INTRODUCTION (By O.D.)
Do people actually want to consider reality when reading, or do they prefer to have no mention of it?
Are we on our blogs to confront issues that affect us, or are we here to simply patch each other up and call it a day? Not mutually exclusive, I know, but I wonder.
Decided to take a break from writing here. It’s a little disheartening and at times, exhausting.
There’s a recurring non-committal attitude I’ve noticed when people share their thoughts on WP and even on Youtube. A desire to not offend or hurt people’s feelings because you’ll be labelled a pariah and lose followers/readers.
I understand the desire to harmonize and protect people’s feelings… just not at the cost of integrity.
Say your truth, don’t be a people pleaser. Approach issues you wish to address with respect (If this little tidbit sounds obvious, you’re exactly the kind of reader I like)
I’m not a masochist desperately trying to get burned with every post I read, but I’m not a passive drone either.
One of the reasons I started a blog in 2014 was to write content I wished to read. Sounds a little self-serving but hold on …
Before 2014 I would read blog posts in which people would share their non-stop happy thoughts like we were in some kind of pre-heaven lobby. And then I would read the most abrasive blog posts that cursed the world and everyone in it. I don’t know, I just find both tasteless if I’m being honest.
Where was the analysis — the self-critique — the deep dives?
Often times people are intimidated by the idea of being open on their own blogs. The idea of addressing topics that are considered sensitive or divisive. Because it’s hard work, obviously, and people don’t like being wrong or appearing less competent. Looking to preserve their reputation.
Well, I say screw that reputation lol
No matter how hard you may try to be “right” all the time, you’re always going to be wrong somehow. That’s just a fact.
Take me, for example, I’ve done a few deep dives like The Gigachad Vortex or Why Fight Club Continues to Be Culturally Relevant.
Despite all the work I put in, are they perfect? Absolutely not. In fact, I’ve had a few corrections pointed out to me, which is great because I learned something.
When we pursue the truth, in whichever capacity, we can never reach an absolute. I believe truth is a process — a continuous discovery. There’s no way one person can find the truth on their own, not an objective truth at least.
We need to share our experiences, critique our shared realities and find a synthesis of some kind. And one of the ways we can achieve this is by letting go of the assumption that we’re required to be perfect know-it-alls that have reached the ultimate zen state.
To have the courage to correct someone who’s wrong and to have the humility and willingness to learn when we’re being corrected.
I’m literally putting myself out there with posts such as these. Giving an open invitation to readers to call me out wherever they think I’m wrong.
Know why? Because that’s how we get to think.
One of my favourite quotes says, “To think is to choose to be uncomfortable”. Contrary to popular belief there’s nothing simple about thinking. You don’t need to think to brush your teeth or switch on a light; in fact, these are things that happen on auto-pilot.
For example: When someone drinks water from a glass, they don’t think:
Glass +Touch Glass + Bring Glass To Mouth + Drink +Put Glass Down. Instead, they just do it. The process has a heuristic element to it.
The only time we get to think about mundane things like glasses and water is when they don’t work according to our approximations. When we choke or when the water turns out to be warm instead of cold is the only time we get to notice the glass and the water inside.
“The primary object of perception is meaning, not objects” i.e. When you see a door, you don’t think “door” (object). You think that’s a “go-through place” (meaning).
But I’ve put too much into the intro already. Considering how massive of a task it would be to explore this topic, I thought it would be best to collaborate with other bloggers I know (Secret Bree and Raw Earth Ink). It’s no small undertaking, but I figured if we’re going to critique how watered down a majority of content is, better to look at it from all perspectives.
Despite the intro sounding like I hate all “boring” content, I believe there’s a place for it — and we’ll also get into that. It’s our hope that by the time this post is done we would all have learned something. Starting with why “boring” or milquetoast content may not be so bad.
Alright, here we go:
FOR THE WATERING (By Bree)
Allow me to start by disagreeing O.D, because variety is the spice of life 😉 I’m here to defend Instapoets and influencers everywhere! You say content is watered down and without depth, I say get with the times.
The belief in the decay of society is not new
The belief that people are watering-down communication/expression or ‘pitching to the masses’ is nothing new. The feeling of societal decay and the loss of integrity and morality has happened since the beginning of human generations. There’s a great article outlining 2,500 years of recorded comments of people’s concern at the ‘lack’ of morality with the next generation or social movement (see below). Hence, when we make these comments today, it’s wise to view them against the patterns of history. When new generations emerge and change things, the older generations are usually offended. Change tends to make us uncomfortable, so what we view as an ‘non-committal attitude’ or ‘boring’, may simply be a shift in generations. I’ll explore cultural change a bit later.
It is really watered down or is it pitching to your audience?
You can’t expect people to be on the same level as you. This needs to be taken into consideration when trying to get people to see things from your point of view OR when you’re trying to influence them. Sometimes you have to take people on a journey and that often means speaking to the lowest common denominator. Is it frustrating (absolutely), but isn’t it worth it if you can take someone from point A.00 to point A.01? It might not be point A to point B (the ultimate goal), but it’s a lot closer than nothing at all. Sometimes this requires a holding back, a ‘watering down’ so to speak as you gradually get people used to an idea.
