I was thinking today about the criteria I use for when something is worthy of a blog post.
Writing a blog post is in many ways a highly egotistical exercise. The implicit assertion is that my thoughts on this subject are worthy of reading, and in longer form than a social media post can accommodate. Of course, we live in a time of sharing. We share publicly our thoughts, feelings, and opinions on everything from how cute our cat is when she naps to whether the super-delegate system is treating Bernie Sanders unfairly. We share that we cooked a great dinner, and we share that someone in line at the grocery store cut us off. Hashtag rude.
I began writing a personal blog in part because I wanted to cut down on my own social media commentary. The blog would be the place I posted or wrote about things I thought deserved a little more time and attention than what I would give to a social media post. It’s also more easily searchable, and it’s more targeted: people who want to read my more in-depth thoughts can come read them on my blog, and be spared them on Facebook.
But pushing certain thoughts to the blog has created a new question: what qualifies for this treatment? Anyone who writes a personal blog (and by personal I mean one that has absolutely no business or money-making-related purpose) is making a significant statement of ego. If you just wanted to write for yourself, then keep a journal and don’t make it public. But if you want to write and make it public, you are suggesting that you deserve to be read. Amid all the competition for attention in today’s world, your little thoughts on the subjects of the day are worthy of people’s time.
The NY Times last week ran a nice column from Molly Worthen, Stop Saying ‘I feel like’. The headline caught my attention, as those which seem to express a previously unspoken truth tend to. Prefacing a sentence with, “I feel like,” strikes me as the sort of thing a marriage counselor tells a troubled couple to say whenever they discuss something difficult. Saying I feel like is a way to avoid stating something as if it were an established truth. It’s a way to couch every statement in a subjectivity which makes it difficult to argue with. And indeed, sometimes that’s the point. As Worthen writes:
“I feel like” masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too — but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks.
Because when someone starts a sentence with I feel like, you’re not allowed to then say that they are wrong, because they didn’t try to assert in the first place that they were right – only that they feel something.
When it comes to writing for publication, it’s tempting to couch opinions in a certain feeling of subjectivity, in an attempt to make those opinions more palatable to the readership, and less open to attack. The oft-seen chat and email abbreviation, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), is another one of these feeling statements, used to couch statements which might be perceived as threatening, or to inoculate ourselves against the perception of arrogance – arrogance that we would assert something as a statement of fact in this relativistic, everyone’s-opinion-matters world.
The subjects which I deem worthy of a blog post must thread a narrow hole. On the one side the opinion must be assertive enough such that I don’t have to use wishy-washy I feel language, and the other side it can’t get me in trouble for being too assertive. There is, after all, a polite, Internet-reading public out there, some of whom are my family, friends, and co-workers.
“We should not ‘feel like,'” says Worthen. “We should argue rationally, feel deeply and take full responsibility for our interaction with the world.” Indeed. I try to say things that I think are right and true, and write in such a way as to not be wishy washy about the opinions I hold. But as a consequence of the two aforementioned factors – my desire to say something worthy of reading and also my desire to publicly stand by clearly held opinions – much of my regularly, daily thinking is basically inadmissible.
The reason has much more to do with the second thing than the first. Basically, a lot of what I think is just not really socially acceptable to state publicly. Certainly I have a lot of inane thoughts that are just not worth writing down, but then there is that thinking which really is worth writing down, but not sharing publicly. 85 percent is just my back of the envelope calculation of how much of my daily thinking isn’t really something I want to say in a public forum.
Which is all really a shame, if you think about it. The gap between what I think and what is socially acceptable to think is so far that I won’t say most of what I think. Maybe that means I have an incredible memoir, or self-help book, or novel hidden down deep inside of me. Maybe one day it will get out, and a small minority of the people who read it will say how truthful it was, and how amazing I am. But the rest will say some very unflattering things, or just not say anything at all. And many of those people will be my friends and family.
It’ll be like when Jerry McGuire wrote his Mission Statement. Remember what it was called? The things we think and do not say. And like him, my book will give me an amazing high, which will then likely be followed by the loss of my job, my friends, and my relationships. So, for now those thoughts remain in my head and not anywhere on a page. That’s just, how it is.