I only knew Dooce through her infamy as the first person to suffer real-life consequences for things she wrote online. It’s hard for me to be interested in the life of anyone I don’t know personally (exceptions made for people I feel inspired by or am crushing on), and the handful of times in twenty years that I was curious enough to visit her website, I was met with some entertaining writing about marriage and motherhood that I couldn’t give a fuck about.
The last time would have been a few years ago; I tend to check up on a few bloggers every so often when I’m wondering how the landscape has evolved1. As one of the few who were popular enough to make a living off the witty revelations of personal details, she easily made the list. That’s why it was so disconcerting to find that some months there was a single post, and the post was a list of sponsored links to things people could buy. It was especially strange to find her discussing digestive issues while a giant banner would fight for my attention underneath: “And for anyone who may be experiencing what I am, ButcherBox is running a special promotion through the end of the month where new members receive ground beef in every box for the lifetime of their subscription.”
How much of her writing was genuine? How do I trust the words of a person who seems to be capitalizing on her misfortune?
Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t particularly moved when I found out she committed suicide two months ago. It felt like I never knew who she truly was beneath the curse words and products being hawked. I also have a hard time empathizing with anyone who would describe pregnancy as an “endless trove of content”. For me, that kind of mindset reeked too much of melodrama, which I find distasteful enough to avoid in real life.
It glads my heart when I stumble across another online diary nowadays. A genuine one, of course, not updates from a company or a cooking blog that’s stuffed with photos to pad the time someone stays on the page before the recipe is found. No one entertains same audience as they used to, and I much prefer that to the kind of interactive “confessional” Dooce had, or the social media influencers of today.
I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to still have this little corner of the web to express myself, a place where I’m not beholden to an audience for a source of income. So often I find myself too broken to get out of bed, too strung out to pursue my projects, too busy to find 15 minutes to work on a lick. And during the stretches of time when I’m recovering and there’s nothing noteworthy to talk about, I’m relieved I don’t have to manufacture experiences to keep anyone’s attention. I still get mail asking if there are any spots for advertising or availability for sponsored posts, and they all get promptly get filed away in the trash.
- Also a good way for me to keep abreast on the latest web technologies. [↩]