Art is Subjective
Art in all its forms is subjective and therein lies the problem. Someone may genuinely connect with the seemingly simple phrase someone writes (e.g. ‘Nights are dark’) and it might be what they need to read in a particular moment to not feel alone. Who’s to say that their reaction is disingenuous? Who’s to say that what someone has said, written, or posted is disingenuous or unworthy of attention, simply because you don’t like it. We must acknowledge that personal taste influences what we choose to see and how we react to content.
I’ve seen some highly publicized poetry books and having flicked through them I’m frustrated, I know far better poets on WordPress. However, I know someone else would disagree… because of subjectivity. We assume others aren’t truthfully appreciating something or taking the time to understand something because we don’t like it. We think their engagement with the content is fake. We don’t understand how they can like it and cry foul! Is it possible that our judgements are subjective according to our own standards of what we consider good or worthy? As much as someone likes something, another dislikes it. Who is right? Is it possible that both are truthful in their assessments? Who becomes the gatekeeper of what is valid and acceptable, because the person next to them might disagree?
O.D. – “Also, let’s not forget, with boring, formulaic content comes consistency. And when we have consistency, we have certainty. And let me tell you, many people love having certainty in their lives. Like Bree mentioned, someone may connect with the simple line “Nights are dark” because it’s direct, clear and obvious. And perhaps it’s the fifth in a long line of predictable and arguably uninteresting lines like “Water flows” and “Winter is cold”. But you know what, the reader loves it. They know when they visit this unspecified blog they will get more of that juicy obviousness.
And again, like Bree says — who’s to say they’re wrong in thinking that? If it brings them joy, no one should get in the way of that.
Humans seek meaning in an unpredictable world full of unclear choices and happenstance. We want to be certain about things, so we pursue that certainty in the meaning-making areas of our lives — through religion, politics, beliefs and ideologies.”
Non-Committal Attitudes – Are they actually wise?
When the internet is forever and every week a new issue draws world-wide attention, is it actually wiser not to be so forthcoming with your opinions? One week you might be a hero, the next week you say/write/do/like/post something and then you’re a hate target. It doesn’t even have to be something you did this week, it could be from five years ago… the internet is forever.
Cancel culture, although not bad at holding people accountable for their actions, can also turn quickly into a mob mentality. Individuals can be cancelled without just cause or proper investigation, due to public exposure and vicious online attacks.
There seems to be little room for reasonable debate these days. Battle lines are drawn quickly and it’s either one side or the other without much respectful exchange. This in turn, limits conversations, debates or differences to the opinions of those who are willing to go down in flames for their cause OR shout the loudest. It’s a difficult place to navigate and so, keeping the peace, walking delicately in an unstable world isn’t cowardice, but perhaps wisdom.
Art reflects culture and current style preferences
Any era throughout history can be identified by certain styles of music, art, fashion etc. In western history it’s evident in the renaissance paintings of the 14th-16th centuries, flapper dresses in the 1920s, 1980s rock ballads or emo culture in the 2000s. Those periods were dominated by a certain culture and stylistic manifestation of it. The current culture we live in is no different, however, we have a new element: social media, flooded with quick-moving fads and expressions. It’s a fast-changing culture and generations are likely to point fingers at each other saying ‘you’re out of touch’ or ‘you’re distorting real art’ (see my first point). Some artists will adapt, some will change tact, some will look for different avenues and others will rort the system.
Perhaps online content and art creation have changed, but that doesn’t always mean change is negative, it creates opportunities in other areas. Undoubtedly people feel uncomfortable when a new generation emerges having known nothing different and are able to function or thrive. We’re at a precipice at the moment… either we’ll adapt and move with the current cultural trend (lest we be left behind) or there will be a major count-cultural shift. Or perhaps, to add in another spanner… the two can exist side-by-side, but in different arenas e.g. the emergence of apps like BeReal.
AGAINST THE WATERING
O.D. – “Despite issues of ‘watered down content’ and the ‘decay in integrity/morality’ having been explored countless times over the years or centuries, it’s still worth critiquing. I believe in the Principle of Divine Reason, the Logos, so to speak. A truth that’s innate in nature, a truth that unifies and continues to exist but remains elusive to us as humanity.
In pursuit of this truth, we may form similar conclusions to those that have asked the question before. Our ‘duty’ (and I use that word loosely for lack of a better one) is to try and find new connections. In doing so, we move that much closer to a theoretical ‘absolute’. Should anyone else ask these same questions after we do, we hope what we’ve explored and uncovered here serves as a timely baton pass.”
