While my journalism roots have withered in time, I haven’t lost touch with the writing world. I subscribe to several periodicals and read a lot of good and bad sportswriting on a daily basis. I have even been on a David Foster Wallace binge after seeing the 2015 film, “The End of the Tour.” I’m not trying to brag about what reading I do. It would be markedly pathetic to do so, considering how often we all press our faces against the light emenating from our cell phones and computer screens these days. We all take in a lot of words.
There are disturbing trends when it comes to writing, and they are all on fine display in social media. Lists and slideshows overwhelm the beautiful landscape that Facebook could be. People are so easily connected online, and anyone can share anything they want with tens or thousands of others with a simple hand movement. They could have thought-provoking conversations while simultaneously challenging and strengthening their system of beliefs all without leaving their home. Instead, they post a photo of Ecuadorian police saving a sloth from being stranded on a highway.
The negative trends are pervasive and have even transcended the now-blurred lines that once separated bloggers from “real” journalists. There are times when the periodicals I read have gimmicky and click-bait-like headlines. Still, the genesis and strongest contingence remains on the world wide web.
I recently encountered an article online about something that is incredibly near to my heart and mind. It seemed well-intentioned and was a worthwhile read that I considered sharing with my Facebook friends. This despite the headline ending in “…WILL SHOCK YOU.” See, I know the writers are not always the ones to write their headlines, so I’m willing to cut some slack in that regard. It happens on this site, as well. It’s not easy to write a headline, and publishers often have a set of guidelines that a headline should follow. Fair enough.
But the final paragraph of the article I was enjoying brought me to a screeching halt. Up to that point, the author had presented the facts well and eloquently argued that a problem existed that needed fixing. I agreed with it wholeheartedly and felt a fleeting kinship with the person who had worked so hard to write the piece. When they finally opined on what could be done to solve the problem, they went with “SHARE this article and spread the word.”
I have not added the emphasis to the word “share” in the above statement. It was bold and italicized just that way. The site that had posted the article was geared toward fighting the problem the author had presented, but their best answer to how to end it was to spread that piece around social media, as though spreading awareness would be the ultimate solution.
A lot of this rises from the overemphasis on analytics that has prevailed in society in recent years. Statistical analysis is wonderful, and when it is applied correctly, it can be greatly effective. But when we’re talking about changing the hearts and minds of people, stats are only going to take one so far. People cannot subsist on statistics. Writing can not be judged on statistics. It’s implausible to think it can be. A point you make in words should stand on its own. It shouldn’t be described by its reach on social media or the number of likes or favorites it received. When you’re constantly peddling your social media accounts and trying to generate clicks, you lose focus on what you’re actually developing with your words.
I have a horrible fear of allowing this site to devolve into something that does precisely that. Right now, there are no advertisements and no links to social media featured on this website. I’m practically in my own head with trying to make this site about writing and not about money. The sane part of my brain reminds me of the infancy of this site – it’s nowhere near being ready to be monetized or really linked to on a regular basis. It’s so green that I haven’t even set up anything beyond the “About Us” page. Yet I live with a fear of turning this into something that simply blends in with the BuzzFeeds and Huffington Posts of the Internet.
This fear has paralyzed me as a writer, keeping me in nearly the exact place I have been for the nearly five years I’ve endured since leaving college. This post is proof of that, as it should have been written and published hours prior to this moment. I hate reading articles where a critic presents a problem but offers no resolution, so let me make a promise: There will be ink on these pages weekly.
When Kyle submitted the poem, “One Choice,” which we published last week, I shared in his excitement for it. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It speaks volumes about what Satan can do to us if we let him, but speaks even greater to what God can do in return. That’s the obvious struggle that I am going through with this site, and when I read what Kyle had written, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Two things I have been meaning to post but hadn’t:
Lecrae’s Church Clothes 3 mixtape released last week. He continues to put out excellent tracks while fighting off demons from a multitude of directions. Support the man and buy it on iTunes, Amazon, or wherever you buy your digital music. It’s also on Spotify.
Beleaf Melanin (get used to hearing about him from me) just released his latest episode of Beleaf in Fatherhood on YouTube. This series has been a source of inspiration for me to get this site going, and I highly recommend it to parents and non-parents alike.
I’ll have more for you on Friday, but please keep checking on IC throughout the week for great stuff from each of our contributors, including a new face!