Bloggers in need of help. Not for their fake problems but their real ones.

I have been reading with great fascination (and not a small degree of annoyance) various stories over the years, of bloggers who stage and promote their own dramas for attention or page views or fame or mental illness, or perhaps some other reasons I can’t quite figure out.

There was the infamous story of April Rose, a terminally ill fetus who died some hours after birth…only she didn’t. There was never any such baby. Just an elaborate hoax for attention.

The list goes on.

There was the TSA Took My Baby story which was easily and quickly proven false (or at least…not all true) with the help of airport security videos. I even hesitate to mention it, because the blogger has since apologized and to this date, I don’t entirely understand what happened, where the disconnect was, or whether she somehow believed it to be true. However she is entitled to make amends and move on, and that she has.

Just last year, on a more national scale, there was the Gay Girl from Damascus, who turned out to be a “hairy dude from Georgia” as it was aptly described by Kristine on MamaPop.

I loved her conclusion: “By making up a story about a girl from Syria, he basically took a voice away from a real one.”

I could not agree more. All this has been on my mind the last few days, since hearing back-channel murmurings, again, about bloggers who seem stage (or enhance) melodrama in their lives for online attention. (To say nothing of buying Twitter followers, participating in linkback schemes for traffic, or gaming Klout scores; but that’s another post.)

It makes me crazy. And when something like this makes me crazy I always try to step back and wonder why I don’t just ignore it like normal people do.

Maybe because, as Nate says, I’m the most trusting person he knows and the James Freys of the world chip away at my optimistic world view.

Because as Kristen says, I care deeply about the blogging community and have seen over and over that fraud and absurd conference drama impacts us all. (See also: Crocs blackmailer)

And because, as Kristine said in her Damascus post, there are real bloggers with real problems who need help. My heart, in these moments, turn to them.

I have spent months, even years, following the often tragic stories of people I know and trust. Parents who have lost children–the worst possible thing I can imagine–from the exceptional writers Heather Spohr and Kate Inglis, to my own inlaws. And certainly the feisty, unrelenting Katie Granju who continues to fight a mighty legal fight to clear her son’s name after he died of a drug overdose that could have been prevented.

There are parents who have suddenly lost a spouse, like Matt Logelin or Jennifer Perillo.  The world has followed the well-known near death–and recovery–of Stephanie Nielson and her husband from a horrific plane crash.

And of course much-needed depression advocacy comes from strong online voices with personal experience with their own demons, most notably Katherine Stone, Heather Armstrong, and Jenny Lawson. They bare their own souls, sometimes even to the mockery or judgment of others, all to help those thousands of readers who would otherwise live lives of quiet desperation, never knowing that all along they had company.

This week alone, my thoughts are with my friend and colleague, Mir of Woulda Shoulda who’s in a fight to save her daughter from unknown demons and diseases. And the incomparable Anissa Mayhew, whose miraculous recovery from a stroke was cheered on by the internet, but whose feisty, hilarious, remarkably resilient nature is still tested in the face of inconsiderate asses who find wheelchairs in their restaurants annoying and inconvenient. To see someone like her start to crack, cracks me too.

(Clearly the 10 minutes they were inconvenienced by her presence far surpasses the lifetime of it that Anissa will endure. Assholes.)

And I always think of my very dear friend Tanis Miller, who lost a son, but gained a new purpose in life, adopting and advocating for special needs children. I still remember when I made a comment about feeling how lucky I am to have healthy children. She snapped back, “Actually, I’m lucky to have all my children.”

And F me, if she didn’t just school me for life. (Thanks Tanis.)

I’m not describing these people because they need your sympathy (although they certainly have mine). I mention them as exquisite examples of resilience, strength, fortitude, and above all–authenticity.

It’s the one trait in my mind that has always described any blog worth reading, on whatever the topic.

Back to my original point, I mention these men and women because I don’t believe one of them ever wrote about their deepest, most painful problems thinking, “wow, this will go over great on Facebook!”

And I don’t imagine one of them ever sent a press release out about their children dying, or their tragic disfiguring accidents, pitching it as a great news story the day after it happened. I don’t think they felt the need to embellish their problems, or manufacture drama or tie it all up in a neat little bow about what lessons they’ve learned from it all. I imagine they simply needed to tell their stories. To get it out. And maybe, perhaps, to get some support and compassion in return, something to keep them going.

It’s the best–the very best–of the blogosphere; rallying for those in need.

So yes, page views are nice. Fame has its benefits. I’m sure a book deal looks mighty attractive when you’re just a person behind a blog struggling to pay the bills on crappy $2 CPM banner ads. And indeed, some of these bloggers have ended up sharing their stories in books and in published essays. As they should. They’re good, important stories.

But if you’ve lost your authenticity en route to “greater” successes, then in my mind, you have nothing of value for me here. You do have my sympathy however; but not for the reasons you’d think.

Do I sound sanctimonious? Eh, fine. I’m entitled once in a while.

My heart–and help–is with those who need it. Sometimes because they asked. Most often, because they didn’t.


Thanks Elan for including this post in Five-Star Friday.


160 thoughts on “Bloggers in need of help. Not for their fake problems but their real ones.”

  1. Thank you for the rant. Last week many of us were stunned by a blogger creating a persona as a mother of a stillborn child and then a 2-month-old who supposedly “died” after a car accident. She was flooded with support and then she was revealed to be a hoax: she said she wanted a distraction from her life. WTF? Who makes up dead babies????? So wrong.

    1. I have to be honest, when I was asking for help for my niece, I could only hope that I had earned enough trust that people didn’t question its authenticity. Sad that it even had to cross my mind.

