The Dark Side of Blogging: It Isn’t All Glitter & Gold


Image via

Are you a blogger?

If so, what made you start your blog?

  • Was it a passion for your specific niche (fashion/ books/ food/beauty/celebrities/music/etc)?
  • Was it a passion for writing?
  • Was it the need for a distraction?
  • Was it because blogging sounded fun?
  • Was it because you needed an outlet for your thoughts?
  • Was it something else altogether?

Whatever the reason you began blogging… what is the reason you stuck with it?

  • Is it your passion for your niche?
  • Is it your passion for writing?
  • Is it the continued need for a distraction?
  • Is it the fact that blogging is fun?
  • Is it because you love having an outlet for your thoughts?

Do those reasons still apply? Have they changed as your blog has grown?

Maybe there are additional reasons you blog today, like the relationships you have built with other bloggers & readers or the fact you now have a voice in the blogging community.

But what about those other reasons? You know… the ones that have to do with aspirations.

  • Success
  • Status
  • Celebrity
  • Freebies

Have any of those impacted your blogging?

They did WHAT?!

Last month, the popular blog Fashionista posted a story discussing bloggers who fake VIP status by purchasing items and then claiming they were gifted by brands.

 fashionista story

When it comes to blogging, few things surprise me nowadays but this actually did.

I won’t go into the details—you can read the article by clicking on the image above—but suffice to say that the idea of bloggers faking relationships with brands was a new one to me.  Maybe I am naïve, but I think that a blogger spending their own hard earned cash on a brand they like is a positive.  It shows that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, so why hide it?

Why lie about it?

And the idea that some brands are/were OK with it? I am still trying to get my head wrapped around that.

This became a hot topic of conversation on twitter yesterday afternoon between some blogging buddies and myself, but as the conversation continued our focus changed to what drives people to make these types of decisions and whether bloggers feel any accountability for their actions.


Let’s Talk Drive

So… motivation.

What would motivate a blogger to lie about their relationship with a brand?

Probably the same things that would drive them to infringe on someone’s copyright or plagiarize content.

  • A desire for status
  • A desire for instant success
  • Unrealistic expectations/pressures
  • Outward appearances that don’t match the reality
  • A desire for freebies (ie: if you fake it, they will come)

But does that make it OK?

Just because you want to be perceived as successful, does that mean it’s OK to fake it?

My answer is yes and no.

We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” and I think there is definitely some truth to that advice. If you want to be a success you have to believe in yourself and you have to act the part.

As a blogger, that means you should blog like you mean it.

Write with passion.

Write with authority.

Write like you are the #1 resource on said topic, even if you aren’t.

But don’t lie.

Don’t misrepresent yourself.

Don’t fabricate relationships.

Don’t steal other’s hard work and pass it off as your own.

Don’t be a bad example to others.


 Image via

Let’s Talk Accountability

Everyone defines success differently.

For some bloggers, success is measured by the amount of followers they have.

For others, it is the number of active commentors.

For others, it may be the number of brands they work with.

For others, it is simply may be a personal sense of accomplishment.

No matter how you measure your success on a personal level, if you have reach as a blogger you should also be held accountable for your actions.

That means…

You shouldn’t be rewarded for lying

You shouldn’t ignore the consequences of your actions.

You shouldn’t make excuses when you f&ck up – own it. Accept it. Learn from it.

You shouldn’t forget that you are a role model to someone, somewhere.

What Do You Think?

I think my feelings on this topic are pretty clear.

I think bloggers need to stop acting like we write in a vacuum and accept that if we put them out there, our words/actions are influencing someone. Somewhere.

I have no problems with bloggers who have lofty aspirations. Great! I have some of my own.  But unless I earn that success fair and square, I don’t want it.

Again, maybe I am naïve, but I think we need to be held accountable for our actions.

What about you?

Have you experienced the dark side of blogging?

Or maybe you don’t think this is an issue?

What changes need to happen in the blogosphere to help us become more accountable and less focused on instant success?

{ 20 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Prairie Wife October 21, 2013, 7:33 PM

    Thanks for this post. As a new blogger I am trying to get all the information I can. I have come to your site several times and it has been a big help! It is disheartening to know that not all people out there are being honest. In the end I think it is important not to let a few bad apples spoil it for everyone. As long as people with passion and integrity continue to use blogging as a way to support and help others, good will win out!
    Thanks again for the great info!

