A few years ago, when making the transition from Xanga to MySpace, I discovered the sexy-bathroom-mirror-self-portrait trend. Like any painfully unique and angsty almost-20 year old, I immediately donned a low-cut wife-beater, flashed a sultry peace sign, and snapped a picture of my reflection on my Motorola Razr camera phone.
Around the time that people realized that MySpace was just a tragic bastardization of Friendster (and Friendster was never cool, let’s be honest), the sexy-bathroom-mirror-self-portrait fell out of fashion. People using the social media sites that actually took off (see also: Facebook) were poking fun at profiles that displayed a topless, tanned dude with a blowout and horn necklace posing awkwardly in what was, obviously, the bathroom mirror in his parents’ house.
When I injected myself into the healthy living blogosphere, I noticed a similar self-portraiture trend, of the totally-irrelevant-and-entirely superfluous variety. A post about oatmeal was bound to feature a spread of totally unrelated “blogger wearing sunglasses”/”blogger cuddling a dog that probably isn’t hers”/”blogger pointing at a stain that is not from said oatmeal” self-portraits. Posts about running were littered with pictures of the author making funny faces in her driveway. Sure, these self-aggrandizing spreads seem innocuous enough but they bring to light a bigger issue: filler is killer (and not in a good way).
As a reader, I find it really patronizing when I click on a post only to find that it’s about four sentences long and riddled with totally immaterial self-portraits. I’m not dumb, I can tell that you obviously had nothing to write about, so you thought you’d just throw in a few self-snapshots from your CoolPix and call it a day. Posts like this just scream filler! But why is filler a bad thing? you might be asking. Well, here are four very important reasons:
- It cheapens your brand. There have been several posts and comment threads on Hollaback about the idea that if you monetize your blog, you’ve made yourself a brand, a product, and a customer service entity. I’m a firm supporter of this point of view. And, well, splashing photos of yourself deep-throating a banana all over your post about a long bike ride cheapens that brand. Professionalism and safety issues aside (yes, there’s most likely a perv somewhere whacking off to said banana pic), filler photos don’t drive people to your blog for the reasons that you want them to be there. Low-quality content drives low-quality traffic, and vice versa. Maybe it’s easier to understand this concept if you first answer the question, “Why do I want people to visit my blog?” If it’s to look at completely irrelevant pictures of you, then great! Keep on keepin’ on, sister, but if you want people to go to your blog to gain insight, information, or inspiration, then you probably want to reconsider your strategy.
- It shows a lack of creativity. I’ve never understood the rampant need to post several times a day without any real semblance of content. From an advertising standpoint, I can see why driving traffic to your site is important, but as a reader, if you’re going to bombard my Twitter feed with five short-links a day, you better have blogged something fantastic, each and every time. If all you can come-up with is a pointless photo montage, I would urge you to just not post at all. It demonstrates a lack of creativity, not to mention that it’s a huge insult to your readers. Trust me, they can tell that you just threw something together to rake in a few more dimes from FoodBuzz.
- Your readers lose interest. Sorry to break it to you, but looking at page-after-page of off-topic photos of you is not interesting. In Rachel’s GOMI post, she brought up the fact that many GOMI commenters say things like, “I used to read so-and-so’s blog.” I am willing to bet that low-quality content, and an abundance of filler photos drives many of these GOMI-ers from being current to past readers
- It invites Perez-style mocking and/or spank bank material. Seriously, ladies, some of these “funny faces” are just asking for trouble. Maybe you don’t think twice about the way you’re masticating that frozen yogurt cone, but there are a lot of creepers lurking around the web who might be enjoying that pose a little too much. At best, I’m thinking “She made out with a hot dog.” At worst, I’m thinking…well actually, we aren’t really comfortable publishing that here.
If Taco Bell has taught us anything (aside from the fact that cheesy gordita crunches are only delicious after consuming a fifth of vodka), it’s that filler is never a good thing. So as tempting as it may be to sub self-portraits for actual content, don’t do it! Instead, get creative, use your words, and stop pretending that your readers don’t know what you’re trying to do when you post nine photos of yourself making fish-faces in the mirror.