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One of my seminary students has been working hard on an essay for a class she is taking at Ohio University! She asked me if I would share it on my blog! Happy to! She has some great insights! Enjoy!
Young Mothers Influenced by 'Mommy Bloggers'?
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I was talking to a friend the other day, who is both a young mother and an avid blog-reader. She mentioned how blogs by mothers might impact younger mothers to feel inadequate if they do not have the wonderful life described by the bloggers.I was struck by this observation, and thought about several blogs that I follow; they could fit the statement. In my personal experience, I envied some of the vacations and opportunities some bloggers had, but I found it hard to believe their blogs had such a strong impact. Yet, the matter disturbed me: do blog writers, specifically mothers, have persuasive power over their readers ? If so, is it due to critical views, or carefree, cheerful blogs?
The matter perplexed me. Seeing how blogs have come to play a substantial role in today's networking, I wanted to find out what others said about blogs' influence. One contributor to George Mason University's course material, Heidi Lawrence, asserts her claim on blog authors' power over their readers:
Every possible personal oddity imaginable is confessed over these thousands of blogs. Their readers reply by sympathizing, agreeing, respectfully disagreeing, or reciprocating the confession by relating their own moment of weakness or sin... the use of confession rhetorically...enables the speaker to contribute to and become part of the community of bloggers...by subverting the power structure...—confession does not result in discipline, judgment, or punishment—it engages the reader through further confession, agreement, dissent, or even non sequitur discourse. In short, the confessions result in fostering community through interaction, no matter what the tenor of that interaction might be, because the confession appeals to the reader in a way that persuades the reader to respond. (19)
Lawrence explains that the authors influence readers through a confession that the writer makes through a blog. Not only do blogs allow a place to vent and share news, but they create a connection between the writer and followers; readers feel sympathetic and can immediately respond to posts. Chelsea-Kay, the author of the blog Media in Focus, agrees by relating that blog authors manage to influence readers on various topics because "blogs have become a vital part of the internet aesthetic." And as blogs have come to play a leading role in the 'guidelines of the internet', they have a stronger influence in shaping readers' opinions. That influence grows as readers learn to trust the writer. But, what motivates the reader to follow blogs?
In a research experiment, Huang, Chou, and Lin studied blog readers' motives for following blogs. They found three main motives: affective (or emotional) exchanges; information search and entertainment; and fun. They found "readers who focus on affective exchanges tend to believe messages on blogs, interact with bloggers, and spread messages to others...The information search and entertainment [motivated] blog readers who focus on information can find something they trust, and blog readers who read just for fun similarly believe blogs are a trustworthy medium..." (Huang 354). I understand that reading blogs is like connecting with the author, but I grew up with technology and am more comfortable browsing the web, scanning blogs and becoming acquainted with bloggers' opinions than generations before me may be. Does that gap in age have to do with the confidence younger generations have in the internet and blogs?In comparison of how my mother dabbles in the blogging world, and her adept inability to understand much of the new technological capabilities, she spends less time on blogs than Emily P., a new mom. As a report by Krayewski on the study entitled "Why Y Women?" explains that the rising generation, Gen Y, women were "found to be more influenced by blogs – those written by professionals, as well as those written by people with whom the women can identify." This growing influence of blogs on the rising generation corresponds to the increase in usage of social media networks that allow people to share opinions, information, and gossip, whether it be anonymously or not. And because of the confession aspect of blogs, a personal bond between the author and reader becomes stronger, which increases the influence the author has, as the reader develops trust in the writer.
How then, can mothers impact others by blogging? Lee-Ann Khoh says, "The blog has enabled more and more ordinary citizens to become "manipulators" of information and the media. Bloggers have the freedom to express themselves however they like, whenever they like." While some mothers use blogs as a way to share happy details, or the exciting events that happen, some use blogs as a mode of venting their struggles, worries, and mishaps from the view of a parent. Both types of blogging styles may manipulate, or influence, readers' opinions about motherhood, depending on how it is represented in blog posts.
