I've lost a bunch of Facebook friends over the last month. It started when I noticed that people were dropping off like flies, deactivating their accounts and choosing to live Facebook free lives. At first I was like, what is going on here! And then I realized, I can't say I blame them.
I'm beginning to wonder if Facebook is bad for our health.
I log on far too often and check out statuses. More often than not I'm like, "why the eff would she/he post that?" or "who the hell cares that your dinner caused you heartburn?" or whatever, or "why does the world need to know that you are desperately in love with your husband/boyfriend?" (who you probably hate enough to have to overcompensate by posting such things.) These aren't thoughts we would necessarily share during a "real life" conversation with random acquaintances, so why do we do it on Facebook?
Why have the minutiae of our lives become fodder for our own personal bullhorns?
Lately, some of the stuff I've seen has been really crazy. Updates lambasting other friends, a play by play on the imminent death of an acquaintance's family member, news on new couples - all in a status update. And I haven't even witnessed all of this myself. I got a call from a friend the other day - actually several this week alone - saying , "have you seen so and so's status update?" And I thought - OMG, it's update insanity.
Appropriate? Who am I to say. All I know is I feel like these are things I don't want/need to know. Not as often as I do. They constitute the overshare in my book and they're not things I need to know about anyone other than close friends, who are confiding in me. The intimate details of your life make me somewhat uncomfortable.
But - it's my problem, not yours.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy seeing pics of your kids, yourself, your family, your trips. I do. I love the funny stuff, the jokes, anything that makes me LOL. I like the links to articles containing interesting stuff. I do enjoy keeping up with my friends - to a certain degree - via social media. But if you're breaking up with your husband and you want me to know? Gimme a call. (I've seriously been able to deduce divorce news from statuses.)
This week I started my disentanglement by "unfriending" people who have no place in my life. I mean like, at all. Not as a former schoolmate, not even a colleague (although most of the former ones went too). People who floated into my life for a hot minute and are now gone. Gone as well from my contacts.
Phase two of operation un-Facebook consisted of deleting the app from my iPhone. The point is to spend less time perusing status updates and more time focusing on whatever I'm doing. It's also a way to decrease my engagement with the otherwise addictive activity. Which, I've noticed, seems to be a trend among people I know IRL who have had actual addiction problems. Those people tend to turn into shadowy figures (what a profile pic looks like after deactivating) like clockwork. To me, this speaks volumes.
The goal is to spend more time in the real world. Focusing on my real life. With people who don't live in my computer. Because the results, I'm thinking, can only prove positive. And I can use as much positivity as I can get.
And yes, I'll be sharing this post on Facebook. The irony.
I love the show Girls. I told you about it in June and I still love it. I think it's awesomely funny, raw, and entertaining. The fact that it's written, directed, and produced by a 26-year-old girl woman who also stars in it is just the icing on the cake. I am so intrigued by Lena Dunham, in fact, that I used vacation time to attend a screening of her movie, Tiny Furniture, along with a Q&A with her and her mom, the artist Laurie Simmons, last week at the MFA in Boston. While I wasn't as taken with her movie as I am with her show, it was fun to be part of the intimate gathering.
Since Girls has become more popular in its second season, it's also become the center of an evergrowing maelstrom of emotion. Check out the entertainment blogs, even just the regular blogs, on a Monday after pretty much any episode and you're going to read comments written by folks who hate Hannah Horvath/Lena Dunham so intensely that they spew venom at her every chance they get. They even use her real name and her character's name interchangeably making the reader wonder if the commenter is so caught up in the root of their feeling that they are confused by the fact that this character, is just that - a fictitious character.
It's sad, really.
This past Sunday was a particularly "inflammatory" episode in which Hannah - not to be confused with her more polished, shabby-chic real-life alter ego, Lena - has a whirlwind affair (and by affair I mean tons of hot sex) with an older, hotter man. How she meets him is irrelevant but she goes on an instinct, makes the first move (confident women of the world, unite!) and proceeds to spend much time in her splendid, naked, glory with this buff, angular, rich guy, having hours of what is probably unpolished, dirty, sexy, sex.
Hannah Horvath is no Claudia Schiffer, she would probably be the first to admit it. Which is why I feel empowered as part of the non-Claudia Schiffer-women's club when a woman, deemed by society as less than perfect, gets naked (aka vulnerable) on TV. She even (GASP!) seems comfortable in her own skin! With a rich, hot guy no less! Isn't he grossed out by her imperfect abs? Her out of place brown hair? Her thighs that touch?