      1. I was devastated when you posted about your niece. Devastated for her family. Devastated for YOUR family. Her story touched me profoundly because I trust you. Because you are authentic. I very much appreciated that you so publicly used your clout (not your Klout!) to raise awareness and much needed funds. We all need to think on how we can use our powers here in the blogosphere, in this kind and strong community, for good. Not for better looking google analytics numbers.

  2. Fantastically and amazingly brilliant. Having sat in the room at Type-A over the weekend listening to the words read aloud by some of the very women you mention here, I couldn’t help but think over and over that TRUTH always resonates. Always. People crave reality, not fake reality, but actual, painful at times, funny at others, real life, honest to goodness, straight up life. Thank you.

    1. I was thinking exactly the same thing. The writing has to be beautiful, but more than that, it has to be real. And if we lose that, then our craft offers little to the world and we should stop.

  3. For once I have no clue who or what you’re talking about and I’m thrilled about that. Either way I know this needed to be said. It gets old. The drama for the sake of drama gets old.

    Btw You forgot the BH cake drama. 😉

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing. Sometimes backing away and not being in the thick of things can be kinda nice!

  4. I would venture a guess that at the heart of all good, authentic bloggers, is a writer who is overjoyed to find a public forum for her (or his) stories — good stories, hard stories, stories that make others feel less alone. Stories that make communities. And it’s horrid that others want to horn in on those communities without being real.

    Thanks for this post. Fictions are so damaging because they sow doubt. I’ve seen it at Glow in the Woods, where I’ve visited because of my own experience as a babylost mom. I can’t imagine why other people would make sh!t up for pageviews. That’s incomprehensible to me.

  5. A great post, blogging with your authentic voice is the best thing you can do as it’s done with honesty, even if I hold back it makes it harder to blog. Sometimes I share too much perhaps, but I am always honest. It is strange to think there are people who need to make up drama, as if you really have drama in your life it’s the last thing in the world you want.

  6. So well written! What is sad to me is that sometimes I doubt stories from the genuine, real people because of all the fakers out there. Don’t these fakers know they will get busted? You can’t keep a lie like that going, especially if you are doing it for fame and fortune. Rather than be disheartened by all the liars out there, just remember it’s the real stories that live on, and it’s the genuine people that make the difference.

  7. I am so deeply grateful to have you for my friend. Celebratory internet hugs for everyone!

    But more than that, I am grateful for truth speakers and seekers such as yourself, because it is people like you who inspire the rest of us to do better and be better.

    Someone ought to write a press release about THAT.

  8. Well said. I don’t blog but read you and many of the other people you mentioned here. I am sure the bloggers mentioned above would rather have their loved ones here with them then drama for their blog.

  9. The drama seekers distract from those wanting to tell their stories; the heartbreaking, happy, silly and authentic stories. Thank you for the rant.

  10. Fantastic post as always, Liz. I got into a discussion with someone about everyone’s favorite single dad chuckling and she didn’t understand why it was so hurtful for him to lie at every opportunity about every single thing he posts about, and I said something similar to her. His fake story with fake emotion and invented characters who react unnaturally takes away the power of the story of someone like Seth when he came out to his daughter. Don’t tell other people’s stories, especially when they’re lies. And don’t issue press releases when you stub your toe on a camping trip.

  11. Yes. Yes. Yes. Can we also add those that dramatize the everyday hurts and foibles to melodrama? That blurs the lines too. Great piece. I have had a sinking feeling reading some posts that perhaps things are staged or edited for dramatic effect. The truth is infinitely more profound and interesting unless you clue me in that you are writing fiction—I do appreciate a good yarn. Great piece, Erin

  12. This was fantastic. We are very new to blogging but have found the wonderful writings of people who think and care deeply about their families and their world to be a true inspiration. I was thinking when reading this how grateful I am to live in a time when I can hear so many voices that would never have reached me in an earlier age.

  13. The hoaxes and lies do suck because a few months back someone blogged about a story that they has since said: “Oh it could’ve been a hoax.” So when a real family reached out to me with a similar story, I hesitated to publish it because I worried people wouldn’t believe it.
    I published it anyway and figured anyone with questions would (hopefully) email me and I can put them in touch with the family (unlike the blogger back in the Spring), but I still worried about my reputation and how to support this family.
    They have been supported by the Internet and some of the blogging community, but I wonder if the family would’ve been given more support if the first blogger hadn’t lied or said he might have been tricked.
    It seems unfair to all of us but especially to this family who is actually living the story.

  14. YES. And I’ve been seeing similar stirrings on Twitter too… people baiting for attention. It makes me crazy. (Also, clearly I need to stop following those people.)

  15. This is not a rant…this is important, well-said stuff. Thanks for saying it. As someone else above mentioned, it’s great when respected voices use them. That guy just…baffles me. And his supporters, even more so.

  16. I hear what you’re saying, and agree with your cry for authenticity. But these extreme cases are not “normal” people (whatever that means) but pathological liars which is a form of mental illness. That’s the only way to understand them. Our socially networked world gives them a huge platform to spread those lies – and tragically distract from and even cast doubt upon those with real problems – but so does it give us, complete strangers, the platform on which to build this conversation.

    1. There are some people who have mental illnesses and fabricate stories. I think there are others who just really want attention and…embellish. Or they get a taste of attention and have to keep building on it to keep it up. I can’t really speak to any one individual’s motives. But I think for some, it’s as if blogging success (whatever that means) is a game to be won at any cost.

  17. When my life gets hard, when I can’t work things out, I want to shut down my blog.

    I want to shut it down because I know I don’t have the courage, the resilience, the whatever to write about the things that are yes, newsworthy and would get me many pageviews but would sacrifice my anonymity, such as it is on-line, and my privacy, and my children’s privacy. And yet writing humor stuff feels fraudulent when my heart is heavy.

