Who Needs Fraitors & Frenemies When You Can Have (Gasp), Friends?

by Bess on October 14, 2010 · 20 comments

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”  These two sentences represents everything I retained during the three years I was a Brownie, save for an intense love of cookies.

While the song was somewhat cheesy and eternally annoying, I believe there is some truth in this adage.

I can’t say enough good things about the great friendships I’ve forged through blogging.  I mean, Rachel and Dori are two of my favorite people to share music and talk boys with and I am so lucky to have an awesome running and eating partner in AJ. To say I thoroughly enjoy all of my fellow Hollaback Health girls and Golden Girls crew and would love nothing more than to have a stiff vodka cocktail with MelissaNibbles should comprise the Webster’s definition of “understatement.”

Despite the potential to form amazing bonds, there’s no denying that there is a sense of cattiness in the blogging world that has the ability to suck you in quicker than an episode of “Bad Girl’s Club” (yes I love this show and I’ll own that).

In keeping with my opening motto, I have not allowed my blog friendships to affect my in person friendships. The vast majority of my friends are not bloggers and most of my closest friends are people I have known for at least seven years (and I just got back from the wedding of a friend I’ve known since age three).

Sure, I sometimes get distracted when I get e-mails from comment feeds I subscribe to, a laugh-so-hard-I-almost-peed Tweet, or notification of a new blog comment. Total strangers can bring a lot of joy to our daily lives. However, let’s use Hollywood’s lessons to illustrate the importance of having friends outside of the blogosphere.

With blog friends, you may become a “Yes Man.”

I tell my real friends not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. But on the Internet, it’s easy to fall prey to the pack mentality and jump on the yes (wo)man bandwagon that so many bloggers have established. Need I remind you that using nothing but the affirmative led Jim Carrey’s character in “Yes Man” stranded with no gas and a dead cell phone battery, later detained by FBI agents?  And he nearly lost a shot with Zooey Deschanel!! Real friends are people you can be real with. Blog friendships don’t always allow that.

You may also become a mean girl.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is even easier to adhere to on the web.  The chances for encountering a Regina George type online are exponentially higher  than in real life, and a popular blogger’s entourage is much bigger than the Plastics. This is especially troubling given the unexplainable ease for revealing your most intimate secrets to virtual strangers (in my psych classes, this was referred to as the “stranger on the train” phenomenon).

There’s also the competition factor. When we’re all striving toward common goals, entering the same contests, and trying to get noticed by the same people, things can get ugly. A recent post from Run Sleep Rinse Repeat does a great job of illustrating that some blog friendships better resemble a “Real Housewives” cast than a “let’s hold hands, wear matching clothes and sing from the hillside” family of Von Trapps.

Blog friends can turn you into a devil in Prada.

Diversifying your friend pool makes for the most enriching friendships. Even if you live in a city where there are many health blogger friends in your proximity, I find that lasting friendships are not always based on common ground. We recently wrote about group think, and having all health blogger friends is a quick route to losing site of what’s “normal” outside our niche. Further, by hanging out solely with people all trying to emulate the same niche, you risk running into an sea witch situation…and is it really worth wasting all that time and energy over someone you’ve never even met? Remember, for every picture perfect assistant Emily Chalton, there’s a Miranda Priestly convincing Andy Sachs to screw her colleague over to genuflect to the Paris Fashion Gods (and sexy Simon Baker).

While it’s great to use blogging as a way to make new friends, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your real friends or your sanity. If you’re skipping hangouts with people you know in real life to tweet with virtual strangers, it might be time to take a step back.


