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The world wide web can be a scary place for bloggers who put themselves out there in a big way, but it's been made even pricklier by Get Off My Internets, a destination for haters who eat up the site's snarky posts and take to its forums to slam online personalities.
With more than 50,000 active users, GOMI members have been digitally bashing bloggers since 2009. Everyone from Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere to Ann Street Studio's Jamie Beck to beauty vlogger Michelle Phan have threads dedicated to them. And GOMI doesn't discriminate: There are forums for bloggers in the parenting, DIY, food, and YouTube worlds as well.
Why does a site like this exist? Why are people compelled to read blogs they hate and then write about how much they hate them online? GOMI founder A.—who spoke with Racked and asked that her name not be published, though a quick Google search lifts any veil of anonymity—says there's a real thrill to it all.
"People hate-read blogs for the same reason they watch train wreck reality shows," she says. "It's entertaining to see the mess and the 'What the hell?' of it all. It's an escape, maybe not what some people would consider a healthy escape, but it is what it is. Nobody's watching Real Housewives and thinking, 'What lovely people—gee, I wish them all the blessings in the world.' To pretend you're above snarking is the most hypocritical thing you can do. Maybe you aren't snarking about blogs, but everyone shit-talks something or someone, somewhere, at some point."
The thread dedicated to Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere has 517 pages worth of posts and counting. Photo: Cupcakes and Cashmere
A 32-year-old software developer living in Brooklyn, A. explains she created the site five years ago so she could "shit-talk new media and internet personalities because it all seemed so ridiculous that these people are considered celebrities in their own way." She started it with $1500 of her own money, and now the small amount of ad revenue she earns goes towards the maintenance of the site and its wiki. Users flock to GOMI because of word-of-mouth, and she says she was surprised to have gained such an active following.
GOMI now enjoys 21 million pageviews from half a million unique visitors a month. A.'s happy she was able to establish such a loyal—and admittedly angry—community because it confirmed she's "not the only one who thinks most of these bloggers are crazy."
"I just like to point and laugh at the absurdity of personal blogging as a career," A. continues. "I mean, people quit well-paying jobs to become personal bloggers. They get book deals so they can put their ramblings in print. They make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year through sponsorships and partnerships. It's all so insane to me, and my only motive is to point, shrug and go, 'WTF?'"
Much of the conversation on GOMI forums centers around surface topics like bloggers' fashion and language choices, but some discuss hot topics like the ethics of bloggers making money off audience clicks and whether style is authentic if half of someone's wardrobe is gifted. A. believes the blogging industry has gotten more disingenuous over the years, particularly with new revenue streams flowing in.
"Money has changed everything," she says. "Once blogging became an industry, the blog world filled up with a lot of people striving to be the Next Big Blogger. It's no longer about having an online diary; it's about getting a piece of the pie or maintaining your slice. It's caused a lot of backstabbing and fame-fucking and climbing over people to the point where it's basically a bunch of people using people while smiling and ass-kissing."
GOMI users even comment on style and beauty blogger Keiko Lynn's boyfriend. Photo: Keiko Lynn
A lot of the GOMI forums read like a rabbit hole of anger and jealousy, but A.—who's organized numerous in-person and digital meetups—claims all of the users she's encountered IRL are anything but nasty.
"Meetups are actually my favorite part of GOMI," she says. "I really like most of the people who participate in GOMI, and I enjoy getting to know them and hanging out and talking whenever possible. Every GOMI-er I've ever met or spoken to has been fun and delightful to be around."
And while style bloggers who post endless outfit photos might seem annoying, A. actually hates those who exploit their children on the internet the most: "I really don't like the people who smear their children all over the internet. You can argue all day about how it's no different than child performers, but child performers get paid, and there are laws in place to protect them and the money earned by the use of their face or talent. There are no such protections for children who are put on the internet by their parents. What about their right to decide their own internet presence and personal exposure? It just seems wrong to me."
To some extent, GOMI is a digital democracy, she explains. The comment policy doesn't allow for posts that reveal bloggers' private information, plot to do harm or shamelessly plug a particular blog. Plus, bloggers are welcome to join the site and engage in the conversation.
