Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Jealousy and Envy in the Blogosphere

There are two types of people, each with a different take on the importance of culture vs. the individual.

There are those who focus on the wonderful fact that anyone who works hard enough can succeed, and others who say that a culture of inequality exists, where class, color, and gender create obstacles to success.

There are those who say that social problems such as anorexia or obesity is the fault of the individual’s weakness, and others who point their finger at a powerful consumer culture that plays off of our insecurities and weaknesses.

This same tension of thought plays online, particularly in reference to jealousy and envy in the blogosphere.

I see the same post written every other week — a prominent blogger telling others that they must overcome the jealousy and envy that is destroying the community.  In private, I hear a different story.  I hear about a LACK of  community, one in which each of us now uses every conceivable PR and advertising technique in the book to position themselves as unique, intentionally playing off the envy and jealousies of others for personal gain.

And yes, this includes anyone who seriously touts their Klout score on Twitter.  Did you read about this in the New York Times?  Do we want a world where a person can get room upgrades in hotels because of who he follows on Twitter?

Fact:  People are going to get jealous if you use methodology that evokes jealousy.  Jealousy is not new; it has been around since Cain and Abel.

So, let’s make a final decision.  Is every personal ill a matter of individual choice or does the culture help foster the problem?   Is McDonald’s partly accountable for obesity in America?  Should advertisers be more aware of how their unrealistic views of body image hurt women?  If we say yes, then what happens when WE finally become the media doing the selling to each other?

Rather than telling others, “Don’t be jealous,” we should ask ourselves, “Why do we try so hard to make others feel jealous of us?”

34 Comments

  1. I love this entry. It’s the best take on the state of the blogosphere I have read in a long time. Thanks for being ballsy enough to say it. 🙂

  2. I think you answered your last question in your own post. Cain and Abel. Human nature and group mentality? I don’t know. It’s odd the snapshots the twitter/blog world allows. I have always felt it allows us to show a sculpted reality, one which ignores the piles of dirty laundry (in all ways). And hides this murky underlayer of undercutting and jealousy you speak of. Each app I add to my life seems to bring a new place to compete/outdo/get more followers. Until you just give it up, put down the iPhone and go live life a little outside of the bubble.

  3. Well said, Neil. Thanks for putting words to what
    I’ve been thinking for a while now.

  4. I’m in an entirely different online universe from you, and I like my world better than yours.

  5. But that is what blogging is all about now.

    At first it was about having a place to express your thoughts and be creative. Then it was about building a community and making friends. After that, there was nowhere to go but down. Soon blogging became about getting free stuff. Then it was about making money. Now it’s all about getting attention with the faint hope that this will lead to money. Or a book deal or blogging conference or speaking engagement that will make money. If it wasn’t about money, blogging would be about blogging instead of getting a blog post retweeted or liked on Facebook or whatever. And when you boil it all down, that’s a situation where bloggers WANT people to be jealous of them. They’re DYING for people to be jealous of them because it means they’re winning in the attention game with a shot at the money game.

    It’s hard for me to be jealous over that.

    But it does make me even more grateful for the small percentage of blogs that are just people expressing themselves and being creative.

  6. So many bloggers, and too often Mommybloggers, go on and on about how terribly they are treated, how mean people are, and so forth–blogging for hairpats. Picking at scabs isn’t fun to read.

  7. It’s very disturbing, isn’t it?

  8. I like blogging. I enjoy the conversation. I meet many interesting people (like yourself, Neil). In five years of blogging, a mere seventy thousand people have visited my blog. Who cares that it’s not seven hundred thousand, or even seven million?

    OTOH (that’s an online term for “on the other hand”) I am criticised in some quarters because I am a communications professional who has not managed an online “Brand You”. The critics have a point. In the good old days, we had a professional reputation which was managed by showing competence and treating colleagues and clients with honour and kindness. Why should one shy away from the opportunity to do this to a vastly greater number?

    On the third hand, I attended a blogger’s conference recently, where much discussion was devoted to search engine optimisation, monetising your blog, tailoring content. As a pleasure-blogger, I found it horribly cynical. But the participants were not the cynical type–they loved writing about their chosen subject, and wanted to be able to do it for a living. They had no choice but to approach it professionally. I think I made some unfair comments in the plenary session–I would now admit this is a vexing problem. Moreso, now that the blogging community has become the tweeting community. Professionalism means competition.

    And conflict makes better copy (or at least copy that arouses initial curiosity) better than harmony does. It would be a slow news day, indeed, if the best headline you could come up with were Population of Planet Getting on with Life and Making the Best of It.

    What you say, Neil, is true. In every profession, there is a sense of competition. You blog to take part in a community, but many need to make it pay. That means, like it or not, the ugly face of competition reveals itself.

