Honesty moment: I'm terrified to write this post. I do not mean to offend any of my fellow bloggers, or upset them, or berate them in any way. But there's a current trend in blogging that bloggers are using to get higher traffic (no shame there, we all want higher traffic!) and more pins on Pinterest and it's to the detriment of blog READERS: Tips posts, how-to's, and advice columns. I'm reading so many of these that are genuinely bad, bad advice and I need to call attention to it.
Before I jump in, I want to clarify that I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I don't live some dream life where I have everything figured out. I think I've even written one or two tips posts myself, although honestly that's it because I despise them. I'm much more into story telling, and telling my own truth, and if you relate to that then lets hang out and talk and be friends! And if not, move on to another blog post, it's all good.
That said... Tips and "how-to" posts. Oh bloggers. Please stop. Please? We know people have PhD's in "google" now and head there first for information. You write these posts because it up's your search rank and people pin the heck out of "How to Improve Your Marriage in 8 Simple Steps." That increases your page views and makes you feel more successful, and perhaps even lands you a few more lucrative sponsored posts. But the reality is, you're not a therapist. You're not a counselor. You're not a Pastor/Priest/Rabbi/etc. and odds are very good that you're still in your 20's and trying to figure out the direction of your own life. Bottom line: You're in no position to write these kinds of posts.
I'm not talking about the tips posts on how to get the perfect holiday pout, or 6 new ways to have fun during girls night out, nor even "how to blog" posts where bloggers share how they've achieved results in something. Those posts are harmless, fun to read and can even boost your own blog with someone else's knowledge! I'm talking about the stuff that can really impact someone's life.
Like the breastfeeding post I read (I was interested in some tips as someone who is about to start breastfeeding again) that belittled formula and mom's who used it and could be summed up as one judgmental rant against moms who "bailed out" of breastfeeding, for whatever reason, and how *that blogger* deserved praise because she just stuck it out. Literally, her advice was "it's so hard but so worth it." Well, thanks for nothing but judging people, blogger. You really contributed to the tips for breastfeeding success club. I'm so much wiser because of your words. Cough *sarcasm* cough.
Or the post I read providing educational tips for youngsters that ended up being a sponsored post for a grammar/spellcheck company (no disclosures to tell that it was a sponsored post either, which you know is a huge no-no!) The bottom line of her advice? Just let the teachers handle education, then hire this company to proofread your child's college application essays and other important high school work. No. I'm not joking.
Those are easy to snicker at because they're clearly bad advice. But some of it isn't so easy to decipher.
There are countless posts on marriage advice, how to interact more/better/deeper with your spouse, what to expect in the first year of marriage, how to best move in together, how to handle the birth of your first child... And on and on. Some of these are just plain BAD posts with BAD tips, and some are fine but guess what? Because it worked for you and your marriage doesn't mean it should be branded as "10 ways to have a more meaningful marriage." If it worked for you, that's great, but that doesn't mean that will work for anyone else, or that you're the marriage expert, or that you're now in the position to help others find meaning in their marriage. All it means is that it worked for you. That's it. You're not an overnight marriage counselor, and while I'd love to read your post as a story on how YOU found meaning in YOUR marriage, it's irresponsible to come across as some sort of expert who's in the position to dole out advice to people who are desperately searching google for legitimate help.
There, I said it. Those posts are irresponsible to write and put out in the public sphere of the internet.
Before you get too bent out of shape, I'm certainly NOT saying that you can't share with your readers your struggles and what has worked for you! Those posts make you relateable and likable as a person. Let me use my own work to illustrate the difference I'm talking about. I wrote this post on how I get my toddler to bed every night by 7pm. It's written as a narrative but outlines what I do each night that results in zero bedtime struggles. The title is how I get my toddler to bed every night by 7pm, not "8 tips for a better sleeping toddler", nor "3 steps to have your toddler sleeping every night." I have no idea if what works for me will work for you. One child doesn't make me a sleep expert, nor will two, nor 10 (NOT having ten kids, just saying!) I simply shared my story, and if you find some helpful hints in it, I certainly hope they work for you too!
Another example: This post on how I struggled with breastfeeding and incorporated formula, which resulted in everyone in the house getting more sleep and generally being happier. The title is happy baby, happy mama: my formula for happiness. Not, "How to get more sleep with an infant" nor " 5 tricks to get your baby to sleep through the night." Again, I don't know if it will work for you, I'm certainly no baby sleep expert! Not only that, it's actually illegal to recommend topping a breast fed baby's feeding off with formula so that they sleep longer. Yes, there are actual laws that govern advice columns (because so much of it on the web isn't from a legitimate source!) If you're throwing tips/advice out there for kids, mental health, adult health or even fitness, you'd better be aware of them. Which again, is why it's better to simply share YOUR story and what worked for you and leave the actual advice giving to the professionals.
Look bloggers, I get it. We all want more sponsorships and we want clicks and page views. You want it and I want it. But I'd really encourage you to think about the implications of your tips posts before you hit publish next time. You don't know who's reading your post, and odds are really good you're not actually an expert (and may even be giving bad or illegal advice!) in education, or marriage, or breastfeeding or a host of other topics. I'd love to see us leave the advice to the professionals and focus more on sharing our stories. Because at the end of the day, that's all we have. Our stories. Bloggers are simply people with stories to share, not experts with advice to give.