They say copying is the highest form of flattery. I don’t know who they are, but they’ve clearly never been on the receiving end. Originality and plaigarism have been rife topics in the blogosphere over the last week or so. I want to make it clear that this post is not aimed at anyone in particular, though it would be naive to pretend that it hasn’t been sparked by a particularly shocking case of plagiarism that has recently been made public by Sophie Milner. Whilst I in no way condone what happened, I also do not condone online witch hunts, trolling or bullying. I can guarantee that the girl in question is feeling pretty fucking awful right about now, so please do not feel that it is your online right to add to that in the form of a shitty Instagram comment or an abusive DM. It is not.
Inspo must be one of the most used phrases online right now. Wherever we look there are people absolutely acing life; whether that’s throwing together a killer outfit, designing a gorgeous home or nailing a recent job pitch. The internet is the perfect place to be inspired and I often look to Instagram or Pinterest as a source when I’m not sure what to wear, what to make for dinner or how to get wax out of my carpet. You name it, the internet has an answer and a pretty picture to boot. Being inspired by others is a brilliant thing and being someone who inspires is a truly virtuous quality. If you’re doing something that makes other people think ‘Wow! I wish I’d thought of that!‘ then I can guarantee that whatever it is, you’re doing it right.
To what end though, do we sacrifice our own talents and creativities by trying too hard to be like someone else? Whether it’s getting dressed in the morning or picking out bedroom decor, this goes across the board. Prevalently, I know that when I first started blogging I was totally unsure about where I fitted into the industry and I looked to established bloggers that I admired as both a source of inspiration and motivation. However, if at any point I felt myself slipping into an attempt to actually be like them, then I’d unfollow. I wanted to remove the temptation to reduce myself to a very average copy of someone else.
Before you get too pass-agg with the tweets, consider whether you can seriously put your hands up and say that you’ve never copied someone else before. I can’t. Most of us have probably copied our mates homework once upon a time and I think at some point or other we’ve all looked to someone else and wished that we could be a little more like them. For the brief time that I dabbled in blogger photography I’d regularly hear: “Can you make me look like [insert 600K blogger here]”. The reality is that the only thing you are guaranteed to be the absolute best at in this world is yourself. Nobody can do you better than you can, and that means that if you’re trying to be someone else then essentially you are always going to be a cheaper version. Chances are you’re pretty fabulous already so grab hold of that by the balls and own all the things that make you you.
Is there room for individuality amongst bloggers?
This might sound like a really silly question because we are all different people. We have different backgrounds, went to different schools, have different life experiences and ultimately are very individual people who share a common passion. However, the fashion industry relies on trends. You can bet that if Whistles are selling something one day, then Topshop have made a more affordable version the next and within a week it will be available to the masses in Primark. Is that okay? I’m not sure. Do we buy it anyway? You don’t even need me to answer that one.
The world that we live in – one of social media and mass-producing high street stores – doesn’t allow for much originality unless you’re willing to buck the trends. And you know what? If you want to shop in Topshop’s New In like everybody else then go for it! There is nothing wrong with fitting in just as there is nothing wrong with standing out. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by someone else’s choices and channelling them into your own too. From my perspective, someone can’t call themselves an influencer, share affiliate links of their latest ASOS haul then get upset when someone wears the same outfit as them. Isn’t that we want? To encourage people to dress like us, wear the make up we wear, visit the hotels we stay in? Well yes, and no. I want people to do and wear the things that make them feel good. If I can be a source of inspiration within that then I feel very privileged.
When inspiration becomes imitation
If you like what someone else has done enough to recreate or create your own version then it’s actually really simple. Credit them. Love someones outfit and dress head to toe in the same one? Add a little ‘inspired by @…’ – you’ll probably make their day and you won’t look like a copycat. Write a similarly themed blog post off of the back of someone else’s? Link to theirs and credit the idea. Love how someone has styled their bedroom on Instagram and redecorated yours in the same vein? Credit. Credit. Credit. You owe it to the original creator and it means that you don’t end up being called out for something that actually could just be a really innocent case of inspiration, because I guarantee people will notice. I’ve been scrolling through my Instagram feed and before seeing the name attached to an image, I had initially assumed it was someone else’s and it just doesn’t bode well.
Please understand that your teacher wasn’t joking when they said that plagiarism is a serious offence. It is an infringement of someones intellectual property and is the entire reason that even Beyonce was called out by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Personally, I have once had to ask someone politely to reconsider a blog post which was spookily similar to mine and I have experienced the odd caption copy, once or twice by people I actually know personally and the reality is it was probably a mistake. If you’re doing something and either explicitly know you took the idea from someone else, or even more subconsciously are aware of the original influence then take a second to check yourself, decide if it’s still worth posting and if the answer is yes then, you guessed it, credit.
I hope that this blog post is taken as intended, which is not as another dig at the girl currently central to the latest bout of Twitter drama but as a reminder to us all that you should have faith in your own original ideas and offer credit where credit is due if you are explicitly inspired by someone else’s work. In that vein, I’m leaving links here to Lauren’s post which offers tips on being yourself in an over saturated industry, and Leah’s tweet which very aptly reminds us all that if we wouldn’t say something to someones face, we shouldn’t be tweeting it either.