Blogging Traps

Montreal may be a buzzing metropolis of 1.6M residents but within certain communities, it can sometimes feel like everybody knows one another. That is the case for the English blogging community.  We meet at every fashionable event in town and at various gatherings, including our very own B.A.B.E. celebration.  We keep in touch through Twitter, Facebook, SMS, blogs… we are in constant interaction and it can sometimes feel like friendship. While for some there are ties that are real, we must not overlook that we only know what others want us to know.

I recently met with a fellow blogger who told me about a story that has inspired me to write this.  It seems she had been approached by a photographer who is somewhat familiar to our group. You’ll understand if I leave the names out, for the sake of privacy. This man had succeeded, from their first encounter, to act unprofessionally enough – but not sufficiently that she could know for sure – to make her feel uncomfortable.

Let’s face it: in a business that knows no code of ethics, as any creative surrounding tend to, it can sometimes be difficult, especially for a woman, to feel unthreatened by certain acts of the free spirited. Plus, the Montreal blogosphere is in large part made up of young, driven, passionate girls – most of them in their early 20’s with very little awareness of the dangers that lurk. Add to that the fact that we are involved in an industry that finds its inner strength in low self-esteem and you got yourself a recipe for disaster. I’m not bashing the industry – it’s one I have grown to love and cherish – but its glamour sometimes makes us forget its pitfalls. And that may very well be its biggest trap.blogging traps image

This woman was not in her early 20’s and she had more than a few years’ experience under her belt. This is probably why she knew, from the start, that something was amiss. But she had wondered if maybe, she wasn’t reading it all wrong. I mean, after all, this man had a solid reputation. So when he offered her to host her site and work her visual for free (something he felt important to mention was worth some $10,000), she proceeded to brush these doubts aside.

I’ve always hated when the men in my life would question the intentions of every other man who crossed my path. It always made me feel like there was nothing about me that was worth any man’s time, other than, well, my shell. I hated that none of them believed a man and a woman could be just friends. The old When Harry Met Sally conundrum… So I understood perfectly where this girl came from when she intentionally tried to avoid the very important question of “why?”. Why was this man doing this for free for her? What was in it for him? He tried to explain to her that he believed in her and the work she did. She wanted to believe it so she considered the option.

It was only when, after a few e-mails, he invited her to his studio that her nerves got the best of her. She thought of bringing a friend along, as a way to feel safe, but her friend did not buy the story and refused to be a part of it. And so she told the man that now was not the perfect timing in her business and that she’d have to reschedule whenever it felt more appropriate for her to pursue this offer.

Any professional with the right intentions would have understood this. Any professional with good intentions would have maybe pulled a few interesting arguments, but no professional would have gone on to make her feel like turning him down was the worst move she could ever pull. He did. He proceeded to tell her things that were clearly aimed at shattering her self-esteem and questioning her own professional decisions. He went so far as to insult her directly and suddenly, her work was no longer the gem he had once claimed it was. Had this been a weak woman, the words he spoke to her would have made her scared of missing out. They might have succeeded in their goal, and she may have regretted it for the rest of her life.

maskWhen she brought this story to my attention, I knew. From the beginning, I knew this guy was not legit. When that inner voice speaks to you, it’s important to listen. It’s called a gut feeling and most of the time, it says a lot more about a situation than what your mind can process. But when she told me this story, she still doubted her choice. She still wondered…

We’ll never know for sure if this could have indeed been a big break for her – anything’s possible – but I highly doubt it and I don’t think taking that kind of risk is worth it. There are a lot of freaks out there and as bloggers, we are extremely vulnerable. We put it all out in the open; we discuss our private lives, we meet with different people every day. We find ourselves chatting with strangers and setting appointments to view their collections, conduct interviews or hear their demos. All for the sake of the story. That is why I felt it was important to publish this piece today. I don’t know any of you personally other than what you show me. But you are all very dear in what you do and I would not forgive myself if this happened to one of you – to one of us – and I had kept quiet.

Do your thing. Be yourself. Stay authentic. Don’t censor your ideas and go for it all. But always beware. Not everyone’s out there to share the spotlight…

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