Blogging – A Slightly Risky Sandwich

Earlier this week, there was a very interesting blog post from That’s Not My Age. Do you read her blog? You should! Particularly (but not exclusively) if you’re over a certain, ahem, age. Lots of interesting debate around issues such as women in the media, age appropriate dressing, fashion and the older woman. (Though I didn’t agree with the recent assertion that pastels shouldn’t be worn past a certain age. Sod that, I’ll wear what I like!)

Anyway, the very interesting blog post was about – um – blogging and social media, following a lecture by a baroness and neuroscientist, Susan Greenfield. Two points from the lecture leapt out at me:

  • That social media leads to obsessive behaviour.
  • That it makes a person less empathetic.

Obsessive behaviour? Guilty as charged! Six Sorbettos, three Pendrells, two Burda sleeveless tops (so far), almost daily blog posts… I think we know where this is all leading. My Name Is Karen And I Am An Obsessive. Do I care? Only when early-morning sewing sessions leave me grumpy in the evenings, or if I’m in danger of annoying people.

Less empathy? Are you kidding? I SERIOUSLY disagree on this point – for the sewing online community at least. Sewing blogs allow me to see that I’m not the only person with body issues. They invite me into perspectives from all over the world. Bloggers regularly invite constructive criticism on their makes, and I have to think carefully how to voice my opinions.

I sympathise on the topics of narrow shoulders, full busts, long torsos, short torsos, flat bellies, round bellies, reconstructive surgery, post-pregnancy bodies, or that annoying shoulder that straps keep slipping off.

I also help people celebrate long legs, great chests, gorgeous hair, hourglass figures, impressive shoe collections, one-of-a-kind outfits – and some fabulous sewing and knitting!

Does this make me a vapid, self-absorbed, shallow as a puddle, insular people-hater? I don’t think so. My horizons have broadened immeasurably. I feel like a better person, having entered this community. Who knew? The world doesn’t begin and end with me.

Are there dangers in blogging or is it the best thing since sliced bread? Or is it somewhere inbetween? A slightly risky sandwich? Let me know what you think!

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39 Responses to Blogging – A Slightly Risky Sandwich

  1. dottiedoodle says:

    I wasn’t very interesting in blogs until I discovered sewing blogs a couple of months ago. It’s been a revelation! I’d given up sewing clothes after a couple of wadders (as I now know to call them) and have been so inspired by the experiences and advice from others that I’m now planning my day to fit in my latest sewing project. Wouldn’t have happened without the blogging community, so thank you!

  2. Every Stitch says:

    I can hardly beleive that you should have LESS empathy for joining a community of any description. Making your own clothes is a fading art, and the on-line community gives the same support, encouragement and camaraderie that our grandmothers found more locally (physically). This woman is missing the nature of special interest communities and is presumably basing her assumptions on the likes of facebook and more mass social media (is that a term?).

  3. makeitgiveit says:

    I agree with the comment about becoming obsessive or at least wasting time. But I am with you the more blogs you read the more you learn what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes or pyjamas as the case may be!

  4. Renae says:

    I think we’re really lucky because the sewing community seems to be quite different to many other online communities. My bf can’t believe all the nice, encouraging comments I get from other sewers online because the communities he interacts with are all very selfish and ego-centric – they tend not support or help each other and when they share stuff it is just to show off. I’d say there’s a distinct lack of empathy there!

  5. Joanne says:

    Agree with Renae – I think the blogging community in sewing is totally different to, say music or food. It’s much more driven by feedback and encouragement. Perhaps the fact that it’s almost exclusively female (I know there are some men but they’re few and far between) makes a difference too? It’s very much the opposite of what I used to consider blogging – a solitary character blasting their thoughts into space. And it’s so very different from facebook/twitter etc I don’t think it can or should be considered ‘social media’ either! Will go and take a look at the blog though – thanks for flagging. Have you checked out the Vagenda yet? Some posts are just hilarious, some a little infantile. But always entertaining!

  6. Renee says:

    Honestly, yes, I think being a part of any online community can make you a bit obsessive at the least, checking twitter, replying to comments etc. However, the online crafting community is one of the nicest ones out there. It’s people genuinely interested in seeing what you make; encouraging and supporting one another; and even forming friendships. It’s a community where stealing intellectual property and nasty comments are sins, too. Wouldn’t have it any other way !