"Of course they are welcome to come on and defend themselves—within reason," she says. "If they start creating sock puppet accounts to hammer the site with random defenders, then I have a problem. And a couple of times I've locked a blogger's account for 24 hours if it seemed like they were drunk or manic or something, because it's not like I want them to come on three sheets to the wind and embarrass themselves. But yeah, I don't mind it at all. We have our say, they should be able to have theirs."
The thread dedicated to Sea of Shoes blogger Jane Aldridge frequently discusses Photoshopping and her weight. Photo: Sea of Shoes
There have also been instances where posts have been deleted. Preferring not to go into detail, A. says, "There have been some things I removed simply because they were revolting and added nothing to the conversation." She describes GOMI's model as self-policing, explaining that she doesn't have time to read everything that's posted to the site, but that she'll remove reported comments if they violate site policy.
"People can get a bit rabid or bored and start posting private, secondhand gossip or dig up things that are 5, 10, 15 years old that I really don't feel have any bearing on what the blogger is doing online today," she adds. "I've also removed posts about a certain person who basically began stalking me and threatening me until I removed all mention of him from the site."
None of the major bloggers we reached out would comment on GOMI, though there are some who have taken to their blogs to talk about their distaste for the site. After Forbes placed GOMI in their 100 best websites for women last year, LA lifestyle blogger Morgan Shanahan wrote a post dedicated to GOMI, noting that "the behavior of grown women shocked me."
"Personal finances. Mental health. Body Image. Divorce. Religion. Baby loss. Parental suitability. Bankruptcy. Job loss. All these things being 'snarked on' by the GOMI community, almost always directed at women, wives, mothers, entrepreneurs, and most importantly HUMAN FREAKING BEINGS," Shanahan wrote. "The GOMI community seems to feel that it has some sort of vigilante responsibility to police the blogosphere for things it deems irritating and then pick at those scabs until they become giant gaping wounds in the lives of real people."
She continued: "While plenty of stories published to GOMI roll off the backs of their subjects, others have contributed to legitimate damage on the lives and livelihoods of those they seek to mock. Just because the GOMI community hasn't seen the tears, anxiety, sleeplessness, and financial impact that their community has had on the lives of these actual real people who don't just live in their computers and refuse to publish their vicious comments, doesn't mean that it's not just as tangible as the [wine] they're clutching while they release their own tension by shitting all over others."
GOMI users were particularly outraged when Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller got married. Photo: Man Repeller
Mommy blogger Lisa Morguess used to be a GOMI contributor—until she found a vicious thread dedicated to her site. On her own blog, Morguess explained why she stopped commenting on GOMI: "Not that I ever came close to becoming a regular on GOMI, but do you know why I eventually stopped posting there? Because it just didn't feel good. I mean, seriously—an entire website devoted to ripping people to shreds...after a while I realized that you can't post on GOMI and walk away feeling good about it." Morguess's site now even proudly displays a graphic of a middle finger with the text, "GOMI loves to hate me."
Yes, A.'s made her fair share of enemies. GOMI foes shower her with hate mail. She's gotten anonymous phone calls that "weren't too pleasant." People have sent her photos of her own front door accompanied by death threats. She's faced more potential lawsuits than she can count, and bloggers have tried to get some of her advertisers to back out. While this backlash can be scary, she maintains that her agenda isn't about ruining people.
"While I know GOMI's detractors picture me sitting in LexCorp Towers counting my millions and ordering my hams to destroy all that's good in the world, that's really not what GOMI is about," she says. "It's a great community. I know what GOMI is, and so do the people who participate in it. My personal mantra is, 'Eyes on my own paper.' You can't win, so just keep the community you care about happy, keep your head down, make your own shit better and ignore them. All I care about is keeping my own people happy. If the hams enjoy GOMI and are satisfied with what's being offered, then I don't really give a shit what anyone else thinks or says."
As for what the semi-professional hater doesn't hate? A. admits there are some style blogs she likes to read but can't name because her own GOMI readers might accuse her of favoritism. She also enjoys STFU Parents, My Crappy House and Marg on Film, and frequents sites like The Onion, Slashdot and Reddit—just don't try to find her posts there: "I don't have enough balls to set up an account."