Why Fashion Bloggers' Lives Aren't As Charmed As You Think

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Being a fashion blogger looks like a plum job: There's stylish swag, invites and access, jetsetting to only the most instagrammable destinations — and all you have to do is document all that glamour. Well, not really, according to a new study covered in The Atlantic about the disconnect between "rhetoric and reality of fashion blogging" which looked at 760 Instagram images by 38 top-ranked female bloggers to reveal fantasy versus the hard truths of being in the field.

In a nutshell, bloggers have to work long hours; be left- and right-brain-inclined to juggle creative and business stuff; make a distinct personal brand, then maintain it scrupulously; satiate their brand sponsors and their fans; oh, and make sure they actually get paid, since someone else might offer to do the same blogger-y thing for free.
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As fun as blogging looks, it often entails 80- to 100-hour workweeks, according to the study, which was conducted by Brooke Erin Duffy, an assistant professor at Temple University, and Emily Hund, a doctoral student at University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and will be published this fall in online journal Social Media + Society. Those are indeed long hours, but that kind of workload isn't unheard of when starting or owning a business. But beyond the long hours, needing to be perpetually "on" is a unique concern for the blogger community; taking a brief hiatus (a week or two, say) from posting on Instagram can cause your followers to freak out. That's what happened to @garypeppergirl's Nicole Warne in August. "Having to be constantly present is literally the worst thing about working in social media. I don’t really dare to research into it — ignorance is bliss! — but I’m sure it’s bad for my mental health,” blogger Zanita Whittington told Refinery29.

Being a present, accessible blogger also involves a lot of concealed or emotional labor — working hard but making it look easy — that's akin to being in the service industry, according to The Atlantic. Notably, the role (and its side effects) is way more often taken on by women than men. And for them to kill it the way the known names among the industry do, entails utterly constant and "authentic" self-branding, as the article details. Long hours might be somewhat universal these days, but tending to one's personal brand daily (or hourly, even) goes above and beyond what's expected in most jobs.
Another stress factor: The "attention economy," by which social media metrics such as followers and likes are the currency, on which a blogger's success is hinged. Once you have those social media metrics where you want them, you need to keep people interested. Whether that means creating posts, interacting with commenters, or even editing photos differently for specific social media platforms — that all takes up time. And you thought picking the perfect filter or writing the quippiest caption (to emoji or not? Hashtags: yay or nay?) for your personal social media accounts was tough. Imagine if your livelihood hung on whether you got that kind of thing right. Then, there's the competition: More people are calling themselves bloggers now, making it harder to get those coveted brand partnerships or pay-for-posting deals. The study found fashion blogging to be "a bellwether for the changing nature of consumerism and self-expression in the digital era."

Whether or not these blogger struggles in fact outweigh all the perks (and oh are there perks), the simple fact that it's being examined in this way means fashion blogging is becoming more validated as a career. Is it time their professional qualms get taken seriously?