internet phd’s

Page One hundred twenty

wed 23 feb 2011

In the three years I’ve been writing on the internet, I know I haven’t done nearly as much reading in blogs as a great many seem to do. But I have done enough, I think, to give me a reasonable sampling of what’s here in cyberspace to read.

One of the good things that the internet is, is an equalizer. Anyone who can get to a computer, whether they own that computer or not, can write a blog if they wish to. On any subject they like. No one needs to wait for a publisher to want their words, or to have the money to self-publish. All over the world, most people have the chance to write. This democratizing effect of the internet does a lot to thin the line between those who get to publish their words and those who don’t. There are people who abuse the internet, to be sure, just as there are lunatics and predators and abusers in the flesh life. You need to exercise the same cautions you would with people you could actually see, and some people are much more cautious than others.

So lots and lots of people get the chance to write. This is good. But it’s what and how so many people are writing that I find largely unappealing and uninteresting, and yet again I am staunchly in a very small minority in my opinion. Even tweets on Twitter fall into this same pattern that has so disappointed me in blogs. Namely this: so many people are self-appointed experts. Experts on every hobby, every art, every emotional state, every life situation, every political situation you can name, and that’s only a short list of the things everyone’s an exert on. So many blogs, so many tweets, are telling us what to do and exactly how to do it. How and what to cook. How to parent. How to care for animals. What photography is. What music is, and how to write it. How to lose weight. How to respond to pain. How to heal. How to make tablecloths. How to write your memoire. What books to read and movies to see and music to hear and gadgets to buy. On and on and on and on. Do this, think this, feel this, follow these instructions. I wince when I see these things, and hope that my periodic recommendation of a book isn’t being construed as another in this endless list of instructions.  I make an offering: if you’re interested in this particular subject, I found this book helpful or informative or extremely well written. Take a look at it or don’t. It’s no big thing to me.

My father might have responded to this kind of internet writing with one of his favorite quips: Who died and made you king? Precisely. Who told anyone that they have the last and best word on animal care, or nail care, or anything else.? So many on the internet pontificate like honorary PhD’s in their chosen subjects.

This isn’t what I’m looking for when I take the time to read what regular folks who aren’t being published by New York or London or wherever are writing. I’m not looking to be told how to proceed or what to think or how to feel or how to write. I’m looking for the person. If someone is writing a cooking blog, I don’t want to simply read lists of ingredients and procedures that are the only right ones in the world. I want to read what you cooked today, and why you decided on that particular recipe. What are the flavors and textures that you like about this dish. Who did you serve it to, and did they enjoy it. What is it that you love about cooking and baking; in what ways does it feed your heart and your creativity. What is the joy and beauty in it for you. What kind of a day were you having when you decided to make this dish today, and what was the weather like, and how were you feeling. I don’t want to be told what to do, or what to think, or what to feel. I look for you to say words that make me think about something I haven’t thought much about before, or think about it from a deeper perspective. I look for you to show me what makes you motivated or pleased or angry or discouraged. I look for you to tell me who you are.

Does it sound like I’m telling you how to write your blog and tweet your tweets? Maybe it does. But that’s truly not my intent, because I know perfectly well that I don’t have the last, best word on blogging or tweeting or anything else. I’m only telling you what I as one person am looking for when I go about reading in the shadowy micro-chip world of cyberspace.

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