    PS: I am yet to start on my PJ bottoms! I have the fabric and pattern, I just have to enlist my dad’s help – he’s the sewist in the family 😀

  7. Naaaah mate! I don’t think that participating in an online community makes you less empathetic. I think the sewing community online is really interesting – I read a wide variety of fashion/style/body positive blogs but none of them seem to get the body positive thing the way sewing blogs do. Like, there’s an implicit understanding that, you know, it’s the clothes. I really like that. As to obsessive – well, I *can* see that, and I don’t think that’s always a good thing. I have had to limit my twittering, for example, because I was finding it difficult to switch off from it.

  8. Kerry says:

    I agree with what others say about the sewing community being welcoming and supportive, it really is. But I think online ‘communities’ are different from the general usage of social media in particular. I agree that social media does encourage obsessive behaviour like checking your Facebook or Blog comments/stats and can also lead to people becoming less empathetic – there is now SO MUCH information out there it is only natural that you cannot fully engage with every piece of information.
    Personally I have tried to leave that side of things behind by leaving Facebook (still check my blog A LOT though!) and concentrate on the fantastic side of online life – being part of an inspiring and supportive community.

  9. Pella says:

    Blogging bad? No, its a slapdown for social control by information control, a truly public service. Pastels panned? Are you kidding, its the first time in my life since the age of 3 I can wear pink. Fading skin and hair tones have a tiny upside after all.

  10. sewbusylizzy says:

    I’ve only just starting sewing again & it was largely the warmth of the online community that inspired me. Some of the nicest people I’ve never met – but those people I’ve met out in the ether have been nicer than some of my ‘real world’ friends who have been quite dismissive of my hobby. So I started a blog and it’s lovely.

  11. liza jane says:

    I think sewing blogs are very different from other sorts of social media and online communities. It doesn’t quite fit the mold of what she is talking about. I’m not sure why. Maybe because sewing blogs are centered around an actual activity- something made with your own two hands. I dunno. I do think taking pictures of myself has made me a little more shallow, though. But it doesn’t bother me too much.

    • StephC says:

      That’s interesting what you say about taking pictures making you a little more “shallow.” I have definitely noticed a change in myself over the past few years since I started taking photos, picking which ones to use, etc…

      I guess I’ve always been something of a socially awkward, but generally nice person feeling trapped inside my skin. I had a hard time making the “outside” match the “inside” if you know what I mean. I was horrified when I used to take pictures and see a mean old lady scowling back at me from the screen. Is that what everyone else used to see? I have definitely changed “outward” things like how I carry myself, my facial expressions and even the way I put outfits together, not just for photos but in general. I mostly chalk that up to interacting with the online sewing community. I’m freer than I ever have been.

      Then there’s the body image issues. I’m thicker than I used to be, but I don’t obsess over it anymore. I don’t really care. So yeah, I think I’ve become more focused on the outward appearance I project, but for me it’s been a really good and useful thing.

  12. Nothy Lane says:

    I agree. Blogs are different than other social media. There is a camaraderie about sewing and other crafts among those who read blogs. The people I’ve “met” my blog are fantastic and encouraging. I find I sew more as a result. I am very interested in your post from yesterday where you showed a major retailer stealing bloggers’ ideas. I think this shows that individuals have the creativity and more recently, the exposure, to drive consumer demands. Imagine what this will herald for the future – women can make changes in fashion (and elsewhere) and inspire others without input from big corporations.

  13. If it wasn’t for the online community, I’d probably given up on trying to learn how to sew long ago. As for social media, it’s with everything else, you can use it well or badly. But the knitting/crocheting/sewing world is most certainly a wonderful place on the Internet. I am reading a couple of cooking blogs, too, and thought there was the same kind of mutual encouragement.
    Personally, I just regulary edit what I follow on twitter, blogs etc, so it doesn’t take too much time.