  • Carolyn October 9, 2013, 6:56 PM

    To me it is the group giveaways that infuriate me, a bunch of bloggers with low stats promote a mega bloggers giveaway with copy and paste posts and rafflecopter widgets with a gazillion entries. People entering have to like about 100 FB pages etc and it creates false stats for the wanna be mega bloggers because the person entering does not even visit their page but likes from a page of 100 or more like buttons. So the wannabe suddenly has 10,000 FB likes after several of these but there is no interaction on their FB page. It is insane that PR firms still look at just numbers. I hope more and more get wise to this because it is crazy.

  • Ziba May 20, 2013, 12:02 PM

    Oh, this is awful. The worst part are the comments that the article has spawned. It’s now basically just a pile of bloggers trash talking other bloggers. While it is interesting to know that there are bloggers out there who this, the tone and the manner in which Fashionista calls them out more along the lines of mocking and ridiculing. I agree with Kimberlee, I think the author of that article could have been more thoughtful as to why bloggers are doing this. Which is why I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to this matter!!

    Anyhoo, to answer your questions above. I started blogging because I needed to have a blog for my online cosmetics shop. But as I began to blog, I realized that I really enjoy blogging and writing, reading up, researching on beauty, health and wellness and sharing the information I have with my readers. My blog has taken a life of its own, well apart from my original commercial intentions.

  • Kyla March 30, 2013, 2:48 PM

    Isn’t this a problem with humanity as a species, not just blogging? I mean, humanity consistently chooses immediate gratification over long-term sustainability and growth. Just look at the oil situation. And the deterioration of the rainforests. Not to mention, world hunger, poverty, and the economic crisis. All of these are byproducts of humanity’s consistent choice of immediate gratification (what they want right NOW) over sustainable growth (what’s good for us overall).

    If we could teach this one lesson to everyone in the world, we could begin to truly fix everything that’s wrong with our society. Everything.

    But can any of us say that we don’t suffer from this same problem? Haven’t you ever walked into a restaurant, intending to make the healthy meal choice, and instead picked the burger and fries you’ve been craving all day? Or gone grocery shopping, planning to spend within your set budget, only to spend $50 to $100 more than that? That’s the same thing you’re describing. It even involves lying to yourself to make it seem okay. Not to mention, cheating yourself out of a healthy, financially secure future. Are actions like these, ones that many of us do every single day, really all that different from what you’ve just described?

    If humans could learn to view the big picture rather than their immediate wants and needs whenever making important decisions like this, the world would be a better place. I, personally, agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. And I intend to start looking at the big picture rather than my immediate wants from now on. In fact, that’s why I started my blog. To track my progress in becoming the person I want to be (big picture), and to be socially accountable for this change. Because sustainable, long-term rewards are better than immediate gratification. They last.

    You might want to read a book called Drive by: Daniel H. Pink. Because as long as we live in a society that rewards results without caring about the manner in which those results are sought, we encourage immediate gratification thinking. Pink has a vision of a world run by what he calls Motivation 3.0. It’s actually quite an interesting idea and useful for more than just a business construct.

    Anyway, thanks for this really interesting post. I wish you luck in your quest to change blogging society and I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

  • Eboni Ifé February 25, 2013, 2:58 PM

    I’m super late, but this is just so bizarre to me…although, I have to say that I’m actually not shocked! But still disappointed. Like you, I take a lot of pride in the fact that I put my money where my mouth is…and I think the fact that my readers know that I buy a lot of what they see on the blog really builds a relationship of trust and integrity. Since I’m not always pushing products that I didn’t pay for, my readers don’t get annoyed when I do promote a gifted item here and there. They trust my opinions because they know I spend money on stuff just like they do…

    …and besides, bloggers give brands enough free pub…why short change yourself even more by faking a relationship that isn’t real. If this is a brand that you really love and want to work with, I’d think faking a relationship would just jeopardize the chances of any real partnership in the future. So, now you’ve just shot yourself in the foot…

    …and finally…lying is just tacky! Lol.

