Is this going to be yet another rant or post about losing my blogging mojo? Goodness knows, I go through these phases a lot.
But no, to be honest it isn’t. What it is about really, is that feeling of ennui and disenchantment with blogging and what it’s brought about for many of us who have been doing it for a while, or even not for a while, but who are a little more particular in our coverage.
It’s no surprise to me that in a short few months, I’ve come across a number of blog posts from different bloggers in different parts of the world touching on the same or similar subject matter as to how I felt. I’m actually seeing a lot of what I label “beauty fatigue” out there in many blogs in recent times, and I just as readily confess to experiencing that sort of ennui. A small sampling of the posts I’ve read are on British Beauty Blogger, London Beauty Queen, Beauty Reflections and Sway Beauty and even as far as back as 2014 on Rocaille Writes; and while different in subject matter, the underlying theme seems to be a sense of disenchantment with the business, and a fighting desire to not be just another face in the crowd.
Beauty blogging is a huge business. I use the word “business” loosely because for some, it’s their livelihood, and for others, it’s a means to share. Run a search for “beauty blog” on Google and as of today, Google throws up 578 MILLION hits. So, you want to make your mark? You have to stand out, in a crowd of at least 500 MILLION people. That’s about 16 times the population of Malaysia. Puts things in perspective eh? 🙂
But what that also means is that it’s hard to stand out and be different, and above all, honest. You see, many bloggers, myself included, have to depend to a degree, on the brands to feed us information on what’s new and what’s the latest, in order for us to trickle that news out to you, the reader. The problem, as I see it, arises when news or launches go out in a huge social media blitz, but without critique. In a manner of speaking, a lot of the essence of beauty blogging is lost because of this lack of critique and that is, for me, my biggest disenchantment of all.
I’m really curious about how you feel, whether as a blogger or reader, and whether it’s a phase we’re all going through or if there’s something much bigger going on.
From a brand or PR standpoint, I can understand the need to get lots of eyeballs on the new product, and to drum up hype. But it is this that causes this beauty fatigue in many of us.
How often have you come across a brand “leaking” images of a new eyeshadow palette, mascara, eyeliner on social media, and then engaging 50 bloggers and Youtubers to flood your social media and blog feeds within a particular period with this same new eyeshadow palette, mascara or eyeliner; then offering the said product “for a limited time only” before its official release 2 months down the road. Sound familiar? I’m looking at you Urban Decay and Benefit.
You see, I don’t deny that it’s an effective marketing strategy. People actually line up for blocks for hours, outside of places like Sephora in the rain…. to buy an eyeshadow palette. It’s no different from what Apple does with their iPhones; but that is also why I don’t own one 😀
But my problem is not with the whole blitz. Ok, it partially is. Hype turns me off a product, and if I do get my hands on the product, I find any way I can to criticize it. Because you see, you will rarely read critical evaluation of a new product within the first 3 months of its release. During this period of seeding, most bloggers are so enamoured with their free latest “sneak preview” hyped product that they don’t feel the need to criticize it. In fact, they don’t feel right to, or they might not even be allowed to (money often buys silence). A true test of a product’s efficacy comes about 6 months down the road after it’s out in the market and regular people buy it and go “WTF is this crap piece of mascara/eyeliner?!” and the true reviews trickle out.
The same thing happens on Instagram, where attention spans are so short, it’s restricted to a double-tap to like a photo. No, it’s not because you care about what is said in the caption, it’s about how pretty that photo looks. And I think that’s fine, except anything can be made to look pretty with flowers and creative design, and that’s why everything on Instagram should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Having given things some thought, it is this lack of critique in a lot of blogs, that really bugs me.
Blogs are meant to be places were we can share honest opinions on products. That is the essence of all blogs in all niches. Over time, as will happen, they’ve evolved into online magazines. Nothing wrong with that, except that you can’t on the one hand claim be honest, or say that you write product reviews, and on the other hand not offer any critique.
Critique isn’t about product bashing nor negativity. It isn’t about saying something negative about a product, or sighing and moaning or being flippant in an attempt to look original and different from the rah-rah bloggers out there. It is just about being discerning, analytical and critical in your presentation. It is what being honest and truthful is all about.
If you want to review something, that’s what you should be doing – presenting the good and the bad and your thoughts on why you like or dislike it. A “review” isn’t about 10 beautifully edited photographs and 10 lines of text that essentially say “This is the best [insert new product] I have ever used! I can’t live without it!”.
Sure, sometimes, there will be that “I can’t live without it!” product. I have those too and there are products where I can’t find a single bad thing to say about them, because I’m blind to their faults. But it is a very rare product indeed that survives a discerning eye and a critical mind.
So this is what I feel is lacking today, and what I feel should be built up for a stronger blogging voice. In fact, I feel that beauty bloggers in particular, have a responsibility to their readers to channel the truth, because a lot of it affects our skin and by extension, our looks. With food bloggers, it’s just wasted calories, or tech bloggers, wasted money on gadgets. But beauty, it’s more than skin deep. Sometimes it can literally affect our skin.
I don’t know if this casual flippancy to rah-rah is just a reflection of people today (which makes me sound like that old aunty in the corner going “Kids today! tsk tsk tsk”) Do we have shorter attention spans? Do we not appreciate critical thought? Do people even know how to write a critical piece any more?
Or perhaps it’s to do with the fact that many brands and PR people can’t handle critiques of a product. They have 500 million blogs to go after. It’s easy to drop that handful of blogs that are offering to critique their product because the product may not stand up to scrutiny. It’s safer therefore to engage with 10 blogs who’d offer a rah-rah feature with prettily edited photographs (“Cheerleader blogs” I call them), than with 1 critical blog but one that has a wide reach and influence.
So, if you want to play with PR and brands, you have to play by their rules. Or so it seems. Be nice, don’t be critical, take pretty pictures, praise everything sky high so you get that next sneak peek, sponsorship, freebie, collaboration, event invitation etc. That is, in a way, how I feel things are going, hence the reluctance to be critical. Being critical doesn’t get you the event invitations, the freebies, the collaborations and it gets you put into cold storage. Because, you know, you dared to speak your mind. Horrors.
Yet, there’s nothing to stop any of us from going out and buying that latest new product and blogging about it and offering our critique. But, we can only do it on our own time and with our own resources and really, once I’m hit with beauty fatigue, I’m less likely to want to pay good money just “for the blog”. At one time, maybe I would have. Now, knowing what I know that goes on behind the scenes, I’m less likely to. My money is better served going to the things I actually love or want to discover and learn about, not just so I can debunk a hype.
So that’s how I feel in recent times. A little washed up, a little disenchanted and not a little disillusioned. It would be nice to wake up to a tsunami of critical thought, or at least something meaty to read. The number of blogs I read dwindle from day to day as I scrap the Cheerleader blogs. The sad thing is that many blogs I read started as well written, critical blogs. Then fame and freebies happened and now they’re pretty Cheerleader blogs that PR people love. And that’s great. Except their readers have left too. Like me, we come for the critique, we stay for the fun and we leave when it becomes another bland, vacuous PR led machine.
But perhaps if enough people feel the way I do, this critical thought might even happen. And it might even teach the brands and the PR that blogs and bloggers aren’t just mere marketing tools – we have thoughts and opinions and if properly channeled, and properly written, it doesn’t impact them in a negative way at all. It might even bring them more interest in their product, instead of their product being dismissed as “just another hyped up beauty crap product”.
Your thoughts are welcome, blogger or reader. I can’t be the only person out there bemoaning the lack of critique or experiencing beauty fatigue! 😀