People change and life moves on. Who cares? Nobody much unless we've become a little over-invested in their blog. We've enjoyed the beautiful photos that casually scream “look at my wonderful life” and tried out their recipes for organic kale ice-blocks. They given sage-like advice on managing and organizing life’s chaos and suggested a more gentle way to speak to my children while tastefully repainting a second-hand urn bought at the op-shop.
In any case, we first find that they are in some way endearing. And then clever. And then wise. And then without really thinking about it we are buying the same books and wearing the same clothes and redecorating our walls in the same colour-scheme as their new kitchen. And then we go a bit further and we are re-aligning our priorities and re-thinking our values and re-scheduling our children and pursuing life in the same way as our bloggy-bestie (who doesn’t even know we are alive except for that one time she replied to our comment – squeal).
And then….. she changes her mind. Or has a nervous breakdown. Or declares her old colour-scheme a complete disaster.
One thing I’ve learnt as a devoted blog-reader over the last few years is that blogs are fickle. They allow us to glimpse into the life of a person in the same way that we can see a reflection in still water. When we “know” them, we really only know what they tell us about themselves which is as substantial as a ripple in the lake.
On the other hand, all around us are real people. And they are sometimes boring or inconvenient or smelly or whatever. But they are at least real.
When a real-life friend makes a “lifestyle” decision, we get to see the consequences. We know what they sound like when they speak to their children. We can visit their houses and see the nooks and crannies of their life and the open their fridge and smell the slightly-off cream at the back. We know whether they are the sort of friend you can call when you have to suddenly go into hospital or whether their number is reserved for sunny-day appointments only. Everything about them is set in the context of their real life.
On the other hand, you don’t know see any of the real life results of your bloggy-bestie’s life-style choice. While her blog is full of lovely family moments shot with vintage filters and gilt highlights, you can’t see the lack of engagement with the needs of others or way their family insularity negatively affects their neighbours and friends. The blog might be full of a well-reasoned mantra for raising marvellous children, but you don’t see that her anxiety and controlling nature is driving them all to a level of perfectionism that is exhausting to live with. While she encourages you to live life in the moment and enjoy the chaos and fun, you don’t see the younger child whose learning needs are being overlooked and the husband who longs for more structure and boundaries in his home.
But you might see that if you knew her in real life.
Or maybe not because maybe things really are all roses and chocolate cookies at their house. Who knows?
I'm not suggesting all bloggers are deceptive or air-brushing their lives. It's just that the lure of finding meaning and relationships online is so strong that we sometimes fail to keep in mind that real life is much more......REAL.
Which brings me to my point. While I sit and read blog after blog on a Sunday afternoon, that older lady three pews back sits at home and watches a re-run on the telly. She is real. And she’s lived more of life than me. How strange is it that I spend so much time reading the weekly chatterings of 40-something-year-old better versions of myself who I will never meet while I can’t find time for a cup of tea with Vivienne? Why do we bristle like porcupines when offered some well-meaning advice from an older lady we know but so eagerly swallow down whatever is served up to us online by favourite bloggers whom we have never so much as glimpsed in real life?
I'm not giving up blog-world and going offline. I have found some friends online who I count as real even if we've yet to meet (love you guys to bits). And many times I've been helped by the gracious and wise online words of others. But I am challenging myself to take a good look around me and ask myself whether I should pursue real-life a bit more, especially when it comes to the women around me.