And all I could think was that I wish I had a quarter of Hannah's self-confidence when I was in my 20s. I wish it hadn't taken the better part of thirty-something years to focus more on being in the moment and less on how I look in the moment. I wish I'd learned far earlier on that if two people are naked together and one is worrying about flabby thighs or wavy arms, they're probably ALONE in their thoughts cuz the other person is probably thinking - laid! I'm getting laid! Especially true if you a heterosexual woman.
The haters hated. Slate writer David Haglund said, "I like when writers and directors push us to empathize with characters who are not likable—but then you have to make those characters interesting. This episode somehow put a hard-to-like character in a hard-to-believe situation which also, frankly, was pretty dull."
Haglund is certainly entitled his opinion - if he finds Hannah hard to like, that's his prerogative. One that I can't contest since I'm not experiencing the show in the shoes of a 40-something year old man. However...
Hannah is nothing if not interesting. She'll pretty much do anything for a story (a writer!) including take a cocaine-fueled journey through clubland with her gay ex-boyfriend, and is as adventurous as any character. But the real question I have for Haglund is, why is this situation so hard to believe? Is it because Hannah is an average looking woman who makes a move on a 40-something year old rich, hot man? Or because this average woman had the confidence to go get 'em?
Is David Haglund secretly an average woman who has been rejected by hot, older men therefore lending credit to his words? Or is he a hot, older guy who rejects all average women (I think not. Just sayin'.) Hey David, men, even the good looking ones, dig confidence. It's a thing. Really.
I''ve seen Twitter steams and Facebook pages that call Hannah out as a vapid narcissist (along with anyone who enjoys the show. Hold on while I grab my tissues - not), a loser, gross, wrong, and just about every other negative adjective stirred up by our wonderful society crawling with perfect creatures.
Before watching the episode, which did, I admit, involve lots of jiggly boobie shots and a not-flat stomach, I saw Facebook status updates saying, "don't eat while watching Girls," and "Girls made me hurl" (who's vapid now!). And when I got around to watching the episode on Tuesday (it's been a busy week and my DVR betrayed me), I called back to my memory where I had seen these updates and low and behold my mind did go there. I thought, man, I sure as hell wouldn't want to see you naked.
Or maybe I was just offended that even the very ordinary people that I associate myself with are part of this elitist group that would never want to look at anyone imperfect - or real - on TV. And it made me sad. And it made me defensive. Because in spite of my brilliant writing (hehe), I am part of the 99% of us that are imperfect. In many, many ways.
So maybe this is why I love Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham seemed cool, too, though I don't know her as well so hard for me to judge). Hannah is the every women (in their 20s). She's not gorgeously stunning or impossibly perfect. She's just who she is and to me, real beats perfect ANY day.
I rarely talk politics in this space. While my few forays into highly electric conversation have attracted a record number of readers (most who were sooo not in favor of my self-proclaimed hilarious rant about Sarah Palin), I typically reserve TDG for rants about other stuff that I feel more comfortable going on about. And while it's pretty atypical for me to go public about a topic like, say, gun control, just a couple of days after the massacre of little, tiny children in Newtown, Ct., I can't help myself.
I'm a Canadian living in the US. And while I embrace most aspects of life in this country, the super lax gun regulations that is representative of life in most American states is not something I've ever been comfortable with. And while I've heard all the propaganda about a person's "right" to bear firearms, there's no part of that that I understand. (A right to shoot and kill? A right to take someone else's life at our discretion?) Because then there are mentally unstable people owning guns who use them for exactly what they're intended for - to efficiently and effectively shoot to kill.
And then there are two angry teenagers in Littleton, Colorado who go to school decked out in one 9-mm semi-automatic, one double-barrel shotgun, a rifle and a 12-gauge pump shotgun, and release 188 rounds of ammo - at their peers and teachers - killing 15 people and injuring another 27.
And then there is a deeply disturbed 23 year old student at Virginia Tech who easily acquires two semi-automatic weapons, goes to campus, and proceeds to shoot and kill 32 people, wounding 17 others.
And then there's a mentally unstable 24 year old male in Aurora, Colorado who goes to a movie theatre and opens fire on unsuspecting movie-goers, killing 12 and wounding 58. This killer had in his posession four weapons including two pistols, a rifle and a shotgun.
Two common themes here - mental illness and guns. One is an unfortunate medical disorder (treatable in some instances if treatment is sought), and guns (mostly controllable with proper regulations, evidenced by laws in other countries).
