When I was in college, living in my sorority house, I’d often hear my friends (or myself) complaining.
“I don’t know if I should bring a Theta Chi or a Delt Sig to Formal…and I still need to lose three pounds so I can fit into my BCBG dress!”
“I’m so torn between taking the internship at the White House and studying abroad in Rome!”
“I don’t know how I am going to get everything packed before I leave for Mexico on Spring Break! I’ve just been so busy with Greek Week…”
My response was always the same: “Our lives…are so hard.”
It was silly but to the point — it was my way of putting things in perspective and reminding us all to quit being ridiculous.
And seriously? I’d like to start leaving “Your life is so hard” as a comment on far too many blogs.
Do bloggers not realize that complaining about the one little problem in an otherwise awesome life — a life that many of their readers envy and would be perfectly happy to lead — is the fastest way to turn people off?
Have you ever read White Whine? If that is what your blog is starting to sound like, you have a problem on your hands.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t complain. I have a post on my blog today about my crap day on Monday. I’m a firm believer that we need to show people we’re not shiny, happy, and leading some sort of abnormally perfect existence. But I’m also a firm believer that all complaining must be done with a bit of thoughtfulness on our parts.
Here are some tips for doing it well.
1. Make sure your readers can relate to your problem. This is crucial. Car trouble? We’ve all been there and everyone knows how much that sucks. Stressed about your upcoming appearance on “Good Morning America”? Ummm…wow, your life is so hard. If you absolutely must complain about something like this, then you need to frame it in a way your readers can relate to — describe it as a work problem or talk about not feeling like you have enough time to do everything you want to do.
2. Whine with a purpose. If you’re going to post about a crappy day, do it with a purpose. What can your readers take away from this? Maybe it’s how working out made you feel better about getting dumped by your boyfriend. Maybe it’s a post about how you’re working at finding a new job.
Tweeting your complaints is the worst way to do it because, really, what is going to come of that? No good can be done in 140 characters. You’re just bitching because you want attention for your problems. It’s like masturbation; you’re only doing it to make yourself feel good. Let’s try to make your readers feel good once in a while too, shall we?
When you’re whining, just try to keep in mind, What is the moral of this story?
3. Don’t complain about blog-related responsibilities. This is where so many bloggers come across like spoiled brats. How do you feel when you hear celebrities complaining? Try to remember that yeah, the paparazzi sucks, but how bad do we really feel for reality-show celebs whining about photographers all up in their business? Starting a blog, like going on “Jersey Shore,” is pretty much saying, “Hey, public, put me in your eye!” So don’t complain about what happens once you’ve made it there.
Good complaining: “I saved up for a month and finally splurged on a pair of Lululemon yoga pants, only to spill hot chocolate on them the first time I wore them!”
Bad complaining: “I just bought three new pairs of Lululemon yoga pants because the ones I bought last month are starting to look a little faded. I was wearing one of the pairs at the skiing event that Healthy Cocoa Co. flew me to to write about and I spilled Healthy Cocoa Co’s cocoa all over them. I’m sooooooo pissed!”
Your. Life. Is. So. Hard.
Not complaining about blog-related responsibilities also means not complaining about comments. That means no complaining in your next post and no complaining on Twitter. (Seriously — go read up on passive-aggressive tweeting.) You put yourself out there, and that means getting criticized from time to time. But posting about how your commenters made you cry isn’t going to win you any fans.
Also, don’t open every post with a complaint in the form of “Sorry I’ve been MIA!” followed by a long list of your responsibilities. Oh, I’m so glad you’re back — I can now end my hunger strike! Seriously…shhhhhh. Just move on. If every week it’s the same (“So busy!”), it gets old. We’re all busy, but no one is forcing us to blog. So unless you’re doing a post about improving one’s poor time management skills, just don’t bother.
4. Apply the “white girl problems” litmus test. Before you think about posting your complaint, take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this a white girl problem?”
“I had to get up at the crack of dawn this morning to get my blood drawn and was super cranky because I had to fast first and then had nothing healthy to make for breakfast!” Normal person problem.
“Whole Foods was all out of organic raw almond butter so I had to drive all the way across town to get it at the other Whole Foods!” White girl problem.
“I really wanted to go to spin class today but all the bikes were taken so I had to do the elliptical instead. BUMMER.” Normal person problem.
“I really wanted to go to Equinox at 5 AM today, but they don’t open until 6 AM, so I had to stay home and work out in my amazing home gym that a company gave me for free!” Wow, are you a Kennedy or something?
5. If you must whine, take the Vogue approach. Does Vogue apologize for calling a $10,000 handbag a “must have”? No, they don’t. They just write to a very specific audience and make that very clear to anyone reading the magazine. You know how I feel about owning it, so I say, if you want to whine about your seriously hard life as a blogger, do it — but you absolutely must own it. The more clear you make it that you write for privileged, spoiled white girls, the more people are going to come to expect that from you, and they can decide whether or not to keep reading. I mean, the fact is, Vogue has hundreds of thousands of devoted followers. You are better off being true to yourself and losing readers for it than pretending to be just like everyone else when you’re leading a life the majority of your everyday readers can’t relate to.
The bottom line is, even on our worst days, we are a blessed bunch. We have access to good nutritious food — even if it’s not always organic — and to the running sneakers — even old worn-out ones — that allow us to run so many 5Ks. We are literate, we are educated, we believe in good health, and we have our own shiny computers where we can share this with the world — and this makes us better off than so many people out there. It’s OK to have crappy days and be annoyed, but don’t forget to be grateful for the wonderful opportunities you’ve been given.