  14. LinB says:

    If you are an obsessive person, you will be obsessive no matter how you spend your time. If you are an empathetic person, you will express empathy in all your dealings with other humans, whether in person or electronically. As my dear ol’ daddy continually tells anyone who will listen, “The older you get, the more like yourself you become.” I do not believe that it is fair to blame electronic communication for one’s personal faults and failings. I do not believe that using social media fosters evil in one’s soul just by the use of social media. I do not.

  15. Like you, I think the sewing community is fabulous and encouraging to people like me who have no idea what they are doing. That’s what inspired me to start my own little blog (and the thought to taking regular pics of myself has got me back on my diet!). i rarely read any negative comments and find everyone full of empathy/ sympathy/ praise and genuine happiness when things work out well! perhaps something like facebook makes you less empathetic as major details of people’s lives pass by in a one line post on your newsfeed? i’m on there less and less these days though.

  16. I second many of the above comments but particularly LinB’s (I think we must be much of an age, Lin!). People who are obsessive are always obsessive and blogs or electronic media are simply the latest/current things about which to be obsessive. And yes, indeed, there’s much wisdom in advocating moderation in all things, taking responsibility for our own actions and so on.

    Being part of such a generous, jolly thing as a worldwide pyjama sewalong couldn’t possibly have been bad, could it? What fun we all had. And wasn’t it good to know that other people out there were having problems/wins/doing things for the first time in such supportive company? I shouldn’t say categorically that it would never happen “for real” but it would certainly be harder to organise and the pressure on those who may be a little shy and retiring would be enormous.

    I think we have the possibility of being a power for good by being supportive and broadening our own horizons. That’s much harder to achieve when you just get on the bus, go to work and see the same people all the time, then come home again (which is my daily pattern and I’d expect perhaps common to many). THAT creates isolationist views and a lack of empathy.

    Thank you, Miss Karen, I’ve had my say now.

  17. Liz says:

    Hi Karen, very interesting post – one that has inspired me to write a response as I have been thinking along similar lines lately.

    I am a obsessive blogger in the online sketching world. Like the sewing community it has been incredibly encouraging and inspiring but the most important factor is that it has actually got me out on the streets more – either sketching on my own (interacting with people walking past) or meeting other sketchers (thanks to now I travel the world and meet other sketchers everywhere I go. So, in fact the online world has made me MUCH more social in real life!

    I have been following various sewing blogs for the last six months and have to say that even as an outsider I can tell how supportive it is. It is more supportive than the art online world particularly for beginners. Also I think it takes a lot of courage to post photos of yourself wearing your own creations… I just sketch my outfits!!! I was very interested to see how a number of you got together for OWOP and I think that the meeting IRL aspect might grow. The sharing nature of the sewing community is outstanding and it has made me do a re-think of my sketching posts…to make sure that there is a point to it.

    It does however take away time from my old friends. Those friends that used to rely on me to keep in touch have sadly fallen by the wayside… So perhaps being actively involved in an online community does broaden your horizons in a hobby that previously was a solo activity… But there is always a need to ensure that there is a balance across our whole life… Oh dear! I wrote too much!

  18. Stacy says:

    I went and read the post on That’s Not My Age, then came back here and reread your post. I have many thoughts on the subject, but I’ll keep this brief. As I am also a blogger, who write 5 days a week, I feel that blogging has connected me to an outside world I would have never had the opportunity to be a part of – case in point I live in Alaska you live in England, chance of us meeting in “real” life are, well we just won’t go there. In 4 years of blog writing I have connected with so many people, expanding my network, my views and my creative connections.

    As for the social media thing, it’s all a perspective. I also agree with LinB, if your an obsessive personality you are going to be obsessed with something, regardless of whether you’re involved with social media. I have “real” life friends strewn across the world, and thanks to social media we are able to reconnect and stay connected do to technology.

    We’re all adults here, well I think most of us are anyway, and we should be responsible for our own actions. Being “plugged in” as they say is a lot like any other addictive habit, you need to know when to unplug. However, I think blogging and social media have mad me more empathetic I have become. I like knowing there are others out there with all the same challenges I face on a daily basis – I think it’s more like a support group for creatives like us.

    Sorry that got a little more wordy than I intended. Have a beautiful creative day!

