For a change from beauty and fashion reviews, today I’m blogging about something that’s really been bothering me. I hope if you are reading this, you will take a moment to weigh in and let me know what you think about the following:
In the 16 years that I’ve been writing content online, there have been many changes in the World Wide Web. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way the net can blur the distinction between the real world, and the virtual one. Cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, people behave as if there are no consequences to their actions. It’s more than just lying (e.g. saying you are a hot teenage girl when you’re really a 60 year old man). It is also the way the net allows people to act rudely just because no one can see them, and to “pretend” to be or to have done things that aren’t true.
It may be tempting to think that while you are sitting in front of your computer, you’re actually on a date, or kissing someone, or traveling to distant lands, or sipping fine wine, but that’s not really true. A virtual reality is still not the same as being there and experiencing something.
Along the same lines, it is tempting for some online content providers (often those who are just starting out or who have no time for actual writing) to post stock photos and press releases that are really “advertorials.” This is already what I’d call “junk content” but worse than that, many of these misguided “writers” fashion their posts and articles “as if” they had actually experienced the event or tried the product they’re promoting (for free or for a fee). If you didn’t get the same press releases they got, you might never know that they were creating a fiction.
Increasingly, I’m offered high resolution photos in lieu of actual products or invitations to events with the explanation that it’s “economical.” Maybe so, but is it worth your time to read it? Posting this kind of material (you can see the exact, same wording and photos on blog after blog), blurs the line between fact and fiction, writing and junk. If I were to post these free bits of info on this blog and my web site instead of actually working to produce unique work, , what’s the value of it? How many times can you see the same photos and read the same blurbs? Doesn’t this just cheapen the field of journalism and the net, in general?
In the print world, authors like James Frey and Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat (just to name two that caught Oprah’s eye and fooled her), are profiting nicely from twisting the truth. In fact, the public seems to be more interested in their deception than in their real stories! Isn’t a book that looks like fact, but is really fiction, just fodder for fools? Don’t we deserve better from writers?
I strongly feel that writers have an obligation to provide quality content instead of just, well…content. I offer the same thoughtful, high quality work online that I would offer to any other publication. I won’t run advertorials. They have a place…but only as paid advertising and marked as such. I really hope that at least Advice Sisters readers are intelligent and appreciate the difference between what’s written from personal experience, and an advertisement.
You can trust what you read on the Advice Sisters web site and blog. It is always original, it is always real, and it is always written from first-hand “up close and personal” experience. This takes a lot more skill, time and effort, but it is what makes me a writer instead of a collector of junk information. It’s the only way I’ll ever write. And, if I ever use a press release, I make sure it is labeled as such. I wish everyone did the same. Until they do, it’s up to you to separate fact from fiction–Caveat Lector!
How do you feel about this issue? Would you be as willing to read my reviews if they were just “canned” information with glossy photos? I’d really welcome your comments.