#Relatable – possibly the most overused word within the blogosphere. During the rise of blogs and vlogs these ‘real’ men and women provided a refreshing relief from the over photoshopped and over commercialised magazines we were used to seeing; they invited us into their homes and into their lives, breaking down barriers and becoming a friend to every one of their followers. We trusted their opinions on the latest mascara, wanted to know where their latest outfit was from and took recommendations on everything from the hottest burger in town to where we should spend our fortnight holiday. Bloggers really were so much more relatable than a glossy magazine or a celebrity with a stylist helping them getting ready every day – they were just like us. As the industry has grown, however, those bloggers have been able to make a career from doing what they love; as their bank balances have grown their Primark hauls have been replaced with Net-A-Porter ones and their holidays to Majorca have been swapped for the Maldives. Many of them have moved from being #relatable to #aspirational, but does that mean they’re any less valid?
Over the last few months I’ve witnessed a lot of ‘blogger bashing’ and debate around the idea that we should remain ‘relatable’ at all times – but what’s ‘relatable’ to one person may not be necessarily so to the next. Just because you don’t have a spare fifty quid in your bank account at the end of the month, it doesn’t make someone who has ten times that completely unrelatable; just because one person chooses to spend a grand on a handbag or treat themselves to an exotic holiday, it doesn’t mean your own lifestyle choices are any less legitimate. We should never be shamed for being successful or having cash in the bank to spend on ourselves, and women should never bring one another down purely because of the lifestyle they choose to lead; we should celebrate each other’s successes and turn that pang of jealously into drive that moves us forward to achieve what’s important.
I’ve written my thoughts on the growth of aspirational blogging before,
and fundamentally my opinion remains the same: you do you, but always
think about how you’re being perceived by your readers and do your best
not to make them feel inadequate. A sprinkling of luxury gives us all something to aspire to or dream of, but when it becomes so far removed from our own choices it becomes as dream like as becoming the next Kate Middy. But that still has a function – the majority of us don’t buy Vogue for the fashion content or to pull together a new season lookbook, but to dreamily flick through the pages and take inspiration that we can make applicable to our own lives.
Personally I find the relatable end of the spectrum more enjoyable than the super aspirational one, purely because I love to know when someone is juggling the strains of life just as badly as me; I love to know where you can pick up a bargain maxi dress or a dupe for a pair of YSL sunnies, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy flicking through a glossy site and wishing my images could be just like theirs. So when does that inspiration become potentially damaging, or just too much? In my opinion when it moves from aspirational to a feeling of perfection; when it’s not just living a certain lifestyle, but when that lifestyle is both unrealistic and over-curated. (Yes, I’m talking about fake birds and hot air balloons in every picture – that sh*t just aint real!) When it makes the reader feel inadequate and like a failure, because they don’t have a hope in hell of emulating any element of their favourite blogger’s life.
Zoella has built a multi-million pound empire, but she still shops in Topshop and enjoys a £3.00 bath bomb; no matter her drawbacks, she understands the value of remaining relatable to her audience and offering a piece of her own life to them (via a shopable link.) The most sophisticated blogger-businesswomen, in my opinion, are the ones that make everything seem super luxe even when they’re mixing up their latest Gucci purchase with something they picked up in Matalan; they’re the ones that effortlessly combine a pair of pumps from Next with the latest Chloe bag, providing a way of tapping into their lifestyle at the click of a button.
You don’t have to constantly ‘keep it real’ and talk about your life fails just to be seen as relatable; in fact it can get a touch unrealistic to constantly belittle your own abilities, interests and financial stability as much as it is to over inflate it – it’s all about balance. I’m a 35 year old married woman who worked hard to achieve the levels of success I have, benefiting from financial security and independence so I can treat myself whenever I want to; just because I own a handful of designer bags and spent my last holiday in Bali, it doesn’t mean I don’t still love supermarket fashion or spending a weekend hanging out in Five Guys. We all have different facets to our personality, and lives, and they evolve as we age and progress through our years. I don’t expect to appeal to a 17 year old, so why even bother trying? The right audience will find me and in the meantime I’ll just keep doing what I love.
Belittling or critiquing someone else’s choices because you can’t personally relate to them won’t make you feel any better, in the same way as aspiring to live an Instagram perfect life won’t make that any more achieveable. We should all be able to take what we see online as only a snapshot of an individual’s reality, using the aspirational elements to provide inspiration and the more relatable ones to reaffirm our own struggles. Bloggers became successful because they were just like us; but like us, they’re an individual person, not a melting pot of every member of society.
Find the ones that you can personally relate to or take inspiration for, and don’t worry about the rest – because like finding love, there’s always a perfect match out there for you.
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Photos Taken By Kaye Ford: www.fordtography.co.uk
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