Over the last 48+ hours since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, I've read dozens of debates on every social site out there, about the pros and cons of gun control, the need for free assistance for mental health patients, whether or not gun laws need to be stricter, who's to blame, and of course, anguish over the loss of such innocent and pure life.
All I know is this - I was walking in a busy mall with my two kids today and suddenly I was overcome with anxiety about our safety. Totally irrational, totally a first for me, but totally a physical and emotional reaction to the pictures of those little faces, brutally shot and killed for no reason, just two days ago.
And I can't help but think that if that 20 year old shooter hadn't had access to guns, it's more than likely that those children and teachers would still be alive. And twenty six families wouldn't be shattered. And fifty two or so parents lives wouldn't be over as they ring in the New Year by burying their children.
You know, I'm seeing things like "let's talk about mental illness" and "it's so easy to talk about gun control" but if that were even remotely true, we'd be talking about gun control! Mental illness is not going anywhere. In fact, I'd venture to say that while increasingly treatable, with all of today's pressures, it's likely on the rise. But something that can in fact be controlled and is not left to Mother Nature - guns and who is permitted to possess them. So, I'd actually like to talk about gun control.
The fact is this: In many U.S. states, weapons of many kinds are readily available for legal purchase with just a driver’s licence as ID. It takes longer to be approved to buy a house than a gun. In Canada where the system is far from perfect, it takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.
If I hear "guns don't kill people, people kill people" one more time I'm going to gauge my eyes out. Last time I checked, school shootings were called shootings and not school stranglings or school bow and arrow'ings.
Guns do kill people. In fact, that is exactly what they are designed to do. Not a fucking thing else.
It's time. It's happening far too often. I want to feel safe sending my children to school. I want to feel calm walking around a public place. I don't give a shit if you want the "right" to protect yourself because while you're protecting yourself, innocent children and adults are dying. And no one has the right to put our lives in danger.
All of you gun-toting Americans - I wonder how you'd feel if it were your child in that casket. Because all it takes is one evil or unstable person to access their "right" and boom - you're dead.
And I bet I'm not the only one who does. Matter of fact, isn't most of the food industry reaping billions per year preying on people just like me? Oh, it's been a tough day, I deserve a big, fattening, delicious, nutrient-deficient meal that I'll regret in an hour. I wrote the book on this topic.
Kids are annoying me? Ice cream.
Work day is not going as planned? Sushi lunch (and I don't mean thinly sliced, fat-free sashimi).
Guy in the left lane taking his time while I'm rushing somewhere totally unsafely? Steak!
Oh, my love-hate relationship with food seems to haunt me day in and day out. Just so happens, my good friend, Susan, is a health coach and every morning, she wakes with the birds to post some food-related fact on her Facebook page. There's almost never a morning when I can't relate to what she's talking about, because she has a way of speaking to her followers rather than AT them that helps make her tips and factoids resonate. Like, she speaks in a way that makes you believe she too has these problems and overcomes them or was once in the shoes of an average (or below average body), while in truth, she's 11 feet tall and slim and beautiful as a rose.And she's nice to boot which is just annoying.
But I digress.
This morning, I awoke to this visual that hit me over the head. Check it out:
OHMYGOD this is me! It's sooooooo me. I want to do better in my habits, but I feel like it goes deeper than just wanting chocolate. It's like, I MUST HAVE THE CHOCOLATE, I'M A SLAVE TO THE CHOCOLATE and that's not really normal.
I'm going to print this and spend some time thinking about it. In the meantime, if you live in the Boston area and want to engage with a fantastic health coach, click on Susan's name and giver her a call. She's awesome. And no, she doesn't even know I'm writing this.
I love Facebook. I'm the first to admit that I visit the site every day and have it downloaded on my iPhone. I'm what you might call an "avid" user. I know this. I love that it enables me to create a virtual memory box and that if I want to take a stroll down memory I need do nothing other than "flip" through my old albums. I enjoy keeping up with old friends, reconnecting with people I've had no contact with for years (yep - sometimes that's a good thing!) and I even like scrolling through your pics from time to time to see what you're up to. But not in a weird, stalkerish way, obv.
And even as I enjoy all of this and more, in the back of my mind, I also know that most of what I see on Facebook is a lie.
And I know that you know it too.