  9. Neil, do you know every time you mention my name on Twitter, I get new followers within seconds? SECONDS! Usually mommybloggers, who must use some system that automatically attaches them to whoever is being mentioned by the Elite Influencers. Neilochka, who has a huge network, mentions V-Grrrl so she Must Be Somebody Important by default.

    If they stopped to look at my profile page, they’d see I rarely post on Twitter. In any event, the followers I get every time you mention my name don’t make me feel important, they make me feel like a commodity. The whole process is more than a little creepy. I’m not a fan of Twitter and its hierarchy and politics. I prefer my blog and FB.

  10. oh great, I’m craving mcdonald’s now. oh, and I have 2K followers on twitter. I still have no klout, however.

  11. That last question is the crux of it. I love how you built to it. And packed inside of it are other questions. Or maybe the same damn questions restated. Why is it so important to us that others want what we have? Why do we need the approval of others so much?

    It’s freeing to let it go, but it always creeps back into your brain.

  12. Everyone I have seen post their klout score has clearly been doing so because it’s hilarious that anyone would give a shit. I mean, I’m pretty sure it says I am influential in, like, pizza. (Wait, that sounds good. I LOVE PIZZA.) Are people actually taking it seriously?

  13. Wait, I checked. No pizza, but apparently I am influential about Internet Explorer. If this is true, my goal is to convince everyone on earth to STOP USING IT.

  14. There is competition and envy in everything, including Little League games. I think competition is good. It creates quality. But let’s acknowledge the inevitable. If everyone is going to fight to get on a Top 50 Blogger List and then promote the hell out of it, there will be more jealousy. It seems as if the marketplace is putting pressure on everyone to stand out from the crowd, or to be part of an influential circle. I hear less talk about community than “followers” who need to be “influenced.” Even the language used is controlling, manipulative, and domineering.

  15. Very well put. We were talking about Twitter in my Sociology class the other day, and I was surprised on how many young people had NO interest in Twitter, and think this whole connected and trying to influence people is a crock of shit.

    • I don’t think it is a crock at all. I think the Internet is very powerful. I do think people can be influential. So it is important to understand how things work.

  16. it seems to me that a lot of the reactions you describe are based on an inflated sense of self importance… i think that the blogging community has to stop examining itself. that kind of navel gazing is just… boring.

    instead, do something, write something, express something… ignore what other people think and stay true to something that matters.

    the infighting and ridiculousness seems to be filled with people who think it is worth arguing about. why would it be? move on.

    quality is not just created by competition… it is also created by integrity.

  17. I’m not a competitive person. Really. I loved blogging in the very beginning–for me that was seven years ago because there was a sense of community and a sense that this was a new way of communicating. And I couldn’t believe that people read what I wrote

    But when it began becoming so competitive I held back. But I need to make money so when a magazine offered me a job I took it. Pays very very little but I do it for the platform and because I have a cause I want to promote–that’s become paramount to me.

    But it all hinges on self-promotion and I would rather shoot myself. Not because I lack self-esteem (have heard that one) but because it’s always come down to the writing for me. I love writing and that’s something that seems to be forgotten in the blogging world. I put my blog through one of those “rankers.”
    It said I should put in images to keep people’s interest and write longer posts. I used to write very long posts and I would get comments telling me my posts are too long.
    Sometimes I feel like a blogging failure because the only thing I’m offered (besides a great job that pays almost zilch) are books. Cleaning supplies. I want to test cleaning supplies 🙂

  18. I love this new medium. It gives us great opportunities. And hey, it is your own choice what you publish and what you read.

    Envy and jelalousy are parts of human nature. Nothing bad about them on the first place – they can give you the energy to give your best.
    Same with gossip – community connects through knowing what is going on with it members.

    Everything can go bad, so when envy and jelousy let you behave in a bad way to other people that is the other side of the coin.

  19. It’s not the competition I mind so much – a bit of healthy competition is okay isn’t it? Those lists of 50 top bloggers don’t mean much. I know the people I admire, who have maintained their integrity. What I can’t stand, is the two faced aspect of the ‘community.’ People who hug and kiss but then will spout vitriol. I’ve walked away for a while from my own particular little sphere.

  20. @Neilochka: Jealousy, envy and pettiness only rear their ugly heads among those who haven’t got the guts to embrace authenticity and be themselves online. Chances are they can’t manage that offline / “in real life” either. Those are not the kind of folks I want to read or connect with.

    As @V-grrrl puts it, this is not my world. At all. I blog to reach out to others beyond the confines of the microscopic island I live on, I blog to ease the pressure I am under and force myself to laugh at my own misfortunes, I blog because the page/screen is a mirror that never lies… and I blog because digital life is not only an extension but also a key part of my “real life”. The only difference is I cannot blog under my own name because I would get into terrible trouble with the locals and yes, this is a bit of a moral dilemma but needs must…

    Jealousy and envy are two things I reject – online and offline. Those who bother with such pointless things can stuff them up their Klout for all I care.

