The best thing about today’s social media applications is that everyone with a computer can write about whatever they want to write about, push a button, and share it with the world. But the worst thing about today’s social media applications is also that everyone with a computer can write about whatever they want to write about, push a button, and share it with the world.
Just because you can write about something, doesn’t always mean you should write about something, and it seems to me that this ability to self-filter is a dying skill in the blogosphere of late. One of the great truisms of successful written communication is to “write what you know,” and I’ve always taken the word “know” to mean more than “I researched it on Google and Wikipedia for five minutes.”
Here’s the deal: some people are very knowledgeable about certain topics, while other people are very knowledgeable about other topics, but precious few human beings are qualified to serve as blogging polymaths. The best bloggers, to me, are those who stick within a reasonable span of personal expertise and experience, and whose responses to current affairs and news are tempered by a mature understanding of where they can add value to a particular debate, and where they can’t.
Unfortunately, such nuanced, informed bloggers are becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Their more-measured words are all too often trumped by the “I blog about everything” school of online scribblers, often backed by the endless, self-reinforcing do-loops created by equally non-selective readers in their comment sections. Collectively, they’ve created an all-noise/no-substance paradigm that appears to be as addictive and destructive to discourse as any opiate, beverage, fetish or vice.
This “blog about everything” compulsion becomes particularly annoying when such bloggers are first out of the blocks on sensitive, important or fast-breaking news topics and, by virtue of their cranked-up reflexes, become default sounding boards for addressing such topics, even though they have little to offer beyond half-baked opinions about things they gleaned from headlines. This rush by the ill-informed to serve as first responders results in them posting some truly idiotic and embarrassing material, though their shame responses seem to perish around the same time that the self-filters burn out.
As I am assaulted by such material while looking for more mature and responsible fare, I often find myself wondering why so many all-purpose bloggers feel compelled to offer endless running commentary on topics beyond their ken. I generally conclude that it’s either because they have a desperate need for constant attention, or because they’ve become obsessed with their online hit counts, impressions, visits and follows. Or both. Either way, though, their pathologies manifest themselves through malformed blurts online, typically written from a center-of-the-universe perspective that places them (and their feelings) smack in the middle of narratives where they have no meaningful place whatsoever, by any lucid, objective standard.
Where and when I grew up, if you spouted off in public regarding things about which you were ignorant, or which had no bearing on your life in any meaningful way, you’d be told in no uncertain terms to shut up, since you ain’t got a dog in that fight . . .
I’d like to see more of us use that kind of response online when we’re confronted with ill-formed blogger blather, especially when it’s peddled to us by commercial interests. Perhaps if we collectively push the B.S. button on such bloggers more often, we’ll be able to raise the level of online discourse above the point where it is controlled by the folks who have little more to offer beyond their ability to get to their computers before anybody else does.
At bottom line, not every thought that enters a blogger’s head is valid, and not every feeling that a blogger experiences merits sharing. A little discretion goes a long way, even here, even now, and to those bloggers who fail to recognize this most fundamental fact, there’s another expression from my childhood that fits you to a tee . . . That dog don’t hunt . . .