If you can't stand the posts where I get on my soapbox and jump around a bit, just let this one pass you by. This has been knocking around in my brain for a while and this last week has made me realize that I should just put it all out there. I can tell even in the midst of paragraph one that this is going to be long.
We've been looking at a lot of houses lately and through that process, I've seen some pretty crazy decor choices. Being a person who documents everything, I have quite the hefty folder on my computer full of those photos. Even though it's killing me not to post them all on the blog, after a long study on these photos, I realized that I just can't do it, because people just like me made these choices - and they liked them. I can't bash other peoples' houses anymore. I might share these photos with close friends and we'll discuss them and their quirks but I'm not going to add to the culture of mean. I have some pretty great material but if it goes anywhere, it's not going on the internet. On the internet, things live forever.
I have a serious love-hate relationship with the internet. Though it obviously helps us reach out to and share ourselves with people all over the world, I think it also makes it too easy to be mean. I'm sure that like me, most of you have read the horrible comments that people hiding behind anonymous monikers make on news and entertainment sites. And I won't let myself go within ten feet of YouTube comments because they make me sad for the way that they make our world look like it's going. Since I'm in animal rescue, I see horrible things every day with no way to escape them. I know what horrors there are in our world and when I retreat to the internet, I try to make sure that I feel better about this world that we're spinning around on once I'm done. There are a lot of people on the other side of this screen that I care about.
Recently, my home was featured on a blog that I like a lot. The response was friendly and kind. Soon after, without permission those photos of my home were featured on another blog. To be fair, they weren't shared in a malicious way. The owner of the blog seemed to like what we have going on over here at the ranch. But of course, there had to be one comment where someone had to pick apart my decor taste and one of the original features in our house. Without submitting myself or my home for anyone's approval on that site, I got it anyway. I try not to let stuff like that get to me as well, we all have our own personal taste. That said, I think that the internet makes it way too easy to pick apart peoples' personal choices - whether they be decor choices, lifestyle choices, fashion choices or any range of self expression or thought - and it seems like we all feel like someone has given us the right to openly judge others and that's hard for me to swallow. What gives us the right?
This week, it was brought to my attention that Ranch Dressing has been mentioned on a popular site where people discuss blogs and bloggers, often times quite cruelly. I won't even mention its name here because yeah, whatever. I'm not about to give it traffic from my site because I'd rather dig my own eyes out with a spoon. I'd known about this site for a while but had only seen it once. That one brief visit quite honestly felt like spending time with the very bullies that I had hid in tears from in junior high and high school. I had the distinct feeling that the girls who lobbed volleyballs into the back of my permed head back in the day were lurking there somewhere and I got out quick with a very sour burn in my stomach.
On the flip side, there is a section on the site where people can recommend blogs that they actually like (hallelujah for that reprieve) and a reader of Ranch Dressing said this:
This is such a great little blog. She's funny, low-key, and finds the weirdest things (internet things and estate sale things). Vintage without the twee. Her latest post (The Santa Claus Smackdown of 1977) is gold.
Pretty nice, huh? To whoever wrote this, if you're out there - thanks! Obviously, my blog is still too under the radar for anyone to recognize so nobody was familiar with it enough to comment. Only one other person commented and though they had never seen my blog, upon reading the above review, came over to spend some time:
Thanks for this recommendation. I've just spent the last hour or so going through. I love the crazy stuff she finds and her writing is very entertaining! I love 50s/60s retro style, especially during the holidays, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside because it reminds me of my mom and grandparents.
Very sweet, right? I like it! But then, this was next:
But theres's something a little weird I can't put my finger on. She obviously has a fondness for the aesthetic, but sometimes it comes across like they're the kind of people who think they were born in the wrong decade, or like they would totally talk to each other in Dick Tracey accents while doing the nasty. Maybe she's just playing it up for the blog though.
Okay, so I'd like to pretend like I'm a better person than this but those statements made me really mad. I swore like a sailor and walked around in tense circles, scaring the cats. Being someone who tries to blog as a reflection of who I actually am in real life, it felt like a personal slam against me. And my husband. I consider myself a very down-to-Earth person and what you see here is what you get. Sure, I might be more shy in real life - many of we bloggers are - but Eartha Kitsch is me. The way I talk on Ranch Dressing? That's me. In. Real. Life. I'll "hee haw heck!" you to death and go absolutely apeshit over a dirty old cookbook. And you see my antiquated blog template? That probably represents me too. Read 'em and openly weep. But that's okay with me. That only means that if you like my blog, you'll probably like me. And pretending to be someone that I'm not takes way more energy than I intend to spend.
And you know what, I DO wish that I was born in a different decade and Mister Kitsch does too. A decade before people believed that it's okay to be mean for the sake of snark. We live in a society of snark and it pisses me off. I've never "played anything up" in my life. This is who I am. And whether my husband and I act out every era from prehistoric man to a mere week ago in the bedroom? Totally nobody's business. They finished their comment up with "They seem to be over the moon with each other and their life, and they're good to animals so more power to them!" but my friends, the damage was already done in my mind. That last sentence is akin to a little thing that Southerners do where we end gossip about someone with "Bless their heart!" It's the meat that matters. You can smooth over it all that you want.