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{ 20 comments }

Angela @ A Healthy Fit October 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Love this Bess! I have to say, although I have some great blends (Golden Girls holla!), I don’t really think of them as real life friends. One reason being, I find it hard to really have a deep connection with someone I’ve never met. I don’t know, talking online is just so much different than talking in person. I can’t imagine skipping out on real life plans to twitter away.
Angela @ A Healthy Fit´s last post ..Insomnia

Dori October 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Thank you for the shout! I have to say, I often feel closer with blog friends like you and Rach than with some of my real friends, in the sense that you guys are up to date on the boy stuff and job stuff and my others aren’t — simply because they are not on Twitter, not on IM, not on BBM, not as easily ACCESSIBLE as blog friends. It is nice to have a group of people as tuned into technology as I am.

That said, I live in a city with tons of bloggers and I only see a couple at all regularly. You click with who you click with in real life and in blogs, and I think it is important to know yourself and know what type of person is the type you want as your friend, and embrace it.
Dori´s last post ..Half Marathon Playlist-Share Your Running Songs

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey October 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I totally agree with this post – However, I guess I haven’t let the “fraitors and frenemies” affect me because I haven’t encountered anything like that in the blogworld. I guess I just follow and form friendships with people I “click” with!
chelsey @ clean eating chelsey´s last post ..return of the crunchmaster GIVEAWAY

MelissaNibbles October 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I’ve met a lot of great people through my blog. I feel very lucky to have met these women!

On the other hand, I’ve been talked about by “mean girl” bloggers and also made fun of on another person’s blog, so I know how mean girls it can get.

Aj October 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Well said Bess! I’m so glad to have met you and that would have never happened without blogging. I’m also so happy to be getting to know all the Hollaback girls as well. I find that sometimes I get anxious (it sounds dumb I know) if I haven’t checked my email or my reader or tweets because I’m afraid I’m missing something. But as a result of being so involved with my virtual life, I feel I miss more of what’s going on in my actual life. I’m trying to make it a priority to NOT check on virtual reality when I’m with R, especially on Toasty Tuesdays, or when we’re with friends. After all, if I stop engaging in my real life, what would I blog about?

It’s funny because I used to feel this anxiety about checking Facebook and I’ve hardly been on FB since blogging, but FB is where I actually know everyone I talk with – all my FB friends are actual friends or family!
Aj´s last post ..Monday Fun Day- Required Reading

San October 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm

That was very wise, Bess. And so true.
I’ve made incredible friendships through blogging, but I’ve also experienced the “mean girls”-attitude. It’s not pretty.
One has to make sure to not get sucked into the blogging world too much.
San´s last post ..A little makeover

Devon (Run Sleep Rinse Repeat) October 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Just wanted to say thank you for the shout out (and for the thoughtful comment, Bess). I really appreciate it :)

Mari October 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I loved this post!!! I totally agree with it!

Caitlin Boyle October 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I have a serious question. I read HBH because I like to hear what you guys are thinking but I often feel personally attacked on the site for one reason or the other, especially when there has been direct things written about me or the other HLS organizers in the posts. Do you think that all this talk about how some people are “mean girls” or whatever is just another form of actually being a mean girl? This is a serious question, I’m not trying to be rude. I’m OK with people talking about what I do (or I wouldn’t come back to HBH to see what you’re writing about). But sometimes I feel that the HBH group has put me in a small box and feels like it’s OK to either overtly or subvertly attack me and the other people written about in the Marie Claire article. Thoughts?

Meredith @ An Epic Change October 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Bess, this is why I keep you so close — you-re actually my enemy :)

Well written and thought-provoking. I think you made some excellent points, especially with the blog competition.

Devon October 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m failing to understand how you think this post has anything to do with you. It was written from a pretty objective point of view.
Devon´s last post ..Contemplation

Rachel Wilkerson October 15, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Caitlin –

The short answer to your question is “no.” No, I do not think talking about how mean girls behavior exists in the blog world is being a mean girl.

However, I’m sure you’d like a little more explanation than that so here are my thoughts.

HBH is about improving blogging, period. I’ve stressed this as much as possible, but it really is. It’s not about undermining you or anyone in the “Big Six.” It’s a blog for sharing ways to improve blogging.