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As she states her role so openly, Allison shares with her audience not the wonderful world of motherhood that others should aspire to, but her reality, which includes many unfavorable jobs. Because Allison discusses many hardships she faces, her readers will not be influenced into feeling dismal about their own abilities as mothers; but rather, they can take comfort that things do not always happen as planned. I do not find her blog negative; it relates blurbs from her everyday life that characterize her family's personality, struggles, and triumphs in a way that does not idolize her role as a mother, neither does it condemn motherhood, despite ever-present trials. An example of a trying time for a mother is shown in the video below. A mom blogger Katie, put together an entertaining video for her blog, showcasing her son and his unwillingness to eat solids, which frustrated Katie. She shows her readers that life is not all-fun-all-the-time, but that raising a child is hard work. However, she does so by connecting to her readers using a comical approach. Perhaps the technique of humor is a way to take her exasperating experience, such as baby Kai's refusal to eat solid foods, and try to make it into a better situation.Motherhood is a multifaceted job – much like a gemstone that you hold in your hand turning in the light watching the angles and corners and surfaces glimmer and shine different, unexpected ways, only with more poop. As a mom I’m both hero and villain. I’m playmate and disciplinarian, teacher and student, and a bunch of other less glamorous things like...insomniac, bathroom coach...I have more roles than I can list because new ones arise every day. Am I an expert nail cutter, splinter-getter-outer? I am now. And, as a feather in my lovely mom-cap, as one last sexy thing I do, I plunge toilets. Often.
Despite what I had learned about blogs and their influence, I was still unsure if 'mommy blogs' truly affect younger mothers. But then I came across the blog of a Media Arts student that reviewed and analyzed a presentation by C. Jane Kendrick. The author of the blog, David, says, "Mommy blogs that are not an accurate representation of motherhood (either in a utopian or dystopian way) are not empowering." What he is saying is that blogs representing only the good or the bad, fail to influence with the same power because they are ineffectual in illustrating the complete picture of motherhood. This was a new idea to me, that, perhaps, 'mommy blogs' need to have the whole story to be influential.
During my conversation with my friend, I asked if blogs depict a seemingly ideal life, affected her as a mother. She laughed and replied, "Life isn't that perfect." I agreed with her answer; everybody faces hard times, even if they choose not to broadcast it to the world. And her response supports David's statement, as the blog proved to be unable to influence her. Then I realized that she is now a mother of three, so could it be that she was more influenced when she was starting out as a new mother? She pondered this and responded that her attentiveness to the 'cheesiness' (as she called the too-cheery impression some blogs give) and detecting how the story was embellished to add interest, not influence was not as fine-tuned at first, but that her opinion took time to form, as she gained her own experiences as a parent.
Throughout the research process, I continually looked to the young moms that I know to give me insights into their blogging world. Many times I grew frustrated as their answers did not match with what I believed was the 'right answer,' that of course the blogs influence them because of either a general negativity in the blogs they read, or a too-perfect world that some bloggers write about. Not until reviewing the scholarly articles with the blogs, as well as these moms' responses, that I realized the blogs with the most impact on mothers are the ones that display motherhood in all its glory and hardships, those that do not bury true insights into motherhood. For those are the blogs that will provide the most guidance and comfort for new mothers, and those are the blogs that will truly have a great influence.
Huang, Li-Shia, Yu-Jen Chou, and Che-Hung Lin. "The Influence of Reading Motives on the Responses after Reading Blogs." CyberPsychology & Behavior 11.3 (2008): 351-355. Print.
Lawrence, Heidi. "Bless Me Blogger, for I Have Sinned: Community and Rhetoric of Confession in the Genre of the Blog." ENG 503: Theory and Practice of Editing class of the English MA program. George Mason University. print.
Posted by Emily at 3:29 PM