    So it makes me crazy that some people manufacture drama for page views. I see it as a mental illness. That’s the way I get through it.

    1. I’m with you on that. I’m happy to put my opinions on display (as you are with your humour writing), but I have no interest in having other people weigh in on any drama I may be experiencing in my own life.

    2. Read Bossypants whenever you’re feeling this. Comedy, tragedy, pain, joys, challenges…all hilarious and wonderfully readable.

      It reminds me you don’t need to scribble 100 REASONS BREASTFEEDING WOMEN SHOULD COVER UP to write something people want to read.

  18. Yes. Yes! Yes.

    I’m so thankful for you and your posts, as always. xox

    And can I add Anna to the list of women I admire? ( Her tragedy, the loss of her son, and the way she has written about him, her loss, and her heartache, has absolutely, 100%, changed my perspective on life. I know better than to complain about a ‘shitty’ day. She is beyond inspiring. Thank goodness for all the GOOD that comes out of this blogging community.

  19. I remember the mother who tweeted while her daughter drowned and even while the paramedics were there.


    And I don’t understand it.

  20. So well said, my friend. So well said. Those who choose to write about their hardship, probably don’t even realize how much they are helping others who are going through the very same things. For that I am grateful to this community. I’m not sure I would have come out so much better, on the other side of post-partum depression and a later nervous breakdown, if it weren’t for the courage it took to read the words of others in my situation, and write candidly about it myself. It truly helps to know you’re not alone. I look back on those times and compare it to where I am now, and just shake my head. Wow. So much better.

  21. Brilliant. I love that quote from Tanis, too, and that she wasn’t afraid to say it.

    You are right. The worst part of the attention-seekers is that they kill empathy for people who are actually struggling for real without saying HEY LOOK AT ME OVER HERE.

    Thank you for writing this.

  22. My mother has always said “misery loves company.” Usually those people who make up stories about their lives are trying to escape their own reality. Many times it is a mental disorder seeking attention…much like Munchausen syndrome. What makes it really sad though is that it takes away from the people who have witnessed true hurt and loss. I’m like you, I trust what people post – to a fault – and I am always horrified to find out later that the story was untrue….and that someone gained from their deceit.

  23. Such a great post…and SO TRUE…
    Save the Drama for your Mama…
    Can’t handle the Poor Me Bloggers…they are right up there with the Give to me…bloggers and the Why didn’t I Get…bloggers…

  24. How things have changed since I started blogging in 2006 my struggles with infertility and our impending adoption. I couldn’t even begin to blog until the pain had subsided and we were months away from the referral of our son.

    I still only read a handful of blogs–most of them are still the ones I felt connected with in 2006–and they are the ones where with like a favorite book, I feel a connection to the writers (even though I have met few of you amazing ladies and have missed every single Blogher conference because of babies or work or $$).

    I am skeptical of newer blogs because I don’t know the intent behind them and I there are too many people trying to capitalize on their lives. It is too bad that people have lost and/or continue to compromise their authenticity for pageviews, etc.

    Thank you for this post. Bravo and so well said, as always.

  25. There are moments when I ache a little bit for the people who manufacture tragedy because one day it will really come knocking at their door.

    Thanks for shaking your fist and making it easier to see the truth.

  26. Kyle asked me last night why this had me in such a knot. You’ve illustrated it perfectly.

    I hope those with genuine stories will not be dissuaded from sharing their journeys for fear of being drowned out by those merely seeking attention for their own benefit. We need their voices.

  27. The KimKardassiansOfTheBloggingWorld muddy the waters for everyone–even themselves at times. The more soupy the drama, the more desensitized we become to real pain and need. I guess the KKs have a “need” for attention and wilt without it. Too bad the basic needs of life get pushed aside by those basking in undeserved glory. Great post.

  28. I thank you for writing a piece like this. I am new to blogging, I tried once and did not really get the hang of it. Until recently when my own daughter was stillborn due to a placenta abruption, Did I find that blogging actually helped me to get my feelings out. I will be the very first to tell anyone, I would a million times over give up everything to have my daughter back with us. I could not imagine making up a story like mine and getting sympathy and whatever else these people are looking for. I don’t want to go thru everyday missing my baby. Yet, That is the card we are handed and must deal with. Our “story” is something that I would never wish on anyone. People who make up stories to get whatever out it are sick and disturbed and need to be getting help from a professional.

  29. Hot damn this was so well said, Liz. I kept reading that press release over and over trying to wrap my head around a person sitting down and hammering that out about their own ‘traumatic event’… I couldn’t.

    But it’s not just weird and laughable, it’s wrong. And I’m so glad you’ve reminded us why. This community deserves better.

  30. Important, wise words. And there’s a common thread running among the women you mentioned – all are people that I point to when people ask ‘Why on earth do you blog?’

    Because. Because they aren’t afraid to share their stories, and they make me feel that my story is important.

  31. Have you ever seen the movie Catfish? What makes people do these unthinkable things is beyond my comprehension. It’s a real complication of a virtual community, but I think the benefits far outweigh the few bad apples.

    1. I was going to mention the movie Catfish. It should be required viewing for everyone with Internet access.

      Like Marinka, I couldn’t blog about my private life when the chips were really down. Eventually, I had to shut it down completely. So yeah, it boggles my mind a little when people need that external validation so badly they manufacture drama, but at the same time I can see why it could be irresistible to just the right person. Mostly it just makes me sad.

      I also identify with the sentiment that it somewhat degrades the very real experiences others suffer. I think about this all the time with Violence UnSilenced.