What I hope for anyone reading this blog is that they can check their egos at the door before they start reading. If you do see yourself in some of these posts, great! I see myself in some of them too. WE ALL DO. That’s the point — it’s to make us all blog a little better, a little more thoughtfully. Those who come here and who actually take something away are those who believe they have areas of blogging upon which they can improve. Those who come here on the defense usually leave saying we’re bitches.

Given the fact that HBH got a bit of bad PR when it first began (due in no small part to your passive-aggressive tweeting and absolute refusal until now to speak to me directly and give me an opportunity to respond with more than 140 characters), I’ve become even more conscious of not attacking other bloggers. I read all the posts before they are published to make sure there isn’t anything in there I think is mean. Now, I’ll admit, I don’t read every single blog out there, and, to be frank, I don’t read yours, so it’s entirely possible that a personal attack could have slipped through because someone took a cheap shot and I didn’t catch it. But I really do do my best.

That said, I don’t edit posts to remove anything that I feel like is truthful and a necessary part of a discussion on blogging. I also don’t remove anything that I consider a trend — basically, if more than one blogger does it (which is generally the case; it seems everyone is so easily inspired by their fellow bloggers), then I consider that fair game. You may see yourself in some of these posts, but rest assured that you’re not the only one.

I hope you understand my intentions with starting HBH and why it’s necessary to give a voice to a minority. Our posts are quite about challenging widely-accepted notions in the blog world and saying, “Hey, this isn’t the only way” or “A lot of people are OK with this…but I’m not.” No, I’m not OK with poor grammar. I’m not OK with irresponsible blogging. I’m not OK with bloggers’ pisspoor responses to negative comments. I’m not OK with new bloggers thinking there’s only one way to blog or more established bloggers thinking there’s no reason to improve.

And while you might think it more fair if we followed every post here with a post defending the old way of doing things, frankly, it’s not that important to me to post things that would basically say, “Don’t feel guilty if…you’re in the majority.” Believe me, I’m not out to make enemies, but I also don’t see a need to go out of my way to make sure that those in the majority or those who follow the crowd still feel the sensation of everyone’s lips on their asses at the end of the day.

And yes, we’ve talked about the HLS organizers — in light of the Marie Claire article, it was going to happen, and really, if you do understand your role as a public figure, then I’d assume you see why that’s OK. But the idea that any of the bloggers who write for HBH have made you/the Big Six a target simply isn’t true. HBH posts grow out of things we see on popular blogs and blogs that only have five readers. There’s really no nice way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: don’t flatter yourself. This post wasn’t about you. This blog isn’t about you. It’s not all about you.

In all honesty, I’m loath to even write this response because I’ve seen what happens when people disagree with you, and truly, there isn’t a big enough umbrella for me to weather that shitstorm. But if you want my honest answer, that is it. Yes, we post about trends that sometimes you are a part of — and plenty of times, I’m sure you’re not. We don’t use this blog as a place to attack but we do use it as a place to challenge the things that need to be challenged — and if that makes me a mean girl, then I’ll accept that title.

– Rachel
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..Lesson 35- The Spin Cycle

ashlee October 15, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Rachel – “There’s really no nice way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: don’t flatter yourself. This post wasn’t about you. This blog isn’t about you. It’s not all about you” is what I feel like so many bloggers need to hear. Because blogging is “all about you” I think too many girls forget that there are a million other blogs out there. If you feel called out, the chances of it being just about you are 1 in a million. So don’t flatter yourself.

You are so articulate. I love your writing. Keep up the great work. Because yes, after all, we readers simply want to improve the blogging world, and too much self-centered-ness is just not going to help it any.

Caitlin Boyle October 15, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Rachel:

I never said I thought this post was about me! Nor did I attack you. I was really asking an honest question, and I just really wanted to discuss it. But I guess your mind is already made up about me.