When sharing the comment with my closest friends, I was told that I should consider myself lucky that I didn't get any worse than that, and I guess that it's true. But I don't feel like I deserve even that. We all just need to shut up and get out of each others' business. While I do realize that blogging is inviting other people into our business, I personally believe that if you don't like a blogger or can't believe in what they're dealing out, just move on. There are about a trillion other blogs out there to choose from.
While we might like to believe in the anonymity of the internet, it's not true. Even if we're not the kind of people who google ourselves constantly, we're still exposed to what other people think of us. In neither of these cases was I looking to read smack talk about anything in my life. In both cases, someone else found the comments and showed them to me. Hear me again when I say this: What you say on the internet does not disappear into the thin air like mist. It stays and it stays forever. After reading that comment about myself, the Mister and my blog (all three that I care a lot about), I couldn't sleep. And what did I do? The worst possible thing that I could do. I spent hours on that very same site looking up every blogger that I know to see if they were safe and well and unmentioned. Many of them were but some were not. I read really ugly comments there about people that I consider myself friends with - but also people who I only know on a surface level from reading their blogs.
On one particular comment thread that was pages long, commenters had blown up a photo that one particular blogger posted and were deeply analyzing whether she had photoshopped space between her legs to make herself look thinner. It went on and on and on....and it got meaner and meaner as the pages passed, not excluding her husband or even her innocent children from the melee. In my mind, I couldn't help but scream "Who the hell cares??!" There are worthy causes out there that could use all of this energy put towards them, y'all. In the time that it took to analyze the thighs of someone that they didn't know, I shudder to think about how much volunteer time could have been put towards helping a family get out of the cycle of poverty or by helping shield a total stranger or defenseless animal in their neck of the woods (or on the other side of the world ) from fear, abuse or death. That right there is time that can't be retrieved. When I think of how many hours were spent collectively critiquing a close-up photo of another blogger's thighs, I want to throw up.
WHO THE HELL CARES? I read other posts about fashion bloggers whose sites that I read and all of the catty mean girl comments were just too much for me. They even critiqued a blogger who had just had a baby, going on and on about how wrinkled her clothes were and how fat she looked! Don't even get me started. At one point, one of the local Nashville bloggers actually came on to defend herself against the onslaught of commenters. That poor girl also had pages and pages of comments about her. With my husband asleep beside me (worn out from our Dick Tracy roleplaying earlier in the evening), I silently lifted my arm and cheered against the glow of my laptop screen.
The blogger in me as well as the long-tortured school kid really just wants us all to stop being so mean and so judgmental and so well, entitled to share our opinions on everyone else and how they live their lives. As adults, we're quick to support the anti-bullying campaigns aimed towards children and teens, and rightly so. I just don't think that a lot of people realize that leaving mean comments on the internet about people - whether you believe that your target will ever see them or not - is the exact. same. thing. It's bullying. We might not all be jammed into the same humid, stinky locker rooms together anymore but the internet? It's one big locker room that we're forced to share. There are still mean kids and hurt kids, it's just that now, we're bigger and we like to pretend that we know better.
We can not let the supposed anonymity of the internet allow us to be anything other than we'd want others to be towards us. We just can't. I just ask that we all consider if we have a right to say what we're saying and if we'd still say it if our targets were standing right in front of us. And if our answer to that is still "Yes" then consider what that possibly says about where we are headed.
Each generation before us has remarked how our world is going to Hell because of the actions of those within it. That's not new at all. But collectively, each generation is right. With each generation, we lose a tad more kindness and civility and empathy. And you know what? If that makes me want to live in the past, then the person who commented about me, the Mister and my blog is right. Maybe it's a good thing that we appear to some like we'd like to live in another era. Maybe I shouldn't be so pissed about that singling-out but instead, proud. I don't WANT to be included in the current internet culture. Count me out.
I challenge all of us to take the time that we spend critiquing celebrities, strangers and yes, other bloggers and instead use it to help a cause that is important to us. I don't care what it is. Just that there is that something that we care about. I think that it's our kind moments that define us. They are also the only chance at canceling out our cruelness. The internet brings us closer but in an even bigger way, it's forcing us apart.
With this post, I'm not inviting anyone to defend me or Ranch Dressing. I'm not asking for snark towards people who have snarked against me. I don't want things to go there. I'm just asking us all to think before we type. Once it's out there, it's out there and it can't be taken back.
None of us know what's laying heavy on the hearts of others. Those who blog and look like they have their lives unfathomably together? They have pain and sadness and worry. They have self-doubt and financial troubles and struggles just like the rest of us do. Even if they never choose to put that out there in the public forum, they're just like us. And they might read what we write on the internet. And that one sentence that we put out into the world might make their loads so heavy that they can never be the same. Just because we have the forums available to us for cruelty doesn't mean that we have to use them.
Lastly, if the person who said that about my family and blog has decided to stick around and follow Ranch Dressing for the past months since that comment, I hope that you're reading this and that you believe now that I'm just a real person who isn't putting on airs. If you ever want to hang out in person and squeal over old wallpaper at estate sales, look me up. I'm pretty sure that the Mister will drive us and if I ask him nicely, he won't talk like Dick Tracy, at least for the day.
Until next time,
x's and o's,