The First 100 Days
For some reason, the people on television say you can tell a lot about a leader by the first 100 days they spend in office. It’s about one-third of the year, when you subtract major holidays and summers. I’m not a politician, but I did somehow end up as a blogger. And because I just crossed the 100 day threshold, I’ve found myself reflecting on what I’ve learned about the platform–and about myself as I share my work.
I’m glad no-one is going to vote me out of office.
LISTS HAVE CONQUERED THE INTERNET
“If you want people to read your stuff,” they say, “put it in a list.” I’m a sucker for list columns, just like everyone else. It goes beyond blogs. The last Youtube video I watched was “10 Actors Who Should Play Spider-Man Next!” It was almost all filler. But I’m list-averse for my own website, because lists feel awful cheap to me.
Lists are a secret agreement, between the writer and the reader, for both parties to do only half the usual work.
The author doesn’t have to feel guilty about jotting out some bullet points with minor extra commentary, and the reader doesn’t have to feel bad about skipping through by only reading the major headings. None of this is wrong or bad, per se–but it can be an addictive form of compromise. Technically, I could parse this particular blog out into a killer list–“Top Three Secrets They’ll Never Teach You About the Internet!”–but I’m trying my best to avoid building thoughts and ideas that can be cherry picked without context.
If I’m measuring my success by my current blog traffic, then this sort of self-righteous attitude hasn’t paid off. But boy, I do feel proud of my own body of work. And you need to be able to say the same thing about your own blog if you want to have the stamina to keep going.
CROWDS WANT CONFIRMATION
The Internet has permanently redefined human interaction. The idea that we would share stories, experiences, or our opinions about the latest episode of our favourite show around the water-cooler seems just as quaint as mom-and-pop ice cream shops. Now, when I have some clip I want to show my friends, I feel like I’m in a text race to send it to them before they share the link with me! People of all backgrounds, cultures, and workplaces can share, comment, and relate almost instantaneously. Because the deck has been shuffled and our communities have been reorganized, the goal of our interaction has shifted.
We’re not looking for a challenge. We’re not looking to be sharpened or corrected. We’re not looking to change, either.
We’re looking to have someone who tells us what we already think.
Am I saying that the internet cannot change people’s minds? No. Am I saying that a blog or video has no hope to make someone reconsider their views? Nope, not that either.
I’m simply saying that the “crowd” mentality we get online–in the comments section, especially–can often become a gathering of therapeutic groupthink. Many of the people who are weighing in are simply looking to find their tribal identity through the other digital strangers who feel exactly the same way.
Ask yourself: how many times have you seen comments such as, “That’s exactly what I was saying the other day!” Or, “That’s right! Go for it. Tell it like it is!” These are group reinforcements. Even when people pick a fight, and disagree–they’re trying to rally a counter cause! Real issues are almost never binary. The world does not neatly define into right and wrong, left and right.
I’ve stopped looking for crowds online, because they will always come and go. I think it’s tied to the internal loneliness we feel, looking at a screen and still trying to relate to one another. I’ve been caught up cheering someone on, and even recently I’ve been guilty of trying to build a “counter-cause” myself. It doesn’t create anything productive.
Really, sometimes this is just “the Internet”. It isn’t always as close to real life as we feel it is.
YOU CAN LEAVE A MARK
If the crowds that form online are just looking for confirmation, or conflict (because they are rallying around the opposite of the presented idea), then what’s the point of blogging? Some get discouraged, hang up their keyboards, and go to bed–never to blog again.
I just remember how many times I’ve read a thought, or an article, or a well-written piece of journalism, when I was all by myself.
Obviously, I could’ve been reading on the toilet or something, but that’s not exactly what I’m meaning.
I remember the times where I allowed the ideas of other people to make an impression on my way of thinking, because I was vulnerable enough to consider them. And I realize that people can change because of what they read and see online, for good and for bad.
There are people saying something meaningful, and everyday the world is full of all sorts of folks who are changing their minds. Sometimes, we find them online, too. A word some platforms repurpose is “impressions”: it’s a measurement of how many people have seen an ad. I mean to use it in a more traditional sense.
Sometimes, people change their thinking. All by themselves. Because someone was willing to offer ideals and ideas within their deeper conviction.
Sometimes, new discoveries make an impression on people.
Yes, there are going to be Buzzfeed quizzes and “Ten Reasons Your Marriage Might Fail” articles for the foreseeable future. But hidden within the weeds are a few burning bushes–ordinary thoughts burning endlessly.