Hey lifestyle goddess, get off my Internets

GOMI’s alternative web universe shines the light on a fierce blogosphere soap opera

by Anne Kingston

Sarah MacKinnon

Recently, blogger Emily Schuman posted an item on her wildly popular site Cupcakes and Cashmere about the angst of buying “the perfect pair of cut-offs.” It’s “a lot harder than you’d think (at least for me, anyway),” she wrote, before sharing buying tips and photos of herself in her ideal pair—along with links so her fans could purchase a similar outfit: $160 Ray-Bans, $62 tank top, $78 shorts and $540 flats. The item drew over 175 comments, most gushy: “You look incredible!!!” wrote “Debby.” “Love this look.” “Maria” agreed: “SO AMAZING pics:) I really love your blog and your [sic] sence of style.”

Over at Get Off My Internets (GOMI), a four-year-old site that monitors the blogosphere, commenters gleefully trashed the same post on the 150-page Cupcakes and Cashmere thread; its photography, premise, and Schuman herself were shredded: “I really am starting to think girlfriend has all of five active brain cells at any one time,” wrote “Nicky192,” adding, “I hope her blog crashes and burns soon—it’s just insulting.” “Lamby” was more moderate: “I have always liked emily and while this thread is one of the first things i check when I’m on gomi bc it’s so entertaining, I hardly ever agree with it.”

Such snark, schadenfreude and measured comment animates GOMI, the divisive alternate blogging universe founded by Alice Wright, a Brooklyn-based programmer. Wright and her 10,000-plus anonymous “GOMIers” form a self-appointed Stasi, monitoring bad photoshopping, plagiarism, failure to reveal sponsorships, declining quality, stupidity, lack of imagination, laziness, inauthenticity and outright fraudulent behaviour. The satiric tone—Mean Girls veering into Lord of the Flies savagery—is a reminder of Molly Haskell’s line that the Internet is “democracy’s revenge on democracy,” though not all of it’s negative: there is blogging advice and a “Stay on My Internets” forum that identifies worthwhile blogs. Readers also share information about topics like infertility. Site loyalty is high: earlier this year, when GOMI faced shut-down, readers chipped in to keep it afloat.

In so doing, they were preserving the increasingly rare checks and balances of the Internet’s commercial apparatus. Wright has called GOMI a “relief valve.” Her goal was “to give people a place to say what they feel like they can’t say to some of these bloggers . . . without being shut out.”

Bloggers screening negative comments is common now that posting about your breakfast is big business. Schuman’s blog, which began as a hobby in 2008, is now a full-time commercial platform boasting a bestselling book, an endorsement deal with Estée Lauder and sponsors like Wal-Mart. Advertisers like consumer-friendly content and a lot of positive comments, says Sidneyeve Matrix, an associate professor of media at Queen’s University. “They signal reader engagement and commitment; they make a site ‘sticky.’ ”

That makes GOMI a magnet for off-message comments—and highlights the lifestyle-blog equivalent of the blogosphere’s right-left divide. Its targets can’t ignore it, says Matrix. “People producing for the web must do social listening as well. You have to be aware of buzz—good and bad.” And that has resulted in a fractious Internet soap opera—with GOMI accused of “cyberbullying” and “perpetuating hate” and Wright, once dubbed “the most reviled woman on the web,” receiving death threats. She declined a Maclean’s interview request via email: granting one “winds up with the author making the story about me.”

She’s used to the spotlight. Famed mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong of Dooce countered Wright’s criticism with a blog post and a cease-and-desist letter. Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman blasted GOMI for being cruel and defamatory on Babble. But “healthy living” blogger Heather Shugarman of Then Heather Said says GOMI criticism helped; it hurt at first, she wrote, but prompted her to disclose sponsored content. She called GOMI “satire at its finest” and defended its right to exist: “This is America, and that First Amendment thing? I like that very much.” Smart woman. As long as GOMI’s snarking about her, she’s relevant.




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Hey lifestyle goddess, get off my Internets

  1. Here’s the point about GOMI that Kingston glosses over–it’s not a corporately approved site, designed to promote brands, sell merchandise or products. Many mommybloggers started out small, writing about their kids, their daily lives, their dreams and schemes, but once corporate PR and media relations departments started sending freebies and giveaways and sending those bloggers on trips and to conferences, most personal truths were abandoned in favor of gushy sponsored posts, complete with affiliate links. When the only voices on the internet are those approved (and paid) by Disney, General Mills, and/or Tribune Media, something very valuable is lost.
    Citibank hiring a mommyblogger who went through bankruptcy to give financial advice shows utter contempt for the intended audience. A major soft drink company posing as a “health conscious choice” at a conference also shows contempt and bloggers who happily tweet about this in exchange for gift cards and tote bags show themselves to be easily bought. GOMI readers know when a fashion blogger is posting a photo only because she got the item for free–no matter what she claims in the post.

    You can say “self-appointed Stasi” or you can say “discerning media consumers who won’t accept corporate bs”. Depends on what you think is important.

  2. If a blogger ends up on GOMI it’s usually for one of three reasons: A) they’re a proven liar/hypocrite which can be shown through their own writings, B) they’re so incredibly vapid and shallow and banal you wonder how they make a living at their blogging, or C) they claim to encourage dialogue but then go through and delete any and all comments that aren’t ego stroking or head patting. For example: a blogger posts about cooking a recipe and mentions they only use 1/8 of a teaspoon of paprika for a dish that feeds 6 people, someone in the comments asks if that’s a typo because it seems like too little spice, and rather than address it the blogger deletes the offending comment.

    If a blogger doesn’t want to have to deal with comments, then don’t allow commenting on your posts.

    For me, though, the greatest offense is that bloggers want it all ways. They want to be “OMG I’m so real y’all just like y’all” but at the same time they want to be treated like celebrities and “OMG I’m a professional writer.” They don’t want to be seen as sell-outs but they shill like crazy. They’re all about sharing the most mundane and trivial aspects of their lives in detail and even go into TMI but then all of the sudden it’s “OMG you can’t ask about that, I’m not going to tell you.” They want you to think they’re super moms/women but they expect accolades and head pats for things like getting out of bed, cooking a meal, paying bills, taking out the trash. It’s ridiculous.

    I mean, it’s ludicrous that this is an industry. These are people keeping online diaries. The writing for the most part is atrocious and the attitude they throw around is hilarious. They. Are. Not. Celebrities except in their own circle and their own mind.

    And the minute they start to write for Babble they begin to suck. They lose all relatability and honesty and become Disney clones.

  3. One thing you have to know about GOMI they’re not any better than the bitches they bitch about.

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