Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Keeping It Real... Blogging in the Age of Alternative Facts

Yesterday, Hubby and I were cross-country skiing. Probably my last ski before we leave for our trip. And as we shushed along a woodland trail, and exclaimed at the size of some of the old willow trees that grow out of the swampy area adjacent to the track, we talked. As we are wont to do. About lots of things. Like politics, here and south of the border. About stuff we've read recently. And on this particular day, about blogging. And how I wish everyone who blasts information and ideas across the internet, bloggers included, would just ... be honest. And stop exaggerating, for pity's sake. And just keep it real.

Okay. I'm calm now. I've been in a bit of a blogging funk lately. Partly because I've been focused on our upcoming trip and thus have had a dearth of creative blogging ideas. And partly because I've been way too focused on what else there is out there in the blogosphere. This happens periodically, and when it does it drives me nutty. And makes me wonder why I'm even writing a blog. And forces me to question what I'm doing and why. Which... when I think about it... is not a bad thing. 


Keeping it real in my sun room.

The funk started because, when I've not been doing travel oriented stuff, I've been researching possible blog improvements, things I might do to improve the quality of, and the look of, my blog. I have a file of on-line articles and resources to help me do this. Once I've found an article I think is applicable to me, I save it and then try to implement what it suggests, and NOT screw it up. I've made some improvements already. Tidied up my sidebar, fiddled with fonts and colours to make the look of the blog cleaner, and maybe a bit easier to read. It took me one whole evening to correctly install social media links in my sidebar. Hubby was watching the hockey game, but he scurried into the den when he heard me yelp. I'd finally figured it out, and there they were... five lovely little icons, the right size, the right colour, and all linked miraculously to my social media accounts. Yah. "Those little things. That's what you're fussing about?" he queried. Huh. This from a man who can find his way through the wilderness of Algonquin Park without a compass, but who gets frustrated sending an e-mail. I ignored him.

So, some of my research has been very helpful. Some not so much. And some has made me wonder what the heck I'm even doing. Because reading about "how to have a successful blog," how to "grow my following" and "maximize my traffic" makes me focus too much on the number of page views my blog gets each week. Or doesn't get. And on the shiny, professional-looking blogs which have teams of writers and professional photographers, and not much content to speak of. And I know that I should grow up, and stop comparing my blog to other blogs. I know that I should focus on what counts. Like on the fact that I'm writing what I want to write, and learning a whole lot of other stuff along the way. And having fun. Which is the whole point of the endeavour, of course. I know all that. But still, it's hard sometimes not to question all the work (or play) I put into this little "retirement project" of mine. And wonder why I'm doing it at all.

Raspberry fleece, Mountain Equipment Co-op
I wasn't qui-ite ready for this shot.   
Don't get me wrong. I love writing this blog. And I spend a fair amount of time doing it. I take all of my own photos, unless I use some of our travel shots that Hubby has taken. When I do use photos from the internet, I try hard to find and credit the original source. I research, provide links to my sources, and try to verify details. I've even been known to call my mum to check that what I'm saying about this family member or that one is correct. I admit to employing the techniques used by writers of fiction to make a personal story ... well... better reading. But what I write is always the truth. I did go lumbering with my step-father... that one time. I do go canoeing with Hubby in Algonquin Park. I did catch that very big fish in the Yukon. I really do hate yoga... and housecleaning. And when it comes to fashion, I don't pretend to be an expert. Just an expert on what I like or don't like for myself. I edit like crazy. And even then I sometimes miss a typo... and have to go back a few days later and correct it. I try to practice what I taught for so many years. Because otherwise... what's the point? 

Raspberry fleece, Mountain Equipment Co-op
Okay, that's better.
Then just when I've reassured myself about what I'm doing, and how I'm doing it, I read something silly, or poorly written, or downright dishonest that has been shared and re-shared on Facebook. Or I read one thing in particular, which obviously took the originator some time to craft, but which uses false and misinterpreted, or maybe simply misunderstood, "facts"... and which continues to be shared even though it has been debunked in several reputable news articles... and I despair. I really do. And then a few days later, I read something written by a young person I actually know, which spins events into something that is so distorted as to be more fiction than fact. And I want to pull my hair out. When did we start mistaking prejudice for well-founded opinion... or even worse rumour for fact? When did we start thinking that "spin" is real? And let's not even get into the current palaver about truth and fiction, facts and "alternative facts." Because a fact isn't just something someone has written or said. It's a verifiable detail which can eventually help us discover a truth. As Hubby used to teach his high school history students: facts aren't facts until they've been verified by a number of sources. So yeah, that dishonest, misinformed stuff really annoys me. Deep breath. Rant over. I promise. 

