy dog. Life is messy. Maybe a messy life doesn’t look as good on Instagram or Tumblr, but in the end, who really gives a crap? Be who you are.

And if unfollowing these ladies makes you feel better, do it. Sometimes we need to put blinders on to keep us going down our own unique paths.

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19 Comments

  • Reply toni March 21, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I really enjoyed this post. This is so very true. I think in a way what you describe is an extension of the “perfect” world in which we live and which young women women should have the energy and drive to lead full time careers, rare the kids, maintain the perfect house while simultaneously regularly practicing yoga, running marathons, drinking tea, spending weekends hanging out with their hipster friends, eating food grown in their own garden…
    I don’t know about everyone else, but I just about have enough energy for the full time job, keeping the house half tidy, having the odd Friday night drink with my friends/coworkers, Skyping with my family and trying to get some sleep and rest in between.
    Thanks for the reminder that perfection is unachievable and we should be happy with the perfection of the imperfect instead of chasing an unachievable dream.

    • Reply hipstercrite March 21, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Can you imagine how much time it takes to photograph your life like it’s a magazine spread?

  • Reply Christine H March 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Agreed. Yoga has really helped me chill the flick out and not worry so much about other people. Also something that I have heard is trying to emulate the qualities you like more in our own life. I.e. Like tea ? Make some rather than looking at single white waif drinking it. Really liked this post and think there is a great message to remember – focus on yourself and your goals rather than focusing on others. (However, I too would be interested to know how these girls find all the time to do all that running and tea drinking. They must be up at 4:30 every morning or not have a full time job.)

  • Reply nikkiana March 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

    This made me think of a woman who’s a life coach that I used to work with and have gone on a couple of retreats hosted at her home. She lives in a gorgeous loft space decorated in whites and creams, twinkle lights and a discoball, and every decorative item so perfectly and mindfully placed. The pictures you see online make you go, “UGH!. My place looks nothing like that. Her life must be flawless and awesome.”

    To see the place in person, it’s initially breathtaking. The whole “Holy shit, I can’t believe this is real and you live here!” shabang. But as the day progresses, you see the place get littered with dirty dishes and magazine clippings… The remnants of people just being people in a space, and she laughs and says “It’s messy like this most of the time.”

    And then you get in her car to go out for dinner and drinks and realize that she has the same shitty soccer mom mini-van with the kid fingerprints on the windows and the crushed graham crackers and Cheerios in the seats and the garbage on the floor from the past six months that everybody else has.

    I remember sitting in that dirty minivan realizing that perfection is an illusion, and one that’s incredibly easy to propagate through the lens of a camera. For every beautiful thing you see in a photograph, there’s usually some sort of ugliness outside the what the camera was able to capture. Maybe that ugliness is a dirty minivan, maybe it’s a counter full of dirty dishes that’s taken over the kitchen while you’re photographing a clean living room, maybe it’s the fight that was had with the husband because he’s tired of every meal having to meticulously documented because you’re worried more about your image on Instagram than enjoying the actual meal.

    And I realized, I’m okay with imperfect.

  • Reply Tamara Kraus March 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Girl, you hit this out of the ball park. I recently started blogging and look to many popular bloggers for inspiration. While it’s great to use them for photo inspo, I can definitely become envious when I can’t get a photo that looks just like theirs. We all need to embrace our unique identity-that’s what makes people read our blogs!

    • Reply hipstercrite March 21, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Absolutely. Sadly, I try to stay away from fashion blogs because of that. Some fashion blogs are really interesting and informational, but many of them are just pretty (sometimes wealthy) gals showing off their nice clothing.

  • Reply Sam Shirley March 21, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Here are my thoughts from the perspective of men – we struggle with this – too – king of

    https://samuelashirley.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/general-lifestyle-porn-in-the-eyes-of-men/

    • Reply hipstercrite March 21, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Good read, Sam!