  • Kimberly February 13, 2013, 4:39 PM

    The problem is that there is no rules. That is what it comes down too. Also new bloggers see nothing but the success of successful bloggers, and not the hard work that is put into it. It looks so easy, That is why there is so many people trying to become a blogger and the same reason why a lot of people discredit us.

  • Spashionista (Alicia) February 12, 2013, 11:04 PM

    I am totally in agreement with you. There’s something about people who feel compelled to misrepresent themselves that really repels me. I am honest to a fault and I strive to successfully represent my niche and POV. I would never lie to achieve prestige or notoriety. I’d rather work hard and earn whatever success comes my way.

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  • Bella Q, The Citizen Rosebud February 12, 2013, 5:13 PM

    First off, it is sooo good to “hear” your voice here, B. I don’t care what you talk about- I always get a thoughtful perspective, and an honest authentic voice. I am not a bit surprised BUT I think its because of the insular, virtual quality of blogging. In real life you think, this is real, I have to account for it. But as a faceless, idea of something maybe we live in fantasy a bit too much so “play” at blogger? I’m not surprised, but I think it is wrong and worse, ridiculously stupid.

    Blogging aka fashion blogging is a weird world, and sometimes it is good to pull fashion-able head out of one’s c/o by Anthro ass and look around. Real life, real people. Real consequences.

  • Joy @ OSS February 11, 2013, 11:11 PM

    Thank you, this was super powerful read. I miss your blogging so glad you wrote this post 🙂

  • Kimberlee February 11, 2013, 5:17 PM

    I was also naive like you when my blogging buddy showed me the Fashionista article. I totally did not understand. If they could afford the Coach, bravo! And I agree with you (and Ashe who wrote on IFB) that you should proudly show you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is with certain brands. I also didn’t like the fashionista article how it said that other bloggers laugh at the one blogger who does it and I didn’t like @bagsnob’s tweet. If these girls feel like they need to do these things, I find it sad. They shouldn’t MOCK THEM! #meangirls I completely understand being swept up in this competition and feeling like you need to have what “top tier” bloggers (like Bag Snob) have. I struggled with it during the beginning of my blogging and quite frankly was broke every month. It’s not realistic. Blogging also feeds into our consumer culture we feel the need to buy buy buy and bloggers feed that by sharing products they love, sales, sample sales, etc. I honestly don’t know how some of these bloggers afford all of it. But the moment I gave up trying to keep up, I could breathe. I wish the Fashionista article (like Ashe tried to in the IFB) article was breakdown the best way to work with brands rather than be mean girls and be like “oh isn’t sad these poor pathetic girls are pretending to be cool.” I hate that’s what blogging has become when it started off as such a pure, kind hearted place.

    Sorry for the rant! hehe

  • Jenmarie February 8, 2013, 4:19 PM

    I have never heard of someone doing this before and it astonishes me but at the same time it doesn’t surprise me because I know there are people out there who blog that just want to be famous. I think it’s dishonest and therefore wrong.

  • Serene February 7, 2013, 11:55 AM

    What an interesting topic! There is absolutely a dark side to blogging and it seems that it’s not always the popular thing to talk about it. The Jessica Quirk (WIW) days of seemingly easy success with just posting what you wore every day are over. I think even SHE is feeling that. NOW, there’s money in it and as Cindy Lauper once sang, “Money changes everything”. It seems to me that now, there are fabricated “successful” bloggers who have actually been advanced by a brand before they ever developed a substantial following. OR many of the really successful ones have ties to the fashion industry. I can’t even imagine how cool it would be to get untold amounts of beautiful freebies in the mail! Heaven? YES! But it’s just not the reality for most bloggers nowadays. I think what has happened is that many upstart bloggers are now trying to rush the process. Like you mentioned, feigning fame and brand courtship when it doesn’t actually exist. I’ve even read on some bloggers’ FAQ page some questions that I thought, “There’s no WAY someone actually emailed her to ask her how she got to be so awesome!” LOL The prospect of blogger fame is intoxicating and so many will run roughshod over each other with a glossy smile on their face. Interestingly enough, the only winners are the brands. A recent Brahmin campaign featured a number of gorgeous bloggers modelling about 3 different Brahmin bag. Apparently, these bloggers were paid in a couple of bags and they had to supply the pictures and photography (a specific resolution and quality). So Brahmin gets free models, photography and a HUGE amount of blogosphere marketing for their lookbook and all they’re out are a few bags. How much do you think they would have paid for professional models, a professional photographer and that kind of marketing? To be honest, I think, as bloggers, we sometimes sell ourselves short for a few free garments! Anyhoo, that’s my two cents! GREAT discussion! Serene