Caitlin

Caitlin Boyle October 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Oh also (and I type this in a really nice and sincere voice, I know typing doesn’t convey it sometimes), if you do ever want to chat, you know how to find me! I’m not sure how I’ve ‘refused’ to talk to you about stuff and if I ignored a comment or tweet, I’m really sorry because I never meant to. I wouldn’t mind chatting at all. I’m following you on Twitter already.

MelissaNibbles October 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Caitlin,
I’m confused as to what you’re asking Rachel and the other Hollaback ladies then. Rachel said in her answer that she wasn’t targeting you because you said that you felt “attacked.” I think her reply was more than discussing it, but telling you what this site is about. I don’t understand what your question is…if it’s about the “mean girl” label, Rachel said “No, I do not think talking about how mean girls behavior exists in the blog world is being a mean girl.” What are you trying to discuss that she didn’t address? I’m honestly confused.

Caitlin Boyle October 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Melissa:

I’m not sure. It’s not that it directly related to this post (don’t mean to hijack the comments section, Bess!! SORRY!!!). It was just a thought that I’ve been considering in general. But now I kind of regret bringing it up at all. So… nevermind.

Hangry Pants October 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Hi

I think (maybe) what Caitlin was getting at was this: in a post like this where popular bloggers are referenced and things like “a popular blogger’s entourage is much bigger than the Plastics,” are said it’s hard not to take it personally if you are a popular blogger. Yes, it’s funny and some bloggers can travel the country with group meet-ups along the way, but we all know what you’re saying – popular bloggers are the Mean Girls. I think Caitlin might have been talking about several posts and this one just sort of prompted her to write.

I think the issue is when things are said about “popular bloggers” that seem to pigeon hole you into a stereotype that might not apply to you. For example, if you’re in high school and talk about popular cheerleaders being slutty and dumb, the virgin cheerleader going to Harvard might be pissed. She can only do so much to try to show you’re wrong, but if you’ve written her off as part of group and aren’t paying attention to her actions, you will never know. Now if these things are true, I guess that’s another story.

If posts refer to HLS planners, popular bloggers or “the Big 6″ it is difficult to not start taking it personally and eventually feeling pissed, especially if the things said (maybe not directly about you, but about a group that you are part of) are not applicable to you. If they do apply to you, whether you are popular or not, I think you can learn, reflect on your blogging and improve, if you’re interested.

I appreciate the efforts to make blogging better. Really, I do. I don’t want to read passive aggressive tweets. I don’t want to read product reviews where everything is great. I don’t want to see a million pictures of you on your blog for no reason. I don’t want to hear you complaining about your charmed life. I don’t want to see someone with a different opinion attacked by the blogger or her readers. See, I appreciate what you are trying to do here. And it’s probably incredibly difficult to talk about these issues in a way that is not so general that it is not helpful, but not so specifically that you are targeting people, but I do understand Caitlin’s concern too.

I have no answer. Not sure it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Just wanted to share because I like to share.

Bess October 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Heather,
Thanks for a well thought out comment that brings up some good points.
This quote of yours does a great job of illustrating the conundrum in our blogging community: “it’s probably incredibly difficult to talk about these issues in a way that is not so general that it is not helpful, but not so specifically that you are targeting people.”

There’s no denying that there’s been a great deal of walking on egg shells and that many people have felt their voices needed to be silenced. And while it is unfortunate that it took a one-sided article in a national publication to bring these issues to light, we aren’t the only bloggers who have found some catharsis in being able to talk about this.

I can’t begin to imagine what any of the subjects of the MC article personally went through but I know instinctively that it couldn’t have been easy. That said, while I cannot speak for Caitlin, I feel like her comment was a response to the accumulated backlash that has been received in recent weeks (which came from a myriad of non-HBH sources).

Also, it needs to be said that some of the backlash has nothing to do with the way people blog. Rather I know that on my end, it stems from a genuine concern about the health of some of these bloggers and the message they send to their impressionable readers.