    • I blog for all the same reasons.

      I completely agree with you on jealousy and envy. There’s a difference between being competitive and being jealous or envious. I don’t think indulging in or cultivating jealousy or envy ever brings good into the world. I don’t think it’s ever healthy. Competition can be good and yield good things.

  21. What scares me is that several years ago I “un-plugged” from most of this part of the blogging world — the part where stats and monetizing and PR were prattled over and over — and now, as I have re-plugged into things recently, I find that the conversation has not changed.

    The words are different, people are digging deeper into The Meaning of it all, but the conflicts are all the same.

  22. Hmmm…I just don’t see it. Whose blogs are you reading? I certainly don’t see yours as competitive in any way—just enjoyable, funny, thought-provoking, and well written. And I don’t see pimping our posts on Facebook or Twitter as any kind of over-the-top self-promotion either. I admit in the early days of blogging I was envious of people who got book deals from their blogs but that was a very small group and that never even happens any more. Are you mostly talking about the world of so-called mommybloggers? At the risk of insulting myself and everyone else who blogs, what’s there to be jealous of?

  23. Can I agree with the guys (and Pia). I wonder if gender is an issue here. My take on the BS you’re talking about (which I have mostly opted out of) is that it is high school writ large. My theory is that if little girls were only taught to smash each other in the face when they got mad, they wouldn’t have to learn to do the damage with their words and attitudes. I was just at a blogging conference and the only people who weren’t friendly and open was the coven of mommybloggers.

  24. P.S. I have received “freebies” related to blogging, as you know (car loans, movie tickets) but have never felt that my talking about them on my blog was selling out or being part of some evil corporate world. I cop to the arrangement and I wouldn’t dream of turning any of those rare perks down. But I’m fascinated by what I hear (mostly on your blog) about the “monetizing” of mommyblogs. What’s going on in that world? Should you write a screenplay about the evil Pampers executive (played by George Clooney) paying off (and sleeping with) his harem of hot mommybloggers so they can influence the Third World to buy their planet-destroying products? I love mommies and bloggers but that unfriendly “coven” that Jane describes sounds terrifying. They should be run out of town.

  25. P.S. to Danny–No, George Clooney has to be the Dadblogger who restores civility to the warring Mommybloggers. I could get into writing that screenplay myself. It would be an All Above Eve remake.

  26. Danny, as you surely know — most writing, even when it is not, is personal in nature — so there must be something about this topic that touches me.

    I think what bothered me the most is that people were sweeping human emotion under the rug. If you sold a screenplay tomorrow, Danny, I WOULD be jealous! Of course I would also be incredibly excited for you, and happy about it. But why not acknowledge the jealousy, and use that emotion to work harder (or to ass kiss you for a contact).

    Everything would be absolutely fine with us, especially if you told me the war stories of how hard it was to write the script, or find an agent, etc. But imagine if instead of some modesty, you went on Twitter ever day and said, “My screenplay sold for three million dollars!” “I am having lunch with George Clooney today!” And you start not answering my messages, but instead just exchange funny exchanges with Albert Brooks.

    All I’m saying is that if you are aware that you are succeeding in something, and most of your friends have the same goals, there is a way of sharing that information that is nice, and a way where you are intentionally fermenting jealousy.

    And we are taught online to promote ourselves all the time. Yes, particularly with the moms. But I think it is the same with anyone. It is as if we have become walking resumes.

    • I agree that if I ever tweeted about how much money I got for my screenplay or that I was lunching with George Clooney, that would be the height of assholery. I also agree that envy and jealousy are natural traits of all humans (wait, I’m suddenly confused about the difference between the two) but the minute someone acted the way you describe, wouldn’t you pity and privately ridicule them more than being jealous of them? AND run to the nearest exit? Are there really bloggers who do that? (Do I do that? Is that what you’re trying to say? Because all your posts are really about me, right?)

  27. I don’t consider myself a naive person, but I am a naive blogger.

    I love reading well written blogs like yours. I love reading comments that are meaningful on mine. I will never be upset about somebody paying me for something I can do with integrity. I give +scores on Klout that I believe in, as a form of compliment.

    I honestly, truly could not care less about other blogs being more read and followed then mine. Happy for them. Sure sometimes I wish I could write like you or be funny like Marinka. But that is just that, wishful thinking.

    Now if my grandma followed your blog but not mine, I would be a bit upset. Lucky for me she is not online, so we will never know…

  28. Well, as you know, I think this issue is multidimensional and complex and undoubtedly related to insecurities with an etiology likely entrenched in adolescence. We can’t control what others do, only our own actions and reactions to what’s out there.

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