  19. oonaballoona says:

    i read the post– very interesting indeed (although, how can you leave icanhazcheezburger out of the history of blogging timeline?) i agree with the whole technology-erasing-live-human-connection disease… but i think the sewing blogging world is an anomaly in that respect. i was just saying to ruggy, would he have thought five years ago i’d be meeting online sewists in person through our blogs? it sounds like a scifi movie.

    oh yes indeedy obsessive, but i don’t think that’s a danger either! we can make things with our hands when we see them on our screens, tangible obsession, not an empty constant need to know an up-to-the-minute account of the kardashian’s most recent dates. and i think that’s also why we’re an empathetic bunch; different focus.

    i haven’t had enough coffee yet to be clear. there is one danger in blogging: if the stars don’t align so that we meet on one of these trips, i’m going to have to kick some ass. (not yours. i feel you would be totally empathetic in my desire to find someone’s ass to blame, and then kick.)

    • LinB says:

      Remind me to dig out my 1980s era KwikSew pattern for padded bicycling pants, so I can whip up a pair before you kick my derriere.

  20. gingermakes says:

    Interesting discussion! Of course, blogging (and reading the many, many awesome blogs that are out there) can be a total time suck, but I’d have to say that the positives outweigh that one negative by, oh, about a billion times! I can’t believe how overwhelmingly supportive, kind, generous, and creative the online sewing community is– you guys are the BEST! I mean that sincerely– never would have stuck with sewing without the helpful tips and encouragement I’ve received here. And really, although it’s impossible for us all to have real-life relationships, this bloggyverse is really pretty relational– we follow along and ask how others are doing, sharing failures and triumphs, and generally getting to know each other, sometimes well enough that you see something in a store and think, “oh, wow, Scruffy Badger would be ALL OVER that sh*t” or “oh, that reminds me of something Marie would wear!”. [geek alert]. But I think a large part of the success of the sewing community is exactly that it’s so relational– the ugliest and least-constructive online forums are ones with a lot of anonymous, combative commenting (something that I’ve never experienced here).

    All that to say… you guys are awesome. And you know if you weren’t obsessing over sewing blogs, you’d be obsessed with something else (amiright???). ‘Cause that’s the kind of people we are, more often than not.

  21. stacyverb says:

    I agree with the obsessive part. Sometimes I get on a kick where I decide I’m going to blog every day, or make a certain number of garments per month, or whatever. I set all these arbitrary deadlines for myself and then get mad at myself if I don’t fulfill them. Activities that were supposed to be fun end up being stressful FOR NO REASON. I try very hard not to do that anymore, although it’s tempting because there’s so much inspiration on other blogs! The key for more is to find a balance between participating and letting myself be a spectator sometimes. Like Me-Made-May–I’ve done it in the past, but this time I’m choosing just to watch what others do instead. I don’t feel the need to jump into sew-alongs or challenges that I know would just cause me stress. I just want to do what I want to do, at my own pace.

  22. I really love this blogging business 🙂 And I looooove the sewing community! It’s great to have this resource for others with like interests. And, it gives me motivation to make things as well, which is nice. No one lives in a vacuum, communities are important.

  23. Tanit-Isis says:

    I’ve wandered through several wonderful communities online, the sewing blogosphere being the most recent, and while there are certainly forums that are harsh, aggressive, or otherwise unpleasant, there are also plenty that are welcoming, respectful, and helpful. Additionally, through the blogs I read I “meet” people around the world—I feel much more concern and empathy about, say, the latest earthquake, because the odds are I read a blog of someone affected by it.

    I think the problems of some internet communities have more to do with anonymity and the creation of a “persona” vs. an attempt to be honest and genuine. If you are leaving anonymous comments, you have no accountability, are under no obligation to follow any community mores, and won’t suffer any fallout from your actions. If you’re a stitcher looking to share, but also receive feedback, leaving mean or rude comments would be counter-productive. We need to be honest—about our bodies, our struggles, our successes—in order to benefit from this community, but we also need to be civil.