      In the end I can only control my own integrity, and in that vein I’d rather be the kind of person that stays open and loving and trusting, regardless of what goes on around me. Let the dust settle where it will, all is well with my soul.

      1. I don’t really consider myself a blogger, probably a twitter”er” who has a blog with a few posts, but I am in with Maggie on this one. When my life is really out of control I turn inward, and it is hard to understand how people can push their dramas outward on the world. I can understand wanting, needing attention badly, I can. But even the most ill person can only let things get so far, can’t they?

  32. Yikes am I glad to not know about the newest situation that must have inspired this post. Thank you, as always, for taking the time to put down words to describe the landscape.

  33. Over the past seven years I’ve watched so much destruction from the drama wars and while I’d like to believe that great and honest writing rises to the top to obscure what lies below, crap in the bilge. But there is a certain (and unfortunately large) audience that really loves to wade into the bullshit and throw it about with glee. I really wish great writing did stand in the way of these virtual shit operas but sadly it doesn’t and regardless, that’s not the issue at hand.

    As usual I love this post Liz and you’d better not be a hairy guy living in his mom’s basement. We should all look at ourselves as members of this audience and maybe make a firm declaration like ‘I will not fan the fires of dishonesty or stir the pot of drama via my blog OR by hijacking another blogger’s comment section AND DEMAND TRUTH!’ Yet I know this is impossible when I (naïvely) try so hard to trust what I read from my ‘peers’. Maybe we need to scrutinize personal blogs like we do the corporations and PR folks but that makes me sad (and really folks, when it boils all down: it’s all about me).

    Let’s all just stop the lies because truth? Truth is mother f’ing sexy.

  34. I believe that every blogger I regularly read has commented on this post, suggesting it a worthy read. They were right.

    Thank you for always….keeping it real.

  35. I’ve almost completely stopped reading blogs, mainly because it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. Given the choice, I’d rather watch the flagrantly artificial world of reality tv. I barely have time to write or read my own blog, but once in a while someone like you reminds me of why I started in the first place. The blogs I read now tend to be people I’ve actually met. Luckily for me, you’re one of them.

  36. Thank you for this. However, you left out an important part of the story. These idiots who make up hoaxes and lies about tragedies for Internet glory squash those of us who suddenly find ourselves in such a situation.

    My wonderful formerly abused rescue dog my husband and I spent 3 years rehabilitating into the confident goofball that walks into all of my blog photos (and ends up on my blog more often than I do) has cancer. I told blog friends who suggested I write about him because he is “part of my story.” Another suggested taking donations for his chemo because we do not have pet health insurance. I resisted both because of the asshats who fake this stuff. Eventually I did both with lots of prodding and being told I better do it or someone was going to do it for me 🙂

    I don’t write about personal feelings and stories because I am a DIY and food blogger. When I started to write about Blitzkrieg I have a new found respect for the bloggers who bare their soles because _this shit is HARD._ However, on a post I ugly cried while writing, I got the best comment from someone delurked and said by telling my dog’s indepth abuse, adoption, and rehabilitation stories they said they are more aware of what these animals go through and that it’s not always sunshine and roses without hard work from the adoptive family. Our cancer story is unintentionally bringing awareness to that issue when my intention is to answer the How’s Blitzkrieg? comments on other posts.

    I think anyone who creates a hoax deserves to be staked on an anthill for the rest of their lives. Especially like in my case, they almost kill the voices that should be heard because we are afraid of being put in the same boat.

  37. Liz – what do you think the role/responsibility of larger blogging organizations, i.e. Blogher, Babble is when these issues arise? I would really be interested to hear your take on it. If you are going to repeat a story to a larger audience, do the “repeaters” have a responsibility to verify?

    1. I think every publication should have clear standards of journalistic integrity. They’re going to differ – from TMZ to the NY Times – but at least if you know what they are, you can make an educated decision as a reader as to where you want to put your time and clicks.

      But as individuals, I have always believed that any blogger should own her words, wherever they’re writing. If you need to write a retraction or correction later, if the facts change, so be it.

      What do you think?

      1. I think the standards should be clearer, but perhaps that burden is on those who read those sites to determine what their standards are. I don’t blog but I read those sites. And truthfully, I have no idea what their standards are. I can’t tell if articles at Babble mock press releases or actually believe them. And given that the forum is about tech issues related to mommyblogging, it seems to me that mocking is inappropriate. So then, was the press release just regurgitated and is that the standard? I truly don’t get if it’s some inside joke or whether it was accepted at face value. It doesn’t seem either is acceptable but perhaps that’s just me.

        1. Well, I’d say that regurgitating a press release is not journalism or blogging in any forum. Press releases are meant to disseminate information for marketing purposes with a particular spin. It’s the writer’s job then to investigate other perspectives or to verify the information in them.

          It’s why review bloggers are not widely regarded as trustworthy – there’s a lot of Control C/ Control V happening, and not a lot of actual “reviewing.”

          But you know you’re right – the burden is on us. Read Fox or read TPM and it’s pretty clear what the perspective is. I think often on websites the perspective is simply “get page views.”

  38. I have as much of a pet peeve with bloggers who over dramatize real problems. One blogger comes to mind. Her problems (or sometimes her perceived problems) were real, but she had a way of blowing them completely out of proportion or spinning them in a way that gained maximum sympathy. I’m not sure she was going for high page hits as much she had this compulsive need to draw in a large crowd of readers who would either stroke her ego or play into the “poor poor me” game. Funny thing is, it IS authentically her. Coincidentally I happen to know someone who knows this person in real life and found out she’s the same way in person. I think some people just naturally feel the need to attract attention and drama. I picked up on it after a while and learned that I had a choice to either play into it or not. I chose not to.

