nihilism or narcissism

To start with: no, I don’t know the meaning of the graphic above. If you’re only reading on to find out, you’ll be left disappointed. Sorry.

The week seven readings (Lovink) offered an interesting, and in some ways, an unorthodox proposition: that bloggers are nihilistic, and that “blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Lovink (Reader, page 222) argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Although I found that Lovink’s conclusion that blogs are merely another form of ‘one-to-many’ communication refreshing, I think that Lovink’s assertion that bloggers are nihilistic is flawed.

In one sense, I felt that it was as if Lovink had just used the wrong word, and intended to suggest bloggers were ‘narcissistic’ (self-absorbed) rather than ‘nihilistic’ (skeptical or pessimistic).

Here I will consider Lovink’s assertion and examine a couple of blogs.

Melbourne Gastronome, a blog that I regularly visit, is a blog based on the food scene of Melbourne (and Sydney, sometimes). The author of the blog, Claire, lawyer by day and foodie by night, writes about her journey through the diverse culinary landscape of Victoria’s capitol city. Melbourne Gastronome is a positive blog, and shows no signs of the nihilism that Lovink suggests. Indeed, the very purpose of the blog is to expand its readers’ horizons, encouraging them to try new and hidden-away eateries.

Another popular blog, The Sartorialist (first introduced to me by my highschool English teacher) also exemplifies a positive blog, and exhibits no nihilist sentiment. The Sartorialist (Scott Schuman) wanders the streets of the world’s fashion capitals and snaps a few pics of beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes. In his blog, he posts the pictures he takes (sometimes with commentary) and lets his readers comment on and discuss the fashion trends that he logs.

Lovink’s statement is too broad: it casts an unfounded generalisation and fails to acknowledge the positive blogs that thrive on the internet.

Interestingly, it seems that the nihilistic or cynical blogs that Lovink refers to are that which maintain an academic and political focus. It comes as little surprise that many popular blogs of a political inclination, are those that flout a heavy dose of cynicism; questioning the government, and the oppositional mainstream media.

I think perhaps if Lovink had instead argued along the lines of narcissism, he would have been closer to the mark.

Melbourne Gastronome has a very strong sense of “I” throughout the posts, and focusses heavily on personal opinions and “managing” and publishing those opinions for the public.

Likewise, The Sartorialist has an inherent focus on what the author (/photographer) considers to be a ‘fashionable’ style.

But we must remember that this egocentric/narcissistic feature is what makes blogs great. Indeed, it is what separates and distinguishes blogs from the mainstream media.

By focussing on the “I”, we feel an immediate connection with the author. As we read their thoughts on a new Melbourne restaurant or the latest street fashion in Prague or London, we connect with who they are and sympathise with their opinions. This more casual relationship that we build with our favourite bloggers is a world apart from the more professional relationship we build with our trusted hard news sources in newspapers and on television.

Lovink’s article offers a deep and refreshing discussion of blogs in the 21st century, but casts too wide a net in its assertion that blogs are driven by nihilism and cynicism.



  • Melbourne Gastronome
  • The Sartorialist
  • Lovink, G., ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, Routledge, London, pp. 1-38, 2007.

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