I'll see pictures of happy couples with captions like, "my bestest guy", twenty five minutes after hearing that he's confided that he's unhappy in his marriage and that she doesn't know how to tell him, but she wants more sex. I see mothers-in-law in your pics, locked in loving embraces with what appear to be doting daughters-in-law, while you told me last week that she's the devil's spawn. Disneyworld pics posted on the walls of folks who owe more than they have, ski trip images, relationship statuses, 'likes' of products you've never done more than take sponsorship money from. And it goes on.
Everyone does it. We're all on a quest to prove to the world how happy we are, how much we have accomplished, how perfect our children are. On my worst days I'll still take pics of my kids, maybe include myself, frolicking in the playground like I don't have a care in the world. Imagine if we actually used social sites to reach out when we needed a boost?
I have one FB "friend" who actually does update her status when she's down. It sometimes comes across as slightly desperate and somewhat sad (which I guess is why most people don't do this) but it sure is more honest than tossing an arm around the boyfriend you can't stand and making it your profile pic. Within minutes, I see heart-warming, spirit-boosting comments pop up like weeds in spring. So maybe there is something to it.
This is not eye-opening stuff here, but it was precipitated by a conversation I have regularly with one of my bff's in which we privately assess what's what based on what we're seeing on FB. It's actually a fun conversation, but sometimes it pisses me off because I know that half of what you're putting out there is bullshit. And that makes me question the value of social media communication altogether.
Last week I saw this posted on a friend's wall and it pretty much summed up everything I've been thinking:
And you know you have too.
I first posted this exactly a year ago today after reading an article that supports idea. My views haven't changed, though with my kids being a year older and a year more mature, I might edit the time-out from 6:15 to 7pm. But what works for one dosen't necessarily work for the masses. Read on and 'Like' if you agree!!!
I love my kids. In fact, they are my world. I take them everywhere and have since the day they were born. As a result, they have wonderfully mature palettes (mussels anyone?) and are typically very well-behaved in public places.
But not always. And when they melt down in public or talk in outside voices when we're inside a restaurant or (heaven forbid) on an airplane, I may or may not look around and give onlookers that please-pardon-my-kids-they-weren't-raised-in-the-jungle look or the would-you-bear-with-me-while-I-find-a-way-to-shut-these-damn-kids-up eyes. But you know, I don't find myself squirming with embarassment all that often because I'm aware of when it's appropriate to have kids with me and when they need to stay home.
Are you? While you may think you have the world's most fabulous offspring, if you're taking them to dinner after the time they're usually tucked into bed, chances are you're in for a real shitstorm, as are the nice folks at the next table. When I leave my kids at home for an adult night out, I don't really want to hear kids, yours or mine, crying at the next table.
When I read this article entitled, The Kids Aren't Alright, in AdWeek today, I almost stood up and gave a standing ovation. Because as much as I love kids, both yours and mine (or whatever), there's a time and a place for everything.
So here's my spiel: restaurants - almost any restaurant on earth, from McDonald's to Morton's, are fair game for kids who can sit still for the amount of time it takes to order, eat, and pay. The caveat? Be out by 6:15pm. If you're craving sushi from Nobu and you're traveling with your mini-me's, be there when they open the doors at 5:45 so you and your noise can be gone by the time the grown-ups arrive to eat $100 sushi. Fair enough, right?
Movie theatres - simple. Kids won't be seen and not heard and you're not seeing Winnie the Pooh? Take off.
Airplanes. Ah, airplanes. I defy you to find me a parent who doesn't dread an upcoming flight with kids. I've been there, I'm sure you have too. Honestly, there's not much you can do about an unruly kid on a plane except this is is one those times when bribery is not only an acceptable parenting method, it's preferable. Parents - bring candy, gum, snacks, DVD's, and as many new toys as you can fit in your carry-on. Anything they're not allowed at home - BRING IT. You might not be doing your kids any favors in the short-term, but think about all the fury you'll be saved from enduring when neighboring passengers don't want to kick your (and your kids) asses right off the plane.
The AdWeek article talks about an airline that has a new "no babies allowed" rule in first-class. My thoughts are why would babies be allowed in first-class like, ever? Why is this a new rule? And adults-only vacation destinations aren't anything new. Sandals Resorts has had a no-kids rule since it opened. Many hotels around the world have adults-only pools. Even as a mom, I found myself seeking them out on my last trip to Vegas. Don't take this the wrong way, but for three days I just didn't want to be around any kids, yours or mine. There are plenty of fabulous vacations to choose from if you want to bring kids. In fact, if you think about it, with all the travel options geared toward families, it really is a kid's world.