    1. I know people like that too Alyssa. I think that’s a different kind of drama – real in a way, but ongoing and ever present. The “it’s always something” people. I find it hard to be around them much in real life as well because it demands a lot of energy.

      1. I watched “Breaking Dawn, part 1” on DVD this past weekend and was thinking that Bella and Edward are totally the “it’s always something” people. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. It’s like, come on people, be happy with something in your life!

        Okay just needed to get my Twilight rant out of the way (sorry Twilight fans). I also know people like this in real life, and I could sense it too in bloggers as well. For bloggers, I can easily stop visiting their site. I just felt like this one woman was just asking for too much attention, and I know that what she went through was ridiculously tough, but at the same time, people can only take so much.

        The good thing though is that at least it’s real (or at least I assume so!) whereas I still can’t imagine fabricating a story just to have page hits. Talk about exaggerating a headline! This really sucks for me because I’m the type who will cry reading stories about stuff like that, so if I were to find out that it’s fake, it would crush me.

        Then again, maybe not. One of the side effects of reading sob stories is that it really does make me appreciate my toddler even more. I guess the fact that the story was fake sucked, but at least it made me appreciate what I do have (even if I cried like a silly thing about it).

  39. Once we’re taken in by a scam, it’s hard to bounce back and trust again. But I maintain that it’s better to be fooled than to grow a skin so thick we fail to see another person’s pain, or suspect everyone instead of love them. I speak from experience.

    Loved your post. Thank you.

  40. I think I’m glad I missed whoever did whatever last week, cause I hate that stuff. Why would anyone lie?

    I love this quote of yours: “I mention these men and women because I don’t believe one of them ever wrote about their deepest, most painful problems thinking, ‘wow, this will go over great on Facebook!'” YES!

    I always wonder why people are jealous of others with huge Twitter followings or massive traffic who initially got that traffic and interest because of a MASSIVE loss in their life. (They maintain their popularity now, of course, because of their talent as writers and because they are great people.) Is anyone really jealous of that? Of losing a child or a spouse? Because I’ll take a lot less traffic and a lot less followers and even a BIG FAT NOTHING rather than experiencing such loss. It’s all so very odd.

    And, P.S., I’m more than honored that you would include me in this post on the list of people who wouldn’t do that. I’m a big fan of so many of the people you listed precisely because of their integrity.

  41. My skepticism keeps me from following some of the infamous bloggers you listed, not because I don’t believe them, but because I’ve been around the internet a long time and have been burned before so I steer clear of all of them. I often feel guilty for not knowing the stories and my heart was breaking at the “We Still Blog” panel because I was hearing their stories for the first time.

    And then there is that voyeuristic and dirty feeling I get sometimes when I do read about the dead babies. My nature is that I am distant and cold in real life, I suppose it translates online.

    There are amazing women out there pouring their souls out and it’s a shame that others have used their “path to success” and fabricated their own dead baby/dead husband/cancer story.

  42. I’ve been thinking about this since first reading it this morning. I certainly think there are some bloggers make up lies or steal others’ stories because of a misplaced need for fame or mental illness.

    However, I also think that the incredible pressure put on writers to get as many page views as possible, especially if they are writing under contract to someone else, has likely drive some people in to a dark place that they otherwise wouldn’t have gone to. Sort of like the person who crumbles under the pressure at university and feels like the only escape is to plagiarize someone else’s thesis or term paper.

    Does that excuse the bad behaviour? No. But I do think that when companies are working with humans and asking them to tell authentic stories, giving them page view quotas or bonuses is likely to screw that up pretty badly.

  43. This was great, Liz! I could never articulate so concisely why Single Dad Laughing (let’s not beat around the bush) and his ilk vexed me so much. Thanks for writing this.

    You were too “clean and classy” (and unwilling to draw more attention to his drama, I’m sure) to mention SDL by name, but I’m clearly not. Some of your readers surely don’t know what the “press release” references are about, so here’s the link: I don’t think he gets any ad revenue from the press release, so you can click guilt-free.

    I just can’t help myself from directing people to this breathtaking piece of shamelessness. Just remember that Dan (Single Dad Laughing) wrote this press release, wherein he refers to himself as “renowned blogger” and “famed blogger” and essentially interviews himself, as if he were a celebrity or someone who had done something newsworthy, about the important lessons he learned while wasting countless thousands of dollars being airlifted off a mountainside because he had leg cramps. It’s truly amazing.

    1. Wow! I clicked over to the press release and thought it *had* to be sarcasm or a joke. I cannot believe that was serious!

  44. There is something that I keep thinking about so I needed to come back. Because of a lot of the made up drama over the years, I am leery of most new bloggers. Which isn’t fair. Yet, each year I watch my reader dwindle when people leave (like Bon) because I feel like I can only trust so many people. It’s sad in a way, but there it is.

    On Twitter I will talk/engage with anyone. Even say in my comments. But take on reading someone new/befriending new bloggers…well I kinda suck at that.

  45. Too true.

    Interestingly my pain posts – and I have my share – are the ones I don’t promote as much. It’s just an outlet.

  46. What a beautiful post! I agree. The brave women who are posting about their real-life experiences and helping others are to be applauded. When I wrote about postpartum anxiety and domestic violence, those are the posts that people related to and commented on and were encouraged to talk about, because I put myself out there. The ones posting fake drama are hurting the real causes.

