Social media making people anti-social, and other inhibitions to creating
It’s a bit ironic that the best writing tools are my greatest hindrance to doing any writing whatsoever. Great design, rich context, and a huge audience can all be detriments… with the wrong attitude.
I find it so hard to start writing because Medium has a gorgeous design. So minimal and so editorial is its design that I can’t help but think it deserves proper content, not mine. It feels like an open invitation to write for A List Apart! What do I have to offer that is completely my own? I feel hesitant to share a truly invested opinion that isn’t already backed by thousands of notes, RTs, likes, etc.. As I write this, uncertain if I’ll hit publish, I realize I’ve becoming docile and habituated by the “features” (user patterns) of Tumblr, Twitter, and modern Facebook; re-blogging media that is likely more interesting than something I could make, re-tweeting my own opinions once they’re authored by a more popular account, or sharing some video about activism, art, or science on my news feed instead of answering that scary question — what’s on your mind?
There’s the context of publishing platforms that holds me back as well. Look at all these great, interesting, informative, and emotional pieces you are all writing and sharing — I presume have nothing of the sort.
Lastly, there’s the audience that holds me back. I remember the days when the Web was anonymous by default; everyone had an obscure username. I made a few geeky aliases back in the day, but I felt like I was one of the minority trying to create a cohesive identity online. I stuck to one consistent moniker, Robrogan. Fast forward to contemporary internet, and people have to try to be anonymous and work to keep up appearances with a multi-channel social presence. You aren’t just a blogger on one site; you are everywhere. So, just like 12-year-old me reading a class assignment in front of a room of my peers, I now feel like anything I might write will be read by dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of my peers, who are all presumably much better informed than myself.
On the more positive side
I’m not as self-deprecating as I might’ve made myself out to be, that was just to illustrate all of the forces against me creating my own content. I do have a website where I share a miscellany of media, text, and recommendations. I also love to take pictures, edit them just so, and share with my friends on Path, contribute to the VSCO Grid, and the handful of standard networks too.
I do get around to writing once in a while, too. The caveat to that is usually that I’m basing my blog post on the core content another blog post. My favorite being the UX Myths. In short: I do create, and share my own information. I doubt doing so every time. I’m resolving to fight those doubts, however, facing Gary Vaynerchuck’s proposition to everyone on Twitter to write one Medium post at the top of this new year, and Srinivas Rao’s piece on How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed My Life that provided some very necessary inspiration.
Share something with an open heart, not authority
In the last couple of years I have been voraciously consuming information about new practices, schools of thought, and examples of User Experience Design. This hunger to be at the forefront of my career has brought me to various authorities on the web, and while I’ve learned a lot from the content, I’m just now reflecting on the context. What you write is bound to be influenced by what you read. I noticed this when I was in school, reading classic American novels. I don’t know why I would think reading on the web wouldn’t count. The impact might be somewhat stylistic, but I think there is so much respect around the author — shown by the numbers alongside various social media badges — that if you don’t cary that same respect* then your contribution wouldn’t be worth the effort. I’ve been qualifying anything and everything I put online with this concept of authority of authorship. I should be putting everything out there with a more compassionate perspective of an open heart; if something is gained from what I write, then something is gained, and if not, then nothing is lost but my own time. The very act of writing is an exorcise to organize my thoughts, so in this regard there is no true loss of time.
* i.e. Identity on the web. A whole topic in itself, that I alluded to at the beginning of this post.
I’m feeling that restraint again.
A large part of me knows that the typical attention span online won’t get you this far down the page. While I’m sitting here I’ve only just touched on a couple of things I could write about, and at great length, but I don’t want to weigh down this post just yet. One thousand words is a noble goal, and I believe 929 will be an admirable enough first attempt. Tomorrow perhaps I’ll pick up on of the points above and reach that first mark.