In a month where between Thatcher and Boston we definitely saw some of the worst of ‘social media’*, Mike Monteiro hits the proverbial nail on the head when he asks us to question our contributions to the digital debate. Twitter just seems to be flowing with bile at the moment. Conversely, I took a dip into Facebook recently following months of having a deactivated account and it just seems so dull, full of banal marketing waffle. Either way, its not very nice to swim in.
I'd love to believe that social media users might collectively develop the self-awareness to curb the worst of their logorrheic squirts, but I, as you know, am an optimist in full possession of the facts, which is to say, a pessimist. I feel like Steve Martin, despairing over an endless parade of Chatty Cathy dolls, pulling their own strings:
(Pressed for time, I forgot to include this clip in the original draft of this post. No, you're not going crazy. It wasn't there the last time you looked.)
Seriously, though, it's something I think about a lot. Like I said before, this blog is my practice, to borrow the Buddhist concept. Writing is a form of thinking out loud for me, a way to challenge myself to seek out interesting writers and attend to more substantial topics. I'm not big on the popular notion of personal growth, but as the original panta rheist, I do think my interior life needs to have a feeling of flow to it — not necessarily improving or progressing, but always moving, avoiding stagnation. I wouldn't ever want to feel like I was writing out of habit or obligation. Every word should count.
This all reminds me of a strange memory from when I was about five or six years old. (And it's safe to say a five year-old Scribbler attending school in 2013 would almost certainly be diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum.) Anyway, my dad was trying to engage me in conversation, encouraging me to give more than the bare-minimum of a reply. I distinctly remember thinking that I needed to save my words for when they were really needed, as if we were only given a limited supply of them to begin with. And though I couldn't have quite articulated it then, I was also aware that this was something odd. I was reflecting on my own reticence, conscious that I felt a very strong urge to be quiet as much as possible, conscious that this made me different somehow.
That urge has never really left me. There are social situations where I'll recognize that I could say something to contribute to a conversation, but I'll actually hesitate while conducting a brief internal dialogue, as I weigh up whatever factors I consider relevant and see which way the scales tip. I'd almost always rather err on the side of silence rather than talk when I don't have anything important to say. Wouldn't want to use up my words and be left speechless years down the road when I really need them!
When writing posts in my head, I often spend hours going over every variation on a point I want to make, feeling like I have the rough outline of a novella, only to be genuinely surprised when the final result has somehow been condensed down into a couple mid-sized paragraphs. It's like I'm just congenitally incapable of using more words than absolutely necessary. Not everything has to be deep or ultra-serious, of course, but apparently I need it all to be meaningful.