Raw Earth Ink – “With the rapidly morphing face of social media into more and more AI-generated (unnatural) shares, be it in art, photography, writing, videos, selfies, etc, there comes the greatly diminished Real Person behind the screen. The “reel” world in 15-second snapshots doesn’t allow for (or indeed care about) actual composing, editing, re-editing, proper grammar, punctuation, art created withOUT the assistance of AI-art-software, or blunders in audio. Instead, it’s fabricated to replace rather than imitate Real Life.
“It is currently socially acceptable (and expected) to use filters for your face, which is now no longer your own, but to eschew traditional forms of writing (with rules) and art (with hands rather than a computer). We’ve been engineered, rather quickly, to share snippets of an event highly filtered, to write short-form for toddler attention spans, to “brand” our name, to share what gets the most “likes”, rather than being genuine. Sometimes that means it won’t be the most popular opinion. Sometimes that means being misunderstood or harassed. And so we, as a society, are trading, or rather Selling, our authentic selves for the intangible “fame of likes.”
More from Bree: I’m back for some more fun (love that variety).
People aren’t as stupid as you think
Why do we assume people won’t understand intelligent arguments or questions? Why do we assume that they can’t handle complex or confronting ideas? By ‘edging around’ an issue, aren’t we simply ignoring what’s happening? Instead of dumbing down arguments, give people the opportunity to engage in deep discussion.
Is it because we’re afraid?
Is it actually our own fear of rejection that holds us back from sharing the truth as we see it or standing up for something? In a day of ‘cancel-culture’ and any differing opinions are perceived as a mortal sin, it’s easy for important voices to get silenced. This is more of a reason why issues of concern should be addressed head-on. Tiptoeing around disagreements only allows one side to have a louder voice and the loudest voice isn’t always right. Rational arguments don’t always override irrational responses, but they can be the turning point for some.
The current content is hurting us
When focusing on social media, the studies on its impact on people’s mental health can’t be denied. Don’t even get me started on fake news. Surely there needs to be some accountability? As with the evolution of declaring a paid advertisement an #ad, I propose that when using filters etc, make it clear a filter is being used. If you see BS online, we should be able to call it out.
O.D. – “This desire to churn out non-confrontational content in many ways encourages complacency and a self-impressed attitude in those that are already ignorant.
Sure, Bob and Susan may want to read the boring stuff to feel ‘safe’ and ‘certain’ about their reality. But are they really safe and secure because we’re merely omitting the uncomfortable and gory details? Or are we emulating the poor standard that has already been set by mainstream media? How conducive is that approach to our development and overall well-being?
Someone might counter and say “What I don’t know won’t kill me” to which I say, there’s already plenty of that. There’s a lot we don’t know, and as a result, a lot that won’t ‘kill’ us. The true challenge is actually getting to know what kills us because not enough people are willing to bring up the uncomfortable. So much so that it’s become taboo.
Besides, uncertainty isn’t such a bad thing, particularly for creative minds. Being uncertain pushes us to learn things we wouldn’t otherwise learn if we were certain. And one of the most interesting things that happen during times of uncertainty is value creation. And where there is value creation there’s potential for novelty.
By exploring the unknown we increase our space of possibility and start forming new connections. Something to consider the next time you think being certain about everything is the ideal.
It’s not ideal, it’s only comfortable.“
Last thoughts from Bree: I hope by reading our mix of words, we’ve caused you to feel slightly uncertain and uncomfortable. I love how O.D says they lead us to growth. What I appreciate about WP and O.D’s blog is the space it creates to have these open discussions. We three aren’t the only ones pondering the complexities of modern-day art and the impacts of social media. We’re certain you have your own thoughts to add. Which side of the ‘argument’ do you side with? What’s something we discussed that stood out to you? What got your blood boiling and what did you nod your head at? As O.D would encourage, say your truth, don’t be a people pleaser, we want to hear from you too.
Art by: viktorow
Berber, M, W. 2018. Social media use increases depression and loneliness. Available at: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/social-media-use-increases-depression-and-loneliness
Gillard, J. 2018. The 2,500-year-old history of adults blaming the younger generation. Available at: https://historyhustle.com/2500-years-of-people-complaining-about-the-younger-generation/
headspace: National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd, 2022: Young people cite social media as main reason for worsening mental health. Available at: https://headspace.org.au/our-organisation/media-releases/young-people-cite-social-media-as-main-reason-for-worsening-mental-health/.
Holmes, J. 2016. Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. P.11-12.
Jones, C J. 2019. Subjectivity and Objectivity in Art (extract from Exploring Art History). Available at: https://christopherpjones.medium.com/subjectivity-and-objectivity-in-art-cc41d55c76a5
Lotto, B. 2017. The Neuroscience of Creativity, Perception, and Confirmation Bias. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR2P5vW-nVc&t=1s
Mclean. 2022. The Social Dilemma: Social Media And Your Mental Health. Available at: https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health
Perkins, M, A. 1994. Coleridge’s philosophy: The Logos As Unifying Principle.Oxford University Press.
Protzko, J and Schooler, J, W. 2019. Kids these days: Why the youth of today seem lacking. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795513/