So. Where was I? Blogging. Right. I don't want you to think that I plan to stop blogging any time soon. Or that I'm looking for reassurance or praise. I just needed to get all this off my chest. And having done so, I feel quite a bit better. After all, I do this blogging thing for my own reasons, as I guess we all do. And those reasons don't include fame or fortune. Ha. And, you know, every once in while it doesn't hurt to re-examine why we do things. To reaffirm our purpose, and our values. 

So I guess I just have to remind myself to be an adult. To stop looking longingly at what others are producing. To do what I do best, as well as I can. And to tell the truth, about whatever I'm writing, albeit with a little creative description. 

Because Mum always said we'd not get into trouble if we told the truth. And, as kids, we mostly did... tell the truth. Well, except when it came to that trip to the bootlegger in grade twelve. We did lie about that. But it was for your own good, Mum. Really.

And I think I'm going to try to ignore at least some of the background noise on social media. That and un-follow a few people on Facebook. 

Just for my own sanity, you understand.






Thanks for listening, my friends. Or reading as the case may be. Now... anything you'd like to get off your chest? Fire away.




Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner, Fabulous Friday at Pocketful of Polkadots, and Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb

58 comments:

  1. oh sue, if only you lived (MUCH!) closer -- we really need another long, long lunch. . . then we could break for drinks somewhere, then grab dinner, gabbing and gabbing and gabbing about blogging and social media and well, you know. Obviously, you know....
    And I hope you know how much we all appreciate that you do keep it very real. So much integrity here and good humour and wit and engaging writing. Do keep on keeping on, please....

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    1. I know! That would be great. A regularly scheduled date for blog talk. And book and travel and knitting and fashion talk, too.
      Thanks as always for your continued support, Frances. It is very much appreciated:)

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  2. So with you, Susan. Excellent post. I'm forever checking and verifying, both what I write and say and what I read and hear. So whether it's called spin, alternative facts or that technique of repeated vocalisation of unsubstantiated "facts", I'm pulling out hair too!
    Am relieved that you intend to continue writing your excellent blog.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. And thanks for reading and sharing.

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  3. Your blog is my favourite. I feel confident that it is an accurate, authentic representation of your viewpoint. I look forward to each new post. I do wish however, that you used a lighter background colour on your page. Being on the older side, I fond it a bit difficult to cipher.

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    1. Keep blogging in your own immutable style! The dark background is better for my macular degeneration, but could the layout use shorter lines. I have to enlarge the picture on my IPad, and it's tiring with long lines.

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    2. I'm sorry it's been hard for you to read, ladies. I've been playing with the contrast of background and post text. I lightened the background a bit and made the text less bright white. I tested it on Hubby and he said it was easier on his eyes. I may change up the template altogether if I find one I like. I do know that most blogs use a white background.
      I read the blog on my i-pad mini when we're travelling, Sharon, but have to use the i-pad so that it is horizontal and not vertical. There is a mobile version that can be viewed on an i-phone that is totally different. Not sure if that can be accessed on an i-pad, though. I will have to check on that.
      I plan to do more tinkering with the template when we get back from South America. So I'll pursue those issues later in the spring. Hope you don't mind waiting until then:)

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    3. Sharon...I've adjusted the widths of the columns a bit. See if this is better and let me know:)

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  4. I absolutely read you because you're real. I have very little patience these days with the professional blogs. Real is real. It's about you, your clothes and style and not an oufit purchased just to blog about. I want to hear about genuine loves and uses of an item. If I wanted manufacturered recommendations I'd read a magazine. I call my blog boring in jest as compared to the pros it's not sleek but it is real.

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    1. Lacking more eloquent words, I'll just say, "Right on, sister."

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  5. Thank you for keeping it real. That you do shines through and is very, very welcome. As a professional finder of fact, the new American President's penchant for making assertions that are not supported by anything but his "gut" or what he wants to be true astounds, embarrasses and infuriates me, especially when those assertions are demonstrably false. I guess he keeps doing it because he figures he has been able to get away with it. Speaking of ranting...I think that many of us need to do that!

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    1. Oops...I left dangling the first phrase in the third sentence of my above comment. That sentence should read: "As a professional finder of fact, I am astounded, embarrassed and infuriated by the new American President's penchant for making assertions that are not supported by anything but his "gut" or what he wants to be true, especially when those assertions are demonstrably false."

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    2. Love your blog. I do understand the questioning. I think we all do that. But, must tell you I do enjoy your writings, photos and your hair. Maybe you need a break. Why don't you go to South America? Novel idea. You're a treat in the blogosphere. ��❤��

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    3. You are a wonderful grammarian, Leslie. I didn't even notice that dangling modifier until you pointed it out. Guess I should have realized that you didn't mean HE was the professional fact-finder! BTW...rant away, my friend. You've good reason for doing so.