Having been with HBH since the onset, I can directly relate to a bunch of “hating” that was done on us based on very little prior knowledge about our experiences, style of writing or moral character. We don’t go out of our way to bring up the bullying we received (or target the bloggers that did so) and kept our witty irreverent tone to spark productive discussion about how to make all of us better bloggers. However I think frustration reached a boiling point when Caitlin accused us of attacking her (and did insinuate this has happened in multiple posts, not just today’s).

I specifically used the term “popular” because it is incredibly subjective and coming from a research background, we are taught that a word like that doesn’t hold any weight unless very specific criteria has been applied to it. However, it looks like it wasn’t the right choice of words.

Anyways, thanks again for an insightful comment and as the author of this post, I hope I was able to provide some clarification.
Bess´s last post ..Finally Perfected The Frosting For My Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Cake!!

Rachel Wilkerson October 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Caitlin –

Melissa summed up my confusion in your response pretty well. I was responding to your comments “there has been direct things written about me or the other HLS organizers in the posts” and “sometimes I feel that the HBH group has put me in a small box and feels like it’s OK to either overtly or subvertly attack me and the other people written about in the Marie Claire article.” I didn’t take your comments as an attack; I 100% took them as an opportunity for discussion, which I make clear time and again that I welcome. It’s incredibly frustrating when you write such a loaded comment and when I respond to it, all you can say is “wait, that’s not what I meant, never mind.”

In regards to Twitter — I was not implying that you’ve ever ignored a Tweet from me because I’ve never Tweeted at you about this. That’s exactly my point: I don’t Tweet about these topics because it’s way too hard to say everything I want to say or to express myself. But this past spring, when HBH first started, I received several e-mails from other bloggers passing along your Tweets that were in clear reference to HBH. If you need a refresher, it might be because you also deleted those Tweets later in the day, in a way that came across as you just trying to maintain a certain image and perhaps not being too proud of the things you had written earlier. Seeing the Tweets that were flying around (and not just your — many others’) is exactly why I wrote in a post that same week stating that I welcomed all discussion HERE on the blog. So in that sense, I really do appreciate you asking the question how you did — I just wish you had done it months ago, because I’m pretty sure this feeling of being attacked isn’t new for you. I’m sure you understand the feeling of knowing people are saying something and not being able to respond.

And please don’t say that I’ve made up my mind about you. I actually don’t write people off that quickly. I can’t tell you how excited I get when a blogger who previously used her blog as a food journal starts pushing herself a little bit, writing more, being more honest, taking more risks or when someone who came off a certain way completely defies stereotypes or peoples idea’s of her. My mind isn’t already made up about you or anyone else and I love when people change my first/second/tenth impressions.

Heather —

I appreciate that you saw an opportunity for discussion in Caitlin’s comment and my response. I get everything you said in that last paragraph — I KNOW you know those things. You exemplify it on your blog and on the comments you leave on this blog. I can tell you’re thoughtful, that you care, and that you recognize the problems in the blog world.

And I get what you mean about the stereotypes, and I think that’s really fair and valid and something worth talking about. This is a probably a whole other discussion, but to me, the only way to change stereotypes is to be that change. I think you did a wonderful job of handling the MC controversy — if anyone associated you with those negative things before, it would be very hard to after seeing your response. We’ve talked a lot about sorority life on this blog, because it was eerily similar to the health blogging community, but I’ll reference it again: there were girls in every house who made the rest of the group look bad. There were Greek life stereotypes that make us all look bad. But at the end of the day, so much of the stereotypes were based in truth, so it was on the group itself to change it, you know? I guess I’m saying that I know what it’s like to be part of a group that people have certain ideas about, and for that reason, I’d never write a blogger or a person off just because of who they are associated with.

I don’t ever read your responses as defensive. I feel like we’re fighting for the same thing, but in slightly different positions. All I can say is PLEASE keep commenting, keep challenging, keep asking questions, keep sharing because you like to share. You do it so well and I really do take what you have to say to heart.
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..Lesson 35- The Spin Cycle

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