The Ballad of Emily Gould,

…or How Being a Blogger Can Chew You Up and Spit You Out

Emily Gould, former editor of Gawker.com has an interestingly self-indulgent piece in this Sunday’s NYT Magazine. I have never and probably will never ascend to the levels of blogging celebrity that she has, as former editor of Gawker Media’s flagship blog Gawker. But I blog twice a day (for money. Not here, obviously) and I can say this: much of what she writes in the article is true — blogging has a way of consuming some portion of your brain. After you do it long enough, firing up your computer and spitting out a post becomes as reflexive as that little kick your leg gives when a doctor hits your knee.

Gould’s a good writer for being just 27 years old, and she does a handy job of being a fly on the wall of her own panic-stricken existence during her time as blogging celebrity and gossip extraordinaire (Gawker’s like US Weekly, except snarkier). But she never said whether she thought being a blogger was a good thing or bad — simply that it happened.

Let me fill that opinionless void — her story is something of a coming of age tale. It’s instructive, and probably cautionary for a lot of people. I don’t know if Emily is a better person now that she’s been through the Gawker ringer, or just an older person, but I’d offer that what Gawker did to her was to teach her a little something about herself, mainly that she has a problem with overexposing herself (and the people she writes about) to her audience.

I give her credit for weathering justified storms of criticism about libel and slander against the celebrities she preyed upon. Even though her article describes daily panic attacks while blogging, the seems to still be sane enough to write a cover story for a major magazine, so she gets points for mental toughness. And I give her major props for posting 12 times a day for the better part of two years. That’s bitch work, straight up.

Still, her story reads like a tragedy. Even though her blogging for Gawker was cruel, petty, self-aggrandizing, sometimes not even factually correct, and it epitomized the sleaziest aspects of the media (new or old), she seems to tacitly acknowledges that she simply can’t help herself. She was, and maybe is still out of control when is comes to blogging.

After a while it becomes almost an afterthought that she made it her mission in life to annoy people and intrude upon their private lives, and that’s a little weird. Instead she focuses on how her relationships melted down and a bunch of other self-centered, angsty crap, but that only acts to build the case she’s making for us — she has a problem with over-exposing herself to the world but what I get from it is that it’s not really her fault. She’s demented, she needs help.

It’s hard to say if the blogging medium made her this way, or if she were born twenty years earlier she would’ve found some other outlet for her exhibitionist ways…maybe she would’ve starred in porn movies, who knows.

Either way, the cautionary aspect of the tale is to would-be bloggers. Emily just barely had enough mental grit to get through the pummeling she took from commenters, the pressure of posting, her bosses, and Jimmy Kimmel on CNN (and maybe she didn’t, if her exhibitionist tendencies were developed instead of innate). I think a lot of people, attracted as she was by the glamour and glitz of a high-profile job, would’ve collapsed under that avalanche.

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