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    4. Thanks, Sandy. Maybe I WILL go to South America... good idea:)

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  6. I really look forward to your posts. Always interesting, relatable and so well written.

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  7. I agree completely. I can't abide those obviously false blogs, don't read blogs full of adverts and sponsors and really enjoy yours.

    I have to agree with Cosette about difficulty with the text. The font is much too small and white on black is not an easy read, although even worse, I have seen texts with a red background and that is painful. Perhaps you are trying not to make the piece too long but I don't mind scrolling through a long item if it has a nice large font.

    Looking forward to your travel blog, it's just what we need here in cold, wet Britain.

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    1. It's the advertisements and the pop-ups that appear between each paragraph that makes me click away from a website. That and when the post is a lot of malarkey, which just annoys me.
      I can easily make the font larger in my posts. I usually read blogs on my desktop and that's where I write as well. I should probably be paying more attention to how difficult my blog is to read on smaller devices, like i-pads. My text looks quite large on my monitor. I will investigate this when I get home from South America.
      Hope the rest of your winter is not quite so rainy or cold...:)

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  8. Your blog is one of my faves, love your style and your forthright writing, and the mix of fashion that works as well as chatter about what matters most! Thanks so much for being there in the blogosphere!

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    1. Thanks so much. Won't be much fashion in the next few weeks. Ha. Just hiking pants and great scenery. Hopefully the scenery distracts everyone from my bad hair!

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  9. Please do ignore the background noise and just keep doing exactly what you are doing. I am not your most prolific comment-writer, but I am a very faithful reader. I feel as if I am connecting with a real person when I read your blog, and you have remained at the top of my reading list. Many polished and perfect blogs have completely dropped off my radar screen.

    Thank you for the many enjoyable coffee breaks I have had in your virtual company! -- Denise L.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Denise. I will keep in my mind the picture of my drinking tea and writing and your sipping coffee and reading:)

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  10. Excellent post! You blog is one of my favorites. I especially appreciate when you blog about books. Keep blogging!

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  11. Your blog, and one or two others, are all I read any more. Can't take the sponsored posts, affiliate link after affiliate link, and obvious self-aggrandizing.

    Well don, you.

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    1. Thanks, Riley. And thanks for continuing to read!

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  12. Self evaluation is important. I want to live purposefully, not driven before whatever tide is behind me. That means I have to stop every now and then and make sure where I am is still where I want to be. More and more where I want to be is anywhere political opinions are not being offered. So. Tired. Of. The. Whole. Thing. Enjoy your trip, I'm looking forward to reading about it when you get back.

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    1. Thanks Alice Jo. I'm hoping to post a couple of times when we're away..depending on internet signals and all that. But there'll no doubt be lots to write about when we get home.

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  13. Your integrity shows & you make me laugh too . You feel like a real person , not just a blogger . I don't comment on many blogs regularly & there are just a handful I make a point of reading . Very few have your way with words, & many seem to be about making an impression rather than a true reflection of a life . I think you can tell a good blogger by the standard of comments they get & you get some great comments too .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. I appreciate your continued reading and your wry comments:)

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  14. Your blog is wonderful. Definitely agree that opinions are often unfortunately delivered as "facts" in too many places now. I never think that with your posts. You write beautifully and thoughtfully.
    Thank you
    Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Suz. Funny... I clearly remember teaching the difference between fact and opinion to grade nines for years and years. Why does no one seem to know this?

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  15. I enjoy your blog very much even though outwardly we seem to have little in common.I can relate when you write about feelings though, big time. I rarely comment because I am a lousy typist among other things. Last year and so far this year I have been so upset and disappointed at how many people I know who refuse to question what they see or hear especially on social media. Most of the time it is easy to find out if something is true or not. I have decided to unfollow a fair amount of people because I'm tired of responding "Yes, he really did say that" or "No, that's not true. Look it up!" Pulling my hair out is so not worth it. We truly are living in dysfunctional times. Thanks for being a sane oasis.

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    1. You're right...it's not that hard to find the cracks in many of these circulated stories. Thanks for reading.

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  16. Your blog is one of the few I read, and like others, I've stopped reading a lot of the most upsetting 'stuff'. It will drive me crazy. What I can't understand is how so many people have created their own reality. And then there are those who supported our new President and have now tuned out because "it's too upsetting" or (I love this one) "There's nothing I can do about it." A little late for that reaction in my book.

    But back to the truth. I read a few things daily that I trust and really try to tune out the rest. And your blog is a bright spot. Carry on! :-)
    --Laurel

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    1. Thanks, Laurel. It's good to know that readers of this blog think I'm a "bright spot." Love that.

