This will always be remembered as the year that the bloggersphere exploded. In the last twelve months blogging has become somewhat unrecogniseable from the part-time hobby it was for many, evolving into a beast of influence and churning out a new generation of celebrity. I’ve written frequently about how proud I am to be part of a community that’s pushing boundaries and changing the landscape of British media, and that opinion will never waiver – how amazing is it that young men and women now feel empowered to establish their own path and take steps to achieving their dreams? However, the last few days have seen somewhat of a backlash erupt over a certain untouchable blogger and her debut novel, after it was discovered that it in fact was ‘ghostwritten’ by someone else entirely. After I seemed to ‘break’ this news on Twitter, I’ve been quoted on sites ranging from Holy Moly to The Independent and have had hundreds of tweets from those left feeling frustrated, disappointed, angry and uneasy. As a result, I thought it was time I documented my own opinions and explained why the discovery of this news really doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
I’m hugely proud of bloggers and vloggers that can turn filming videos in their bedroom and discussing outfit accessorising into a worldwide phenomenon; I’m equally proud of women that feel empowered enough to share their opinion or viewpoint on anything from lipstick to politics – even if only a handful of people read it. I’m a firm believer that everyone has a voice and that everyone has a right for that voice to be heard, and blogging makes that all the more easy. However, I’m also a firm believer in taking your influence seriously and acting responsibly – especially when your audience is mainly consistent of teenage girls who follow your every word. In all honesty, the reason I feel incredibly uncomfortable about this whole ghostwriting business is because I feel like thousands of young girls have been somewhat duped into buying something off the back of a name they trust. We know that beauty lines have sold out in minutes, tickets for signings are hotter than Harry Styles and teenage girls faint at the sight of their favourite YouTube star like they did when The Beatles touched down in the 60’s.
Of course a novel written by a huge YouTuber was going to be a huge success in a world where books are suffering in favour of e-mags, websites and blogs – no other debut author could ever compete with that level of success or sales, because no other author in the history of writing has had six million subscribers ready and waiting to snap up anything they put their name to. I think it’s incredible that vloggers have that level of influence and salute every single one for changing the way we consume words and ideas; if one more kid picks up a book and reads for the first time outside of their English Literature class as a result of this book, that’s definitely an achievement. However, if you put your name to something and expressively insinuate it’s your work when it’s not, then you have to wise up and expect a little discontentment. It’s like ordering takeaway and claiming you spent hours cooking over the stove. You may have curated the contents of the meal and made it look pretty on the plate, but you didn’t do the hard graft did you?
As a community, we spend so much time attempting to prove our worth and substantiate our integrity that it’s incredibly frustrating when the ‘Queen Bee’ at the top acts in a way that’s being perceived as a bit shifty. I have no issue with ghostwritten books (hell it’s the norm in the world of celebrity,) but they’re mostly overly honest about the attribution of the words – Katie Price has had what seems like hundreds of ghostwritten books launched, but the difference is we know there’s not a chance in hell that she’s written them herself. When a young girl, known for her ability to write eloquently, discusses her dream of writing a novel – you expect her to actually have gotten out a pen and written that novel. If she’d have been honest from the outset, saying she was writing a book and that the characters and ideas were then brought to life by someone more qualified to write 80,000 words in six weeks, then I really don’t think we’d be in the issue we’re in. There’s a massive difference in my book from saying you ‘had help’ creating a book and letting
someone else ghostwrite it in its entirety – the tweets I’ve had from
Zoella fans after my comments were published in mainstream press only
further prove that they don’t understand the concept.
There’s been much discussion that ghostwriting is normal (especially in the music industry) and that we all need to be a little more realistic. However, in my opinion, when something as groundbreaking as a vlogger releasing a debut novel happens it’s time to re-write the rules. I see blogging and vlogging as an extension of an individual, their life and opinions being shared with their readers and viewers; we love to feel like we ‘know’ a person and that their struggles and dilemmas are the same as our own. The success of the bloggersphere has been down to the honesty and rawness it brings, turning glossy magazines and carefully constructed ‘reality’ television shows on their head; if that’s why we’re so successful as a community then how can we go against everything we’re known for and start pulling the wool over readers’ eyes?
Not for a minute would I ever not celebrate these power-house bloggers that are carving the way for the rest of us, nor do I begrudge them any level of success – after all, if we were offered a two book deal how many of us would turn it down? However, I do think the bubble is starting to burst and that a handful of vlog-celebrities are becoming over exposed and cashing in rather than staying true to their interests and dreams. I’m starting to feel the same way about a handful of vloggers as I do about Myleene Klass and Kerry Katona; they’ll put their name to anything if it means a handful of cash. It’s sometimes better to say no, turn things down and reject proposals than collaborate with a brand or work on a campaign that’s just not right; I turn down hundreds of pounds worth of work every month because I don’t want to jeopardise my integrity and the trust it’s taken me nearly five years to build. Unfortunately I think this viewpoint isn’t always adopted by those with the most influence. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m just frustrated, or maybe you agree…?
I don’t have the answers, I know there are plenty that disagree with me and I will never prevent others from expressing their own opinion on matters that affect us all – but personally I’ve seen this whole shebang as a bit of a kick in the face. The mainstream media are constantly out to ‘get us’ and label bloggers as vacuous girls of no importance; episodes like this make the community as a whole come under fire and make us all feel like we’re once again under the microscope. We’re continuously criticised for not being impartial, for our opinions being up for sale for the cost of a jumpsuit and for our dedication lacking. (I was recently told by a beauty journalist that she’d been working in the industry for over 30 years and that she’d “yet to see that kind of dedication from a blogger” – if writing seven posts a week in your spare time for five years isn’t dedication, then I don’t know what is.) Zoellagate has just given the media another stick to hit us with and another hurdle to jump over.
(On a side note, I hate the nervousness there is in the air around expressing opinions that relate to popular bloggers and YouTubers. As long as you’re not being hateful or being bitter, every opinion is valid. So many bloggers I know write tweets or blog posts, only to delete them for fear of being trolled by obsessive fans that don’t understand that it’s perfectly acceptable for adults to hold an opinion different to others and express that in an eloquent fashion. The internet is infinite, as are viewpoints – lets all make a pledge to share our own and not let the possibility of a fourteen-year-old searching Twitter for key words putting us off.)
Whether you agree, disagree or are sitting on the fence, I’d love to hear your thoughts…