  47. My two cents: It all boils down to the Creative Haves and Have Nots. Creativity is just about the last thing left in this world that cannot be bought or learned. You’re either born with it, or you’re not. It’s the freaking Ark of the Covenant. It sends some folks into a frenzy; they CRAVE that type of success. They will lie, cheat and steal to be seen as a good writer or artist. (Never fear: the art world is plagued just the same). I was a successful blogger until I took it private in 2006 when I saw the Blogging Commercialization Cloud roll in. I’m also effortlessly creative and prolific in the fine arts and crap out little nuggets of gold left and right. (I can toot my own horn because I am not linking to myself. Just telling the honest truth.) People I know beg me to create something for them that they can pass off as their own. Stories, art, etc. No shame at all. People can try to learn creative execution but you can’t learn ideas. That’s very frustrating to the “have nots”. There is vitriol: “I never think of cool things! How do you think of this stuff? Where do you get your ideas?” From my brain? Pinterest has done wonders in making just about everyone feel inferior and ineffectual, leading to an idea-stealing frenzy. Keep believing: truth and talent will prevail.

    1. Really interesting perspective. I never thought about people asking artists for something they can pass off as their own – that’s a whole other level of ick.

      Not everyone is a great writer. Not every great writer is a great blogger. Not every great blogger will get a development deal. Life sucks that way.

  48. As someone that blogs about the death of her daughter, the whiners, fakers, over dramatic page view, attention seeking whores piss me off. Thanks for writing about this.

  49. You tweeted that you were surprised and overwhelmed by the number of comments left on this post, so naturally I had to see what it was about (great advertising!).

    And wow. I’ve been blogging for a long time, but I must live in la-la fairy land because it never occurred to me that people would make up horrific stories in order to attract readers and attention. As a writer who is trying to win readership the honest, good-old fashioned way (i.e. SLOWLY), I find that deplorable. Simply deplorable.

    Sometimes I have nothing to write about and even I can find my own writing boring, but I would never dream of being anything but honest about my life with my readers.

    This is maddening!

  50. Very well written. I just cannot understand people who make stuff up for the attention. Don’t we all have enough drama in our lives – why make more up?

  51. So well said. My heart aches like crazy for my friend Mir, who could not possibly be more real. And yeah…the keynote panel at TypeA with Katherine, Tanis and Cecily was mindblowingly amazing. I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about either and I’m glad too 😉

  52. I struggle seeing the over the top need for sympathy that often accompanies some bloggers. I suppose they need some online therapy but often that need and the subsequent response that grows from it seems to forget that just because they are louder it does not mean they are the only ones.

    I had a difficult childhood and I’ve had friends say I should share more of that on my blog; that it would be helpful for others to see that you can escape mental illness and alcoholism. I just don’t think it’s my forte and admittedly some of my stoicism affects what I do see. There is sharing and then there is drama and I hope that I am always able to tell the difference.

    1. I think you’re right in that some confuse blogging with therapy, which it isn’t. I’ve read things that I could never write about. However I think that memorists and online “journalers” (or at least the good ones), will tell their stories whether they’re happy or sad. You’re either a sharer or you’re not.

      But in defense of those who write about mental illness or addiction or whatnot, I think they’re the last people who think they are the only ones. In fact, I’d argue they know perfectly well that they’re not; which is in fact what keeps them writing.

  53. Munchausen-by-Internet. It’s an actual thing.

    I’d rather live the life I have and tell my story than make up one.

  54. You’ve articulated one of my sticky wickets here, Liz.

    My blog is attached to a business, one that I share with a partner. But I blog about my life, and tell stories, and occasionally slip in the occasional “…check out this adorable tee this adorable baby is wearing” kind of thing. Because I’m selling stuff. But I’m also telling true tales of my life, and I think that’s what people like.

    I was nervous about seeming authentic, and I know I’ve mentioned that here before. But many folks have said they enjoy reading the blog because it’s real, because it’s true. And it is. I would never make shit up to sell something.

    On another note-I have a brother that is severely retarded. I’m pretty sure that, like Tanis, I’ve put a beat-down on plenty of people for calling themselves “retarded”, for acting like they have a disability. I know so, because recently on Facebook several friends told my mom as much in response to a forward, that I’d very kindly but firmly told them-when we were in middle school no less-to not say “I’m retarded.” I was kind of shocked that they remember but. But in hindsight, when someone calls you out about something that matters, you likely don’t forget.

    I’ll stop now, because this is becoming it’s own post.

    Thanks, Liz.

  55. I think what I failed to remember when I got into blogging is that bloggers are human beings.

    There are good, sane human beings who are bloggers, and there are crazy ones.

    I’ve learned that crazy, narcissistic online doesn’t always look the same as crazy, narcissistic offline…at least not at first. And it’s easier to convince yourself, as a spectator of reader, that you’re not really seeing crazy, narcissism online when you are looking at seemingly normal smiling and happy images and words.

    Online it’s easier to disguise truths and tell stories that aren’t true for the sake of some emotional or monetary gain. It’s unfortunate, really, but I guess it’s to be expected since the crazies exist in both places.

    I’m glad you wrote this post. What you said here really needed to be said in the way you’ve said it. So thank you for that.

  56. I read through this post wondering what had set it off — and agreeing very much with everything you say — and then I clicked over to Mir’s site and it was a story I hadn’t yet heard. I am just crushed and frightened and THIS is the sort of story we all need to tell and hold each other dear in love and every hope that things will be better. I could never send a press release about my — or my children’s — agony, but I do want to send a press release that says, “we have stories. read them if you dare.” and then go and cry.

  57. Sometimes it’s just so interesting to me that I can just sit at my little desk with my computer in front of me and read about someone’s life (“good or bad”) and see photos of their family and get to “know” them in a way that I may not even fully know some of my IRL friends/acquaintances. And for someone to falsify that life, someone I THINK I know fairly well from their words and images, well that’s just unthinkable. I myself could never do such a thing. But I’m guessing it happens almost every day in some way.