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  17. I don't read or follow a lot of blogs,there are only a few I like and yours is apsolutely one of them
    I appreciate your recommendations and stories because they are interesting,genuine and real
    I could understand your dilemma (Heracles Choice :-)),in virtual,as well as in real world, there are a lot of paths-yours is the right one-for me and for lot of us here
    Enjoy your holidays
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks Dottoressa. Your reading and erudite commentary is always appreciated.

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  18. I know if you stopped blogging you would not have this wonderful forum to write so brilliantly. And, as you can see from the responses, you would be missed. Your blog is a relief from the rest of the blogging world, as you keep it so real. I can only imagine the amount of time you put into each post and want to thank you for your dedication, your informative posts and the personal touch.

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    1. Thanks for that, Joanne. I do spend a lot of time on the blog... for my own reasons... I love the writing. And the research and the fashion stuff. And I've even enjoyed learning so much tech stuff. Although I've a long way to go. It's really nice to hear that people appreciate it!

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  19. (reading on a laptop. But I read your blog on Feedly, for the vanilla black text on white. Yours is one of 3 in Unreadable ... then I sometimes click thru for the comments) Hmm and yes shorter lines are easier to read in Feedly.

    Thank you for your 2016 reading list. I am enjoying working thru the titles that are in our library. I have now read Jo Baker's two earlier novels, and they stay with me. Muddy petticoats and telling the passing moments.

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    1. Thanks, Diane. Glad your enjoying Jo Baker's books. I think she's a great writer.

      I do hope you mean "unreadable" in the sense of the type and background etc:) I will look into formatting etc when we get home from South America. I'm learning as I go with this blogging thing.

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    2. absolutely, purely in the practical technical sense ;~))
      My unreadable 3 are unmissable for content.

      Yours is for an enticing window on a different life, in a distant country - my first choice in a blog to follow.

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  20. I would just reiterate what others have said in that your blog is one of my favourites. I cannot waste my precious time reading trivia poorly expressed and full of subtle promotions. I, personally, don't have any issues reading the blog on my computer or iPad. I enjoy your take on fashion which is very real world, particularly the recent posts on outdoor clothing for South America, and the yarns you spin to illustrate various stories are so enjoyable but at the same time something to which I can relate.

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    1. Thanks, Christy. Yarns.... that's what they are. Comes from my Irish heritage, I think.
      With respect to the quality of writing on the net... I simply can't read posts that have obviously not been edited for style and grammar. I want to get my virtual red pen out:)

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  21. Pls do continue keeping it real. You are a fav! Some time, when the weather is a bit more favorable, I'd love to meet you and Frances in Vancouver or somewhere nearby. We seem to be Birds of a Feather!
    From Sequim,
    Sue

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    1. Thanks, Sue If I ever do get out your way... that would be great.

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  22. Your blog is great. You're a favorite of mine--even though my style is different than yours, i love your stories, your tales, your ideas and yes, your style! And i love your sneaky political comments--your heart beats true! From a neighbor to the south!

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    1. Ah... thanks, neighbour. The sneaky bit comes from my youth, I guess... all that smoking out behind the barn so we wouldn't get caught.

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  23. thank you, thank you for writing a real blog. You write about the real things we women think and talk to each other about - family, jobs/ retirement, great books to read, heart warming stories, and heart breaking stories as well. Oh, and that recurring question "What should I wear?"!

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    1. Wow...you have definitely been paying attention:) Thanks for the kind words and for the continued reading!

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  24. Hmmmm, "alternative facts", our alternative reality south of the Canadian border and my anti acid tabs seem to be in short supply these days. On the other hand, your blog is definitely keeping it real and like your other fans, I enjoy reading your posts! Don't change your style, I read your blog because you are who you are. Have a great trip! Look forward to some adventure posts when you return.

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    1. Thanks you very much. I'm hoping the trip will generate lots of great stories.

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  25. Very popular post Sue! Just want to add how much I enjoyed it and agree .... you know how much I enjoy your blog!!
    Not many days now ... I imagine the excitement and anticipation is rising! Enjoy the weekend.
    Rosie

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    1. Hi Rosie. I appreciate your faithful reading and commenting very much. Not many days now..you're right. Akkk hope after so many months of waiting that I'm ready!

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  26. I am with you re. having the well run dry (sort of..) when blogging. There are times when you feel you've said all there is to day, or all YOU have to say, and what more is there? And, as the years go by and I continue to blog, I get that feeling more and more often. But then...well, something happens. Someone says an encouraging word, some post really hits home with readers, you get energized. Whatever. But then blogging resumes at its normal pace and is creative , once again. I love it, first and foremost, as a way to connect with people all over the world. There is just nothing else like it! And it keeps me energized!!!!

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.