Did I miss the memo?

Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures
Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures

A novel is long enough for all your writing weaknesses to come out of the shadows but it takes an outside eye to see them. I am now much better informed about my pet redundant words, grammar sins and my penchant for padding, thanks to one particularly ruthless and brilliant editor friend.

For instance there was a short scene in my novel where the main character put on make-up before going out for the evening. Those lines have now been cut.

I mention make-up because I was struck by a throwaway statement in an article I read earlier this week about narcissism and the ice-bucket challenge. The article on the BBC Future website gives an interesting take on the role narcissism and performance play in modern altruism.

The writer Chris Baraniuk refers back to another social media craze this summer where women posted photos of themselves – shock, horror – without make-up, to raise funds for cancer research.

Baraniuk observes that “make-up remains de rigueur for women”, a statement which stopped me in my tracks. Could this really be true? And if so, how did I miss the memo? Was it only sent to English women, or Londoners perhaps?

This got me thinking about what make-up says about women. Is not wearing make-up a sign of liberation or laziness? I know of women who need to ‘put on their face’ before they venture into the outside world. But I’m inclined to think they are not the majority.

My grandmother used to keep lipstick by the front door and always applied a dash of pink to her lips before going out, even when going out meant trundling to the local shops with her walker at the age of 93. I’m more of a make-up-for-special-occasions gal myself.

But to get back to the main theme of the article, it did make me wonder what place bloggers have in this “culture of rampant narcissism in social media”.

Blogging is self-publishing in its simplest and most direct form. You don’t have to pitch your idea to anyone and wait for their approval. If you have something to say, an idea to share, if a tree fell down and you want it to be on the record – you just hit publish. And there is a nice sense of fulfilment with that. It’s instant and it’s all yours.

But, bearing in mind that there are two million blogposts published every day, most bloggers are dropping very small pebbles in a very large pond. Something tells me this social media niche might not be rewarding enough for narcissists.

Here’s a narcissism test for anyone who’s worried. 😉

16 thoughts on “Did I miss the memo?

  1. Hi Clare…first of all, thank you for stopping by marc’s blog and even risking signing on for more. I would say “welcome back” among the 2 million but I just discovered you so I didn’t know you were away…although I think I am going to like you a lot so I probably would have felt some void. Maybe it’s the fellow-broadcaster thingy. Good luck with your novel and keep dropping pebbles.

  2. Every few years I buy some eye makeup, thinking I’ll start using it. Then I find that it’s too hard to apply and takes too much time, so I leave it in the drawer until I finally decide to throw it away. I do wear lipstick, though. Whether your character does or doesn’t wear makeup, does say something about her. But whether that’s important to the story, only you (and your editor friend) can decide.

  3. I don’t know whether blogging is narcissistic or not. I tend to think not for the reason that you give—it’s a great big pool so if we make a couple of little ripples we can feel satisfied we’ve been noticed. Not enough for real narcissists who would insist on making a great big splash.
    Did you do the test? I’d love to know how you scored. Mine was 4. Pretty dismal for someone who is trying to make a career of getting into the public eye. Must ratchet up my author persona a few hundred notches 🙂

    1. I think mine was 4 too, Jane. Now that I’m marketing my novel, I find that it’s hard for me to put myself out there. Maybe by the time I get more into it, I’ll be more normally narcissistic.

  4. We live in an extremely narcissistic age; the inevitable result, I think, of uber- capitalism where the self has become a commodity. I do think blogging is narcissistic BECAUSE it ignores the fact that we’re just a tiny pebble in a small pool. But it’s other things as well, and a touch of narcissism is no bad thing.
    I did the quiz – I think I scored 8 – but I found it quite irritating as it seemed to equate narcissism with self-confidence. I was too lazy to look up the research behind the questionnaire and how seriously they expected people to take it, but I think a lot of narcissism is based on a lack of confidence leading to a constant search for approval from others. If that side had been included I might not have wanted to make my score public!

    1. An interesting perspective Anne. I certainly see the logic of what you’re saying, especially as our online presence is like a mirror – we see a reflection of ourselves there and we come to crave that. But judging from the rather low scores this sample of bloggers are reaching on the test, it looks like a little narcissism goes a long way!

  5. Make up is a pain in the arse to put on and an even bigger pain in the arse to take off. But still I wear it to show other women that I’ve made the effort… because they all do, so if I’m going out with the girls and I don’t bother it looks as if I don’t care.

    1. Thanks for stopping by MT. I know what you mean, it’s almost like a tradition for the group. But why don’t you bring it up with them the next time you’re out? Maybe you’re not the only one who’s making the effort for the others. It would be interesting to find out.

Leave a Reply