    It makes me think of that quote from Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.

    Thanks for sticking up for authenticity, Liz. 🙂

  58. It’s frightening to me how you often end up writing (in much more eloquent and thoughtful terms) what I’m still pondering in my head. I’ve been thinking about many of the stories I hear, and I know – I know! – that they aren’t Truth. Maybe there’s a kernel, but it’s well embellished. And I can’t understand why people don’t just write fiction. I love fiction!

    But then I remember the addiction I used to have to page views, and I remember that my blog doesn’t have ads, and I remember that I started my blog as therapy, not as a conversation. And then I feel less weirded out by others’ need for attention.

  59. I saw you tweet this this morning and I said, “wait, people are still doing that?” And I hadn’t come across the latest episode yet. The whole thing just makes me sad.

    I know bloggers are billed as “attention whores” but eventually it all comes out anyway. And is that what you want your legacy to be? I guess I don’t get it.

  60. Very thought provoking, Liz. I started following this story on the back channels on FB and the whole thing has me thinking in broad strokes about what we do and why we do it. This example seems to be one of what NOT to do, but I’m sad there IS an example like this to point to now.

  61. I think there are people who blog/write to the other extreme – bragging about utter and sheer happiness and perfection and great sex lives and oooh, love my hubby and my kids are so gifted and life is grand …. and capture an audience who literally idolizes them and tries to imitate them in an effort to be like them..of course, we know behind closed doors – life really is not always that super!! I cannot stand this as much as blogging about fake or blown out of proportion problems.

    1. You’re right Rachel! I can’t imagine *needing* to write if my life were perfect. I think it’s the conflict, the challenges, the questions that lead me to ponder. Although hey – bless those people who have perfect lives, should they exist. More power to them.

  62. An amazing read. I’m new to blogging and had no idea people would post something so horrible and tragic and have it not be true. People always surprise me, yet I still try and trust.

  63. Wow. Amazing post. I shudder to think that, somewhere, there are real babies dying and these self-absorbed idiots are taking any shred of the world’s sympathy away from them. Why can’t some people just be banned from the internet?

  64. I don’t read all that many blogs and I had no idea about any of the posts you mentioned but I think if you have a connection with your readers and you want to share a problem with them then thats ok. Exaggerating for affect isn’t though. Since I often blog about my family and kids who are much older, when I have an issue I usually share it. Not for sympathy but because when stuff affects my family it therefore affects me.

    I don’t do any of it for page views and in fact, I’m not monetized in any way. Of course, I’m just telling the facts and not enhancing the story.

    Just thought I’d comment on all this…

  65. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t follow personal blogs what the appeal is. I tell them I am stunned by how well some of the best bloggers write, and how their honesty about life’s moments both big and small inspires and moves me. I think it’s easy to spot people who write because they love/need to write, and those who are motivated by other factors.

    Thanks for being someone who shares her writing in this manner. I love your blog.

  66. Amazing post, you spoke the words so may of us think. I remember posting when Gregory died but honestly don’t remember my words without reading the posts again.

    I cannot imagine taking money from people and am horrified that people even ask after a personal tragedy like that, it just seems so odd. You mentioned Jennifer Perillo and I still haven’t figured out what that whole situation was.

    1. Jennifer is a good person. My understanding in a nutshell: other bloggers took on her cause, raised money for her by making some assertions that weren’t true (though well-intended), raised way more than they expected/she needed, and she was excoriated for it.

      I would never lump her in with writers perpetrating fraud.

  67. I will say that at times it can feel for a writer who wants to write but doesn’t particularly have demons to write about – or does, but does another kind of writing – that as in Real Life, it’s the Big Stories and Big Events that get readership on the blogosphere. In the end, we write publicly because we want to be heard.

    Feeling some compassion, I can understand that even though I may not write about the pains in my life, it becomes a life’s pain to put out a heartfelt artistic endeavor day after day, year after year, and feel like a lost voice. Hoaxes are wrong. But I do think that instead of feeling fooled again and not reading blogs anymore as so many say, we need to equally attempt to say “I hear you” to all writers, even on the sunny days, or the silly days. Everyone I’ve ever met has some great pain in their life. The blogging community highlighting and recognizing the works of all good writers should be a conscious prime objective if we want to get beyond writing reviews for cash and desperate souls feeling as if they need to manufacture events – whether tragedies or making up ridiculous life happenings – or possibly even worse, feel as if they have to pony up with hurtful real life situations in order to have their other works noticed.

    In some ways, we do create the beast. I think asking, “How can we change this” is as important as just running someone over the coals and hoping that public shaming and punishment will serve as a deterrent. I don’t like that about prison, and I’m hoping that an solution that depends on our community enlightenment will come forth.

    1. I’m just sayin….

      The guy wrote this

      I don’t know how accurate this is or true as far as the details, but it touched a lot of people. If he’s been going off the rails, then as a community, I hope we can nudge him back. A lot of people had their lives changed by the James Frey book, even after finding out that was fictionalized. A hoax is different, a planned stunt that could have put others in harm’s way is very bad, and anything scamming people from money is horrendous. But.

      I’d say this is a good writer with angels and demons – like all of us – who was pushed to his demons. I’d say he’s a blogger in need of help. Just not how he thought. Having a mirror-facing intervention is part of it. But if this destroys a good writer, I think it’s a loss for us all. I don’t think there are many of us who don’t check our stats or comments – he took it to the dark side. But shunning and destroying is not our thing.

      From Liz:
      You know, I had added some links which dispute the authenticity of that post, but that’s for someone else to share if they choose. I make no assertions either way since I haven’t researched it.

