At first blush, it would seem to be one of those delightfully zeitgeist-y romps through everyone’s favorite topic these days, The Relationship Between The Internet And The Self. A blogger, writing—in a premier print magazine!—about blogging. A writer oversharing…about oversharing! How ironic! How marvelously meta!
Emily Gould, who earned her writing chops mocking the media world over at Gawker, seems determined, these days, to Pygmalion herself from snark peddler into Respectable Writer. And the Eliza Doolittle of Manhattan’s media set seems finally to have found her own ’enry ’iggins in none other than…The New York Times Magazine.
The cover package of this weekend’s issue of the magazine features an 8,000-word memoir-meets-essay of Gould, by Gould, and (some would say) for Gould, accompanied by vaguely voyeuristic photos of the erstwhile Gawker editor. There’s much to criticize in all this. The piece itself is (surprisingly, given its snark-bred author and its premise/promise of “oversharing”) terrifically dull; it tacitly glorifies a woman whose career has been catapulted by her capacity for cruelty; it could almost implode under the weight of its own heavily varnished solipsism.
But the real problem with Gould’s piece is not so much its product as its packaging. In accompanying the text with photos of Gould at home (the magazine’s cover shot depicts her reclining in a rumpled bed, modeling the tattoo on her arm), and in legitimizing the whole thing not just with publication in the first place, but with cover-story billing, the magazine exudes an almost anthropological fascination with that oft-discussed but poorly understood species: The Blogger. (Oooh, we’ve caught one! And in her natural habitat, too!) The whole production implies that we, too, should be fascinated—not just by the modern-day-Ms. Doolittle splayed before us, but by all that she and the MacBook perched next to her, yin and yang together, represent.
Which is apt to an extent—Gould’s essay is, in part, about her self-imposed residence in Internet fishbowl-dom, her donation of herself to the science of social experimentation—but it’s troublesome in that Gould, however she might argue otherwise, is, as a specimen, unrepresentative of her species. The unique combination of neediness and exhibitionism Gould attributes to herself and her profession are, one hopes, just that: unique. It’s one thing, after all, to have a Facebook or MySpace page; it’s quite another to create an eponymous magazine (in this case, “Emily Magazine”) to detail the ins and outs of one’s life and the people who take part in it in the assumption that the technology of the Internet somehow justifies egocentrism. That assumption is, in every sense, vain. And you can say the same about the article that embraces it. “Exposed” is not a study of Bloggers or the Culture of Blogging or The Internet As A Sociological Force; it is a study of Emily Gould. And a disappointing one, at that.Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.