Do you ever find yourself selectively waxing nostalgic?
If you’re like me, you may pine for the good ol’ days of childhood: playgrounds at the local fast food joints, pre-Cloud technology, and water balloon fights with the neighbors during the dog days of summer.
But then there are those awkward teenage years.
When I was about 16, I started a Xanga blog. (Anyone remember Xanga?) Facebook was still in development at Harvard. MySpace was starting to become a thing. And I was going through this strange phase, learning all about internet etiquette and feeling this odd compulsion to talk about everything happening in my life while ending almost every sentence with an emoticon just so people wouldn’t think I was sounding cold and heartless with a simple period.
A few years ago, I read some of my old blog posts and found myself nearly drowning in a sea of orange, yellow, and blue smiley faces. Really? I thought to myself. That’s how I sounded back then? They say hindsight is 20/20, but I wasn’t prepared for the feeling. It’s all a part of growing up, I suppose.
It’s funny how the world of blogging has evolved: a decade ago, it was the latest online fad, with teenagers, parents, and everyone else and their dog chronicling their day-to-day lives and following the exploits of others. Now, social networks like Facebook and Twitter accomplish that function, albeit in the more bite-sized chunks of statuses and tweets. In the meantime, blogging has further evolved into an outlet where people share insights and ideas that can’t easily fit into a 140-character limit.
That’s one reason why I haven’t been uber-eager to jump back into blogging. The Internet – well, the world in general, but especially the Internet – is such a noisy place, with shouting and flaming galore in posts and comments. All those insights and ideas can be so overwhelming, and it’s even worse when people take advantage of the veil of anonymity to bulldoze over others. In the face of it all, you and I have to adapt. We have to shield ourselves from all that noise, yet most of us understand the folly of becoming cloistered and shutting ourselves out from everyone.
So we become selective. We listen to the familiar, the encouraging, the sensible, the safe. And in the process, our biases are reinforced over and over again – to the point where it’s difficult to listen to others, even if some of their insights on life, the universe, and everything are worth considering. All that can be heard are the echoes of the buzzwords we’ve learned to ignore.
In many respects, blogging and interacting with bloggers has become an interesting therapeutic exercise for many. For some, it’s healthy. For others, not so much. At least some of it seems to have to do with the content bloggers post and our motives as readers for engaging with it. Last summer, when Guardians of the Galaxy was released in theaters, the world was introduced to a comic book character unlike anyone previously seen on the silver screen: an angry, hilarious, gun-toting raccoon named Rocket. My dad and I were laughing at his remarks and general “I’m surrounded by idiots!” frustration.
“He says all the things I wish I could get away with saying!” my dad said with a chuckle.
He was so right.
I think many of us approach the Internet in that same way. We find ourselves surrounded by “idiots” as we observe the many deficiencies in our culture. The frustration builds up inside us, but we know that if we were to lash out, we’d look like fools, or we might get in trouble. So we set out in search of people who have a way with words and can be frustrated for us. The ones who say what we wish we could say. We can comfortably read their rants behind a screen while we pump our fists into the air and cheer. And when we’ve had our fill, we can leave a comment with a link to the latest outrage-inducing incident and ask them for their take so we can come back for more.
I’ve been one of these people.
I don’t believe that’s healthy. It doesn’t alleviate the frustration; it only compounds it. And personally, I really don’t want to add to the noise. But I do want to address those issues – and perhaps more importantly, the issues behind the issues – and hear what others have to say. Maybe even learn from them.
That’s why now, 10 years later, I’ve decided to start fresh with a new blog. I’d like for this to be a place where those who are tired of the noise can feel welcome. Where we can enjoy a lively discussion without resorting to the shouting, the arguing, the flaming. Where those who want to take a look at the issues around us without feeling the need to remain confined within a set of comfortable talking points can freely do so. Where we can take a break and discuss the latest summer blockbuster without feeling guilty for not saying something about the latest outrage topic. Where we can view each other as more than a set of opinions without jumping into the “do you fit into Mold A or Mold B?” false dichotomy that seems to be increasingly prevalent in our perceptions of others.
Maybe I’m sounding like a hypocrite by being a tad noisy myself at the moment. But I hope and pray that in the days to come, my words will be marked by grace.
In the next few posts, I’ll talk a bit more about my own story and how it inspired me to start this blog.