  • Reply Kellyn March 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I can’t lie, this really resonates with me. I spent the majority of my early 20s desperately trying to be a blogger and fashionable and perfect. I followed a million lifestyle blogs and spent hours and hours on tumblr wishing I could be like all the beautiful girls I saw online. I dedicated so much time to knowing the latest trends, baking cutesy treats to be photographed and meticulously curating Pinterest boards. I was seriously depressed. I weighed 88 pounds, never ate, drank way too often and didn’t like the person I was becoming. Then one day, I went with my boyfriend to Europe for three months. I spent a lot of time disconnected from the Internet and all the lifestyle porn that goes with it. I started noticing that as I reconnected with my real life, that I have it pretty good. I am surrounded by people I love, and I started to embrace all of my flaws that I spent so much time worrying about. I’ve since gained weight, stopped fretting over every single tiny detail of my life, and started to just enjoy being present. I’m really really lucky to have gotten something to push me out of my computer chair and into the real world, and I am grateful every day.

    • Reply hipstercrite March 21, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Kellyn,
      Thank you for sharing that. I remember the days when I really cared about that stuff, and it really stressed me out too. It’s so stupid thinking back on it, and it’s hard for me to admit! The real world is so much better.

  • Reply Adria Baratta March 22, 2015 at 11:25 am

    This was so spot on, Lauren! I have a friend who launched a social media account for holistic living and she’s a lovely girl but I can’t stomach all of it anymore. There is so much pressure but the only thing to remember is that we all feel it. My brother’s girlfriend is super polished and fashionable and “together” and I mentioned that I felt inadequate around her to him because I don’t wash my hair every day and he laughed and said she felt the same but opposite about me.

    I like your high school reference…it’s important to just do you and not give a rats ass about what “they” think. And for the record, I think your life looks pretty amazing! (And your nose is awesome.)

    • Reply hipstercrite March 22, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Adria,
      I hope I don’t give off the illusion that everything is perfect. When I shared this post on FB, it created a great dialogue about what we choose to show on our social media channels. I hope I don’t just select all the good (however, I’m not sure how many people want to hear about my bowel movements either). There was also a great dialogue about how some people just see the beauty in everything and that is what they share online (I also implied that about the photographers/designers). However, we do all know the folks that stage everything, and that just comes across as icky to me.

  • Reply Mark March 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

    …I feel the same way with You Tube folks … but with one difference… often, there is no real envy associated with the videos and I don’t feel like they are trying to fashion an image that is not of themselves… these “lifestyle bloggers”, however, curate their photos and entries specifically for the stylized image that they hope to project… at least, that is how I see it… there is something false about bloggers and their perky tips and hints that they have unoriginally copied from a magazine and purport to be of their own mind… give me the messy, real, and greasy any day… that is why I have enjoyed your blog for such a long time..!

    • Reply hipstercrite March 23, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Thank you, Mark. <3

  • Reply mayk March 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    for all the pinterest images of boyfriend jeans x slouchy white tee + stilletos captioned “MINIMAL + CHIC”
    kill me now.

  • Reply Wolf March 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Thank you very much for this post.
    I also hate these “inspirational” blogs – they never inspire any feeling but “you’ll never be this good”.
    I like your comparison to High School. To be with the cool kids, you gotta own brands – the brand names changed, the way it works stayed.

  • Reply Morgan A. March 30, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I read that article for the first time yesterday and it had me quite torn. I can see both sides. But mostly, I also felt guilty with myself that I try to be that person sometimes. I started a blog because I wanted to tell real stories and connect with real people. And I know some of the people I follow cannot possibly live the life they portray. And I follow because I am curious. And envious. And I find myself trying harder to be something thats not natural to me. It was definitely a good topic to be brought up.

    http://morningappleblog.com

  • Reply Jessica A. April 2, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Fantastic read, thank you for posting this. While I agree on most of the sentiments that you and the OP wrote about this facade, I can’t help but wonder why is it just women who are being scrutinized? What are your thoughts on the men who are are doing this as well? You know these men, the white twenty-something lumber-jack sexuals who usually have a beard, pair of ray ban glasses, and/or man bun. What about their #liveauthentic lifestyles they try to push out on instagram by constantly going on these “adventures” where each photo is curated and edited with a VSCO cam filter. Not that I don’t enjoy following these talented men’s photos (their work is often gorgeous and can easily fill me with envy), but I want an article that discusses them as well and how it’s okay if you’re working a 60 hour a week job to feed your kids and can’t afford an expensive camera or take long road trips to the Oregon coast.

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