  • Madison February 6, 2013, 11:31 AM

    How crazy! Lying about working with brands or even buying items saying you got them free is entirely outrageous. It’s terribly sad that some feel that’s what it takes for sucess instead of having focus on the main point, being passionate in what you do. I think bloggers in general should be selective, if the collaboration really doesn’t suit you or your blog don’t do it! Saying yes to “everything” is never the answer. It’s the bad apples that give the “blogger” a bad name. But, all must take responsibility for what they publish, I am really put off when bloggers don’t disclose if they received something as a gift, c/o, etc. And, I also agree with Shybiker, when there’s lack of intergrity it does truly show in many ways.

  • Shybiker February 6, 2013, 9:49 AM

    In areas where there’s no bar for entry (like blogging), you will see the cross-section of humanity. Which is often sad. If people lack integrity, that will show in ways like this. We can carp about it but a blogger’s bona fides are easy to ascertain and those people who of little integrity will not attract real friends.

  • MJ February 6, 2013, 9:27 AM

    I had absolutely no idea this was going on! I read Fashionista’s post and afterwards I wasn’t shocked. Just in the time we’ve been blogging, the surge of fashion bloggers, brand relationships, etc. has imploded and everyone is trying to get on the train (and stay on it!) But like all things, when the glitter fades and the smoke clears, those who are true to their craft, honest with their community, and become successful through hard work will stay on top.

  • india February 5, 2013, 5:52 PM

    i’m thinking grandma’s advice “don’t write anything you wouldn’t be happy to have published on the front page of the New York Times” is still pretty sound :o)

  • grechen February 5, 2013, 1:36 PM

    i agree a million percent with everything you mention above, but want to add that i was also very frustrated that fashionista basically just threw this out there without backing up their claims with evidence. i’m not saying that i don’t believe this goes on (bloggers faking swag), just like i believe there are bloggers who don’t disclose free stuff, but until the PR companies/reps come out and acknowledge it openly, while calling out the bloggers who do it, it’s just speculation…everyone (PRs, is too scared to tell the truth while naming names because they still want the publicity (which one of the PRs mentioned in the article). by not calling out the wrongdoers (or at least asking them to remove links/reference, etc), they’re perpetuating the dishonesty. what’s wrong is wrong, a lie is a lie, whether or not it leads to good publicity for your brand.

    no one is holding bloggers, PR reps, brands, or sites like fashionista accountable for all the issues with non-disclosure, lying, etc., in the industry. we all have to hold EACH OTHER responsible, and until that happens, nothing’s going to change. the sad thing is new (and maybe old…) bloggers will probably read that “article” and get an idea to buy something and say they got it for free, since it wasn’t really clear that it’s a “bad” thing to do…

  • Kelly February 5, 2013, 1:08 PM

    This is just so….disconcerting? It makes me wonder if any of the bloggers proudly showing off their ARCs (advanced reading copies, for anyone not down/up with book blogging lingo) are faking it – it wouldn’t be too hard to take a photo someone else had posted of their ARC and edit it a bit to make it seem like it was their own.

    I think if I did find out people were doing that in my blogging community, I would just feel so cheap and dirty and lied to. I work hard on my blog, and on building relationships. I want the fruits of my labour to because of my hard work – not because I lied to get what I wanted.

    But the whole concept of instant success is a post in itself – we live in an instant world, where information is being shared around the world within seconds of its release. Can we fault a generation used to instant-everything to also look for the easy way to instant success? (I think we can, but it’s still interesting to think about).

    Great post B – thanks for enlightening me to this darker side I was unaware of.

  • Kristin February 5, 2013, 12:59 PM

    That is insanity. How are brands not calling out bloggers who are lying about their relationships with them? Does transparency mean nothing anymore?

  • Tanvi February 6, 2013, 9:52 AM

    My thoughts exactly?!?! This is news to me. I didn’t know blogging has become so desperate.