How the Cookie Cutters Got Me Down

by - 3:00 PM

Warning: if you get offended by this post, you're probably part of the group I'm talking about. Don't take this as a personal attack, let's have a civil discussion in the comments instead :)

Ever since I've gone to Cuba, I haven't been as active in the blogging community as I used to be. No Twitter chats (barely any tweets for all that matter), very few Instagram posts and a grand total of two posts on the blog - which I didn't promote on any platform until five to seven days after posting. I wish I could say it's just some kind of small slump, but no. My lack of online presence is the direct result of something that's been bothering me for the last six months: I feel like I don't belong in the blogging community anymore.

Like everything in life, the blogging community is constantly changing. I've been around since late 2012 and have seen a lot of change. YouTube became the key to internet success, being on every single social media platform became necessary, pictures became more important than writing to a lot of people, you name it and I've been through it. Yet I never felt like there wasn't a place for me anymore. Things changed and I dealt with it. Until one trend completely got me down: cookie cutter blogs.

Admit it, we all know at least one blogger with a cookie cutter blog: a blog with the same content as 90% of all blogs in its particular niche, written in the same way and with as much originality and character as a blank piece of paper. These cookie cutters have always been around, but lately they seem to have become more prominent and present in my newsfeeds and timelines. What's more: these are exactly the kind of blogs that somehow blow up within a month. In the meantime, I'm working hard to tell compelling stories about places and things that would otherwise get overlooked. I try to make people who read my blog feel like they were there with me when I was traveling through Southeast Asia. I try to make my excitement and love for comics and books tangible. I hope to open people's eyes to the amazing street art they otherwise would have walked past without even noticing. And for what? To see a product review of mascara, a product review that gives the exact same information in the exact same tone of voice as hundreds of other blogs, get at least three times the number of views and comments as the post I wrote with all my heart. Not the best thing for your self-esteem and motivation, let me tell you that.

I became very pessimistic and bitter over the course of this winter, when I saw more and more cookie cutter blogs blow up or grow to a thousand followers in no time. I had no idea how they did it, while I was working my ass off to see zero progress. And I wasn't the only one. I saw the same thing happen with some of my talented friends. I was glad to get away from all that for nine days when I went on vacation last month: the internet is a luxury in Cuba, one I didn't care for during my stay. Those nine days were spent in ignorant bliss. No blogger drama, no overhyped bloggers who were basically all repeating each other, no cookie cutters making me feel inadequate. That ignorant bliss ended the minute I set foot on Dutch soil again. As soon as I opened Twitter, it all came back. Had I been able to turn a blind eye to certain cookie cutter behavior before, I now couldn't ignore it any longer. I was almost crying tears of frustration when I saw some of the things people tweet about blogging and being a blogger these days. It made me want to go back to internetless Cuba right away.

Over the course of the next few days, I tried to get back into the whole blogging thing, but failed. As you might know, I've been in therapy for an inferiority complex, so insecurity will always be my Achilles heel. That's exactly where cookie cutter blogs unknowingly hit me with posts and tweets. Wherever I looked I saw statements like: "You have to go self-hosted and build your DA up or brands will never work with you", "WordPress is the only place to become successful as a blogger" or "Are you even a blogger if you don't take OOTD pics in front of colorful doors in London?".
I guess brands will never work with me then, I prefer Blogger so apparently I'm going to be unsuccessful by default and hello? I don't live in London. I don't even live in the UK. And I hate taking pictures of the clothes I'm wearing. Does that make me any less of a blogger? My rational mind would say 'no', but that insecure part of me started to doubt. Because these things were all said by bloggers who were so much more successful than I am, so maybe they were right after all. Maybe I was just a failure of a blogger. I kept thinking, overthinking and doubting. I did this so much that I wanted to give up on blogging. More and more statements like these popped up on my timeline. This coincided with follow train after follow train and a tsunami of blogging cliche's being shared ("Every blogger is amazing, you are so amazing, followers don't matter as long as you're having fun"). Now I have nothing against motivational tweets, but seeing the same motivational tweet over and over again with only slight changes in wording makes people on Twitter look like faulty copy machines. You can figure out why I dislike follow trains for yourself. What frustrated me most, however, was that these tactics of follow trains and cliche tweets worked for people. Cookie cutters imitating copy machines were growing like crazy and I... I was about to throw in the towel.

For about two weeks I was relatively quiet online and lived offline. I went to Black Panther, started recycling cans and plastic bottles to raise money for a charity that cleans up the plastic soup, I went ice skating and booked a trip to Israel and Jordan. I thought about pulling the plug on Lost in Translation. Then my mom helped me realize me and my blog aren't my problem. Twitter is.