      We have different standards, Josette. I don’t support fraud even if it “touches other people.” How many other writers with real stories could have gotten a book deal had the lies of Frey not upped the ante for publishers’ appetites? Fraud hurts people too.

      I’m all for supporting other bloggers. If anyone needs help, here we are.

      1. I’d like to clarify while the proverbial straw that inspired this post was inspired by events this week, this isn’t referring to any single person or incident, as I mentioned up front. It’s been floating in my head for a while, and as you can tell from comments there are many, many situations which are clearly disconcerting to the community.

      2. I have to agree with Liz here, Josette in that people were touched by that piece because they thought it was real. Maybe they would have had the same reaction if they knew it was fiction but I think it’s a writer’s responsibility to tell them before their emotions got sucked in.

        It’s the difference between fiction and fraud.

        Stuff like this doesn’t benefit anyone but the person writing, who clearly is not thinking about the audience but rather him or herself. It’s selfish and narcissistic.

        Does one bad apple ruin the bunch? Maybe not, but it can certainly make all the other ones not smell as nice. And that’s not fair. And it’s not right.

    2. I have to disagree with “we do create the beast.” Who’s “we?” Society? Culture? Marketers? Human nature?

      I can’t accept the notion that we are all personally responsible for every blogger who fakes the story of her own baby’s death for attention.

      I hope this post and its comment thread are not seen as public shaming or punishment for anyone; but strong, compelling evidence that real readers are here, waiting, and excited for authentic content and real stories. They don’t even have to be great tragedies. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what else to do.

  68. I’m not a blogger. I don’t belong to “blogging” community, I don’t even now blogging sites. I have came across couple of personal stories that resonated with me, and I was delighted to realise they come in (somewhat) regular instalments, and get to read them similar to weekly columns in local papers. So with that in mind, I approach blog posts similar to columns: I have writes that I like and feel engaged by their writing and there is the rest. So I have no clue about outrageous stories. I have not seen fabricated public drama overwhelming social media. Maybe I’m exception, but this honest-from-soul blogging is to those fake stories as is Beethoven’s 5th to Madonna’s fake tatas. Lasting value vs. cheap trill. That has existed throughout history, and will continue to do so. And we will still remember and admire Beethoven, as for Madonna… there will be another trill under the different name.

  69. YES. I think that most of us are writing because without the power of words, we might wilt and wither. We don’t need to invent stories. We are living the real weight of our lives and feel the need to share with, learn from, and ultimately connect with others.

  70. So well said. Also agree with Alyssa’s point and your analysis of the “it’s always something” types–different than the issue in the main post but also annoying. 😉

  71. I know I’m new to blogging and all, but seriously… people make up posts about dying kids and whatnot? REALLY?! How do they live with themselves?

  72. My love for you grows exponentially. You are an amazing soul.
    This post totally deserves a mixtape.

  73. very well said.

    i’ve missed the story around at least a few of your references (and i’m totally okay with that) but i’ve had similar thoughts floating around in my head for a while.

    i know that there isn’t really a scale of pain, but my drama queen cousin lamenting on facebook – all d*mn day – about the agony of her migraine makes me twitch a bit, since when i have a migraine, i suck down my medication and crawl to a dark room for a couple of days. is my pain more or is she better at dealing with it? maybe feeding on others’ sympathy helps her heal. i dunno. but i do know that the next time she whines about whatever-is-wrong-now, i don’t think much of it. and i am much less likely to post anything regarding my pain because i don’t want to get sucked into even deeper drama.

    and i can’t help but view anyone ELSE who posts a similar problem with some doubt – do you really need help? or are you yet another psychic vampire out to suck the life out of me? tragic that reading of someone else’s pain makes these thoughts run through my head.

  74. Come on. Don’t we all lie a little bit to improve our stories?

    I agree it is the motivation that is important. Saying I had a hot date on Saturday night is obviously not the same as saying my child died. I am not trying to make news.

    And even if I lie, I try to remain true to something. My readers are smart enough to decide if I am a reliable narrator.

      1. From my POV, this conversation is about people who are upset they were fooled. It’s like Oprah and James Frey.

  75. Kristine’s right – this wasn’t a rant. But the issue of liars is everywhere, not just the blogs. Oprah’s “A Million Little Pieces” debacle comes to mind, and the “is it real or not” debate about “Three Cups of Tea”. Celebrities, sports “heroes”, politicians, corporate America … there’s fakers in every corner. There is however a special place in Hell for the ones who fake the loss of a child. As KeAnne said – who does that?

    I tend to look at them as very sad, sad people. And keep believing that Karma will level the playing field in the end.

  76. I LOVE you. I haven’t met you, but after reading this, I adore you. I couldn’t stop nodding my head in agreement with EVERY WORD YOU WROTE. Thank you.

  77. I love this post! It is so important and for me, inspirational. I know I’m not always the loudest or funniest, etc… but I feel deep in my heart, I’m doing the best I can — my goal– parent education (for myself and anyone else who wants to listen) and I hope in some way I’m making a difference!

    1. I think that’s what we all want to some degree. Even those who do odd things for attention. Thanks for the comment Donna.

  78. I have been resding blogs for about a year, following a few blogs on my blog reader. I usually find new (to me) blogs to read based on links from bloggers I like and trust. I read most of the bloggers you mentioned above who are honest, heartwarming, hilarious and they all inspire me. I’m happy to say I’ve heard rumblings but have not had the misfortune of actually reading those dishonest blog stories you mentioned.

    It’s unfortunate that people do that sort of thing and it makes me wonder how far I want to get into the blogosphere…I guess so far I feel lucky that I’ve been able to read some great stuff. Here’s hoping I can avoid the rest.

    Thanks for your post. I found your blog recently and have really been enjoying it.

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