My last thought is geared toward those parents of kids who notoriously run around restaurants, can't sit still on a flight any longer than 20 minutes, and who chatter non-stop from previews to credits - in a few years it'll be fair game again and you won't have to deal with dirty looks from strangers. But until then, please, Mom and Dad, leave the kids at home.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
So, you may have heard about this new show that aired recently on HBO called Girls. It's basically the story of four post-college aged girls trying to make a go of it in New York City. Sound familiar? Well other than the four girls trying to make a go of it in New York City part, Girls bears NO resemblance to the former HBO show that had the same, if completely different basis.
While Sex and the City was entertaining in the way that Beverly Hills 90210 was entertaining (very attractive people living totally unrealistic lives with money that seemed to fall from the sky and closets full of awesome clothes for the times - high waisted pleats are not my thing), Girls is a much more relatable tale of what might have actually happened to me if my alternate universe had included a move to NYC in my 20s. And by that I mean, living in a shabbily furnished apartment featuring knick-knacks made mostly in Guatemala and purchased from street fairs instead of a magazine perfect place outfitted by Pottery Barn, having friends over for opium sessions (JUST KIDDING, WORK PEOPLE) rather than meeting for Cosmo's at the newest club/restaurant, and hooking up with commitment phobic men who, for no good reason, I imprint on, Twilight style, to no avail.
And while Girls is truly HBO's best decision since Six Feet Under (IMO), the biggest reason I have for loving this show is its 24-year-old creator, Lena Dunham.
She writes it. She stars in it. She directs it and created it. Never heard of her? Neither had I until I started watching. Why would I have heard of her? She's a girl, who, let's be honest, has done not very much until now. But now she's shown us what's floating around her unbelievably talented, somewhat weird, very quirky mind and I for one, love it. It's uninhibited yet completely inscure. It portrays the best part of female friendships and the worst side of girlfriends. It uses otherwise dirty words, has entirely awkward 24-year-old sex scenes and quote-worthy lines that are so hysterical it's hard to imagine they're coming out of such a young girl.
At 24 I was not even myself yet. I don't know who I was and I'm sure I showed traces of the me I am now but I wasn't me. Not yet. So it's hard to imagine that this genius is coming from Lena Dunham's 24-year-old brain.
Everyone's favorite chick-flick writer, Nora Ephron, died this week. It seems Nora and Lena were friends and an article that appeared yesterday in The New Yorker that summarizes their short friendship (or mentor/mentee-ship) gives a glimpse into not only their relationship, but also a peek at Lena Dunham and her brilliant, expressive writing. It also soldifies the fact that she takes her advice from the right places - not from people who nod and smile in that disingenuous way people do but from the likes of Nora Ephron who seemed, from what I've read, to be a real, down to earth person who told the truth rather than what you wanted to hear and liked lunching at the cafe at Barney's because, well, so do I (even if I can't afford those delicious $31 salads).
Lena Dunham has an awesome show. She has surrounded herself with awesome actors (aren't the smartest people those who surround themselves with people at least as smart as they are?). And she's going to make many people into stars. That Zosia Mamet is seriously God's gift to comedy right after Lena Dunham.
Lena Dunham is the next Nora Ephron even if Meg Ryan will never be her protagonist. Girls everywhere can relate to an awkward sexual experience even if they can't imagine faking an orgasm over pecan pie. Not that orgasms and pecan pie don't rock. Cuz they do.
RIP Nora Ephron.
Rock on, Hannah Horvath.
I don't get to the theatre very often. A crazy busy schedule coupled with an admittedly short attention span (I know, sad) puts theatre low on my list of priorities. But given the opportunity, I never regret being treated to an evening of escapism.
And that's exactly what Totem, the latest Cirque du Soleil show to hit Boston, offers. Prepare to forget the stresses of the day the minute the show opens, with its unbelievable costumes, almost inhuman performers and intimate "big-top" setting.
Having seen several Cirque shows in my life, I know what to expect each time, but the story lines are always different and its the accompanying theme that predicates the music, the vibe, the direction the performance takes.
If you've never seen a Cirque performance, you don't know what you're missing. Seriously - you can't imagine that human beings are capable of such unbelievable acrobatics. The skill required to perform the acts that are presented so perfectly, is almost hard to put into words. Cirque performers were made to be Cirque performers. They're like a breed unto themselves (in a good way).
The music in Totem gets your adrenaline going from the first act. The costumes look as real as if they actually were born onto the skin of the performers. If you've seen the show, you might understand why my favorite character was the Crystal Man who seems to come out of nowhere and literally light up the set during the course of the show. Of course, mostly I was jealous of his crystally, sparkly outfit.