Cookie cutters will always be around. Their presence on Twitter and the know-it-all-attitudes that some people on that platform have tend to get me down though. Whenever I scroll through Twitter, all I do is compare myself and feel awful about not fitting into the idea of what a good blogger is. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm sometimes jealous of the success recycled content gets. I'm not saying you're not allowed to write about things someone else likes to write about. Neither am I saying you can't be inspired by someone else's posts or just be similar to another blogger. But with plagiarism being a real issue lately and some people pumping out passionless posts, I do feel awful when I pour my heart and soul into a post about how Cuba is nothing like you'd ever expect gets seen by about 10 to 20 people.

I can't wrap my mind around plagiarism and cliches getting so much time of day, but I don't want to waste any more time thinking about cookie cutter blogs. I allowed cookie cutter blogs to get me down, but not anymore. From now on I'm going to focus on writing the best blog posts I can, even if that means they'll never be read by more than 20 people. Because my mom was right when she said: "You write for you and your followers. It doesn't matter how many followers you write for. What matters is that you tell stories that are true to who you are." And telling those stories is exactly what I'm going to do, now and always.

x Envy

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6 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Story time: Last month I got contacted by the biggest Slovenian media outlet for people aged 15-35, and they invited me to a job interview without me sending a cv. They later told me they picked me based on my blog because they loved the way I don't fit into the blogosphere, and now I have an amazing, well-paid writing job. So it's better to write content you love and have 10 loyal readers that appreciate your content, than to have millions of followers that just glance over the product reviews. :)

  2. I used to wonder the same thing - how others had so many followers and there I was racking my brains out trying to blog, or following advice given by people, and still it wasn't as successful as other blogs. Then I gave up - I stopped blogging for a while, much like you but then, as you did, decided to blog my way and write what I want. Your mum gave you great advice!! She's one in a million :) Definitely tell stories that are true to who you are. Keep blogging!
    F xx

  3. I love your blog. I always have and always will. I have seriously appreciated your content because of the fact that its so different than everything I see on my timeline. I love that. dont ever change and become a cookie cutter blog.

    thank you for writing this post too. as I read through it, I could relate to a lot of the same feelings you had.

    please keep writing and sharing your experiences. even if your blog never blows up, the followers you have are so appreciative of your talent

  4. I'm reading your post while listening to music and, ironically or coincidentally, I hear the Scissor Sister sing: It's a bitch convincing people to like you. Which somehow, in a way, can be related to what you've written. It's very hard to be seen these days and to convince people to go and 'invest' in 'you' as you're just another tweet in the billions of tweets you can scroll by. I guess that's maybe why cookie cutter content is so popular as it provides you with something familiar to look at in this wave after wave of information and people asking for your attention. This way you're almost secured with 'good' content as it's the same as everyone else's, eliminating a bad choice and therewith a potential unpleasant experience. We're not all daredevils. ;)

    I absolutely get where you're coming from and recently -more than ever before- share your frustrations and anxiety. An especially 'painful chord' for me is when people with in my eyes samey-same content rises to internet fame within a month and 'bragging' about their accomplishments. Although I can definitely say this has probably got more to do with jealousy than actual disgruntlement as, in the end, it's a dream I've dreamed many times before.

    I wouldn't say I'm Miss Original, but cookie cutter content HAVE teached me some things about structuring my on-and-on-and-on rambling blogposts (although I'm still an absolute mess at it) and that if you want more people than just your mum to read your blogposts, it wouldn't harm to spread the word on Social Media (also dreadful at doing that and the actual result is generally nothing, but, ya know, it's now that I KNOW about these things, not necessarily about applying them or immediately turning into the biggest blogger the world has ever known).

    I don't actually think I have anything to add to what you've said (which makes you beg the question 'why the long reply?', well apparently I feel like writing, but just not an actual blogpost so your comment section will be butchered instead...). I think your mother is absolutely right and I like the sort of 'power statement' you attach to it! Long live (trying to) stay true to yourself!


    P.s. Thank you for your comment on my post about fashion rules. You literally made me ran downstairs and yell 'OMG OMG OMG' all the way down... Also, as I said in my reply, you have no reason to feel bad about translating invented fashion fads so the company can sell more clothes, it's what they are supposed to do, I guess. Their true calling! ;)

  5. I've noticed this too!! Not that my opinion really matters lol but I absolutely love your blog!! The way you write your travel posts and just your posts in general are so good and even though I don't comment on all of them know that I read them!

  6. I'll say this again. I love your work. You have a real authentic style.
    Those cookie cutter blogs feel like online magazines to me. They are just too flashy for my taste. I've even thinking about rebelling and doing anti fashion reviews lol.
    Going over to the H^&M, putting on a super long dress and name my post : what to wear if you want to look like a curtain. But then again I think i may anger some people ;)
    Let's build our own little 'authentic blog' community.


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