I feel like I should admit from the outset that I am conflicted about the notion of blogging. Back when blogs were a new phenomenon, I gazed gleefully down my nose at people who published their every thought on the internets. “How important do these people think they are?” I wondered, thrilled at my own humility. “Don’t they know that no one cares what they think?”
But then Twitter happened, so we’ve crossed that bridge and there’s no going back. It’s now socially acceptable to make a public announcement that you have switched shampoos. But this is a tired subject – many have lamented the lack of boundaries in our digital life. My concerns about blogging are of a different nature these days.
First, I worry that blogging cheapens the art of writing. I know how elitist and silly that sounds – it’s like saying that the advent of disposable cameras cheapens the art of photography. But increasingly, people seem to feel that the only purpose of language is to get your point across. As long as you know what I mean in the end, what’s the point of grammar? What’s the point of eloquence? Before blogging, the writing that made it into the public sphere had to be of a certain quality because it had to get past editors and publishers. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in ornaments of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Beautiful language has intrinsic value. Let’s not forget about that.
My other concern is about the spiritual well-being of bloggers and tweeters and constant-Facebook-updaters themselves. Social media encourages my generation to express aloud our every thought to an audience of thousands, and we’ve gotten used to the immediate gratification that comes with having one’s opinions heard by so many people. What happens when we become dependent on the feeling of validation we get from all our friends hitting the “Like” button?
Some people will tell you that children need to learn to “self-soothe” so they can fall asleep. I think my generation needs to learn intellectual self-soothing. I worry that we have no inner life, no ability to validate our own thoughts and feelings, because we are so used to turning over our ideas, our daily schedules, our commentary on the day’s events to all our acquaintances for their approval.
I don’t know if there’s a solution to any of this, but I do know that as I make my first foray into self-publishing, I want to make an effort to do two things: first, I’ll try to edit myself well, to write posts that are worthwhile for my friends and family to read, posts that aren’t too self-indulgent. Second, I’ll work on putting into practice what Mesilas Yesharim calls hisbodedus – sitting quietly with Hashem and making an accounting of the day’s events, my failures and my accomplishments, my thoughts and feelings and concerns. If I have a rich inner dialogue with Hashem, perhaps I can avoid the emptiness of needing constant validation from others.
All words in italics can be found in the Glossary.