Totem is like the circus on acid. I can't think of a better way to describe how Cirque differs from a traditional circus. With neither a traditional circus ring nor animals, Cirque shows rely completely on the performers and music to draw in the audience. And it works. While I saw a few children at the premiere, Cirque shows are intended for adults and are far too sophisticated for a child. Though who wouldn't be wowed by the surreal synchronicity of six unicyclists who juggle metal bowls - sometimes without using their hands - while keeping balanced. Some of it is impossible to describe - you'd have to see it to believe it.
I received two tickets toTotem to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.
I'm a PR gal who moonlights as a blogger and a social media hack. Or rather, I am a blogger who parlayed my past experience and my love of social media and the blogosphere into a job. Then I morphed that experience and moved the needle forward at a new job - all of which speaks to the importance of what I did while being a work-at-home-mom who blogged between Mommy and Me classes.
Even I didn't realize that what I was doing while wearing Lululemons and bouncing a baby on my knee would be part of a picture that was larger than I could have imagined. And maybe you are too. And that's why it's important to read why taking responsibility for yourself - as a blogger - is so important.
I have blogger friends. I have friends who are both bloggers and client-facing social media consultants. And while the two are complimentary, sometimes it becomes frustrating when bloggers who simply blog do not know what goes on behind the scenes. I've seen the other side. I've pulled back the curtain and glimpsed the wizard. And like Dorothy, I’ve a much better understanding of what makes this space tick. As a blogger, it's important to share with you the bigger picture - the daily frustrations, successes, trials, and triumphs of bloggers as well as the daily frustrations, successes, trials, and triumphs of the social media folks.
As bloggers, we are often privy to the good fortune of being part of a blessed group who gets to test drive new products, experience awesome trips, and meet smart, new people. In doing what we enjoy, we get to build our brand, collect some very awesome experience, and possibly become exempt from birthday present shopping.
In return, we provide a service, a very important important service, to companies and brands. After all, giving fair and honest reviews of a new product or service is often pivotal in leveraging a brand's consumer-facing image. Moms trust moms and brands know it.
That said, it's important for bloggers to understand not only how important they are to their readers, but also to the people and/or agencies who believe enough in their blog's brand to select them to be on the receiving end of a new washer/dryer or app or food delivery service or book. Or how important it is to show up at a brand event if you said you would.
While blogging might be what you do in between carpools or how you spend those precious evening hours after a full day's work, it's important to recognize that to the brands engaging with bloggers, this is not a hobby. And to the social media team hired to select you, this is a job.
It's business. And you are regarded as a professional so long as you behave like one.
When bloggers opt-in to participate in a campaign, accept a product or service, or RSVP to attend an event and then can't find the time to write their review or even show up, it’s just unprofessional. I know, I've been there, too. The campaign seems interesting when it arrives in your inbox, but once it hits your doorstep, life happens. Maybe something more compelling has taken top of mind. Or you simply don't feel like blogging. Or maybe you decide to take a vacation.
Don't get me wrong - you are a free agent unless you are contractually obligated through a spokesperson gig or freelance contract. And you absolutely have the right to not review a product or service if you can't find anything redeeming to say about it.
However, writing an objective review where you cover what's great – and not so great about the product – is what you “signed up” to do. But to ignore the product altogether is to breach the implied “gentlewoman’s agreement” you entered into when you signed up to participate in the campaign.
If you should find yourself unable to attend the screening, test out the vacuum, or review the diaper pail, let the agency/brand person know that you're no longer able to do the review. If you can no longer attend the event, shoot a quick email off to the organizer - preferably with enough time that they can replace you. Tell them why and be honest.
To simply toss the product or not attend the event at the last minute (everyone understands that emergencies happen), is not going to help to propel you forward in the blogosphere. Plus, it's not fair to the agency who invited you to participate in the campaign.
I never thought much about the client before I pulled back that curtain. I never considered that bloggers are a part of a much larger marketing initiative. I didn't give much thought to the fact that someone else might have enjoyed participating in this campaign had I thought out my editorial calendar better.
But I do now. As a blogger, I'm part of something much bigger than “just a review.” I'm a professional providing a service in return for a product, experience or service I deem worthy of the exchange. And it's my responsibility to live up to my end of the deal. If I fail to do so, the social media person who selected me might have her hand slapped, the brand might be one review short, but ultimately I know I'll be excluded from the good stuff. And it's the good stuff that makes this so much fun to do.