    Obsession on the other hand—totally. Especially over comments. Comments are like crack. 🙂

    • Ha ha on the comments Tanit-Isis!! And I love Lin’s take on it too. Reading these comments are really interesting. I have a huge amount of love for the online sewing community & wondered whether it’s the same for any kind of community, it’s just feeling part of something, sharing the same language, & yes, obsessions! It’s really interesting to see that maybe it’s not quite the same for all communities. I think you’ve summed it up really well Tanit-Isis.

  24. Pat says:

    I have a lot of empathy for a person who says (as a generalization) that being on-line makes you distant from others. Maybe I don’t have a physical relationship with the people I communicate with in sewing blogs and videos, but I have found some really wonderful people in the on-line sewing community. A perfect example: last night I was stuck on a knit shirt I was sewing (I’m a newbie at that). I sent out two e-mails, crossed my fingers, and this morning I had two replies to my e-mails. I have literally learned how to sew from the internet. I can’t speak for other on-line communities, but the sewing community rules! Great bunch of women and men out there in cyberspace. Thought provoking blog.

  25. Jacq C says:

    This is such an interesting topic. I’ll readily hold my hand up to being obsessive, that’s just how I am and (at 46) I’m probably unlikely to change. But I can focus it – Facebook I can pretty much take or leave (great for sharing family photos but do I need to know what people had for breakfast?); Twitter doesn’t interest me at all (I have enough of a struggle finding time for those I love, I’m not interested in ‘following’ strangers) but blogs strike me as different. I use Pulse on my iPad which allows me to follow 60, this seems manageable. I have some firm favourites, others get mixed up every 6 months or so. They’re mostly (but not exclusively) craft based and I’ve found such encouragement and enthusiasm that I’ve taken on new challenges. I’ve tried to find local sewing groups without success, I joined a card making class but it was too basic (the people were lovely and I stuck with it for a while but just wasn’t learning anything), my friend taught me to crochet and I’ve passed that skill on to 8 others – so a mixture of IRL and social media seems healthy. Yes, I spend time reading and keeping up with blogs but that doesn’t seem any different to time I’d spend reading books and the wealth of knowledge out there, and encouragement that is given, has just blown me away – I started sewing clothes in February and the progress I’ve made already is obvious even to me, and I give myself the hardest time. But I don’t have a blog myself (I don’t consider myself skilled enough to make a useful contribution and the craft based blogs seem so much about sharing skills) and frankly I can’t imagine my every day ramblings would interest anybody! So, honestly, I have no idea how much time you all must spend on this – I’m just grateful that you do. I imagine it can be very time consuming, does that make me a ‘user’? Is it OK to take the great encouragement and tutorials and just leave thank you comments? Now I’ve made myself feel guilty! And as for wearing pastels – I’ve given up on rules, if I’m going to spend time sewing, I’ll make whatever I fancy, am getting quite brave and really finding my love for clothes and creating outfits. 🙂

  26. quiltyknitwit says:

    Less empathetic – I find that to be true in face-to-face situations. I find so many are great at on-line relationships, but they are unresponsive & socially inept when they have to actually interact with someone in the flesh in real time.

  27. Hello there and thank you so much for the mention, you’re very kind. Think we’ll have to agree to disagree about pastels though! Best wishes, TNMA

  28. Tilly says:

    Funnily enough I was at that lecture too (my mum set up the Anne Frank Trust from our sitting room when I was a child). She was a gifted speaker and came across as a nice person, but I disagreed with pretty much everything she said, no scientific evidence was presented to back anything up (she admitted that it was her hunch rather than fact), and pretty much any types of technology that “grown ups” are suspicious of was lumped in together – social media, computer games, nanotechnology… From the point of view of someone who is actively engaged in the blogosphere, it came across as a rant by someone nostalgic for the good old days when we sat by candlelight and made our own fun.

  29. Pingback: Thoughts on blogging, narcissism and Me-Made-May « Yes I Like That

  30. Pingback: Vintage pattern giveawayScruffy Badger Time

  31. Rachel says:

    great post. I think obsessive has such negative connotations. Would it sound better if “all encompassing hobby” was used instead? Hmm, maybe not. But if you enjoy it and it isn’t having negative repercussions elsewhere, does it matter?
    I wholeheartedly agree that (from what I’ve seen/experienced) the online sewing/crafting community has a lot of empathy.

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