The Best You Can Be

I signed up to Vox last year, just to see what it was like. Haven’t actually done anything with it, but it means I keep getting their “Vox Talks” emails. Last week’s was an eyeful. After a bit about a Vox blogger whose post had hit number one on Digg and Reddit, they wrote:

We talk a lot about how Vox was created with personal blogging at the top of our minds, and that it’s your friends, family and neighbors who you most often want to write about and write to. But Vox is a community full of incredible stories and storytellers, and this is another example that a personal story can be gripping for thousands of people all over the world. So, Voxers, don’t be afraid to write the occasional story that warms the heart of tens or thousands.

Don’t be afraid to write stories that warm the hearts of thousands. Because fear, after all, is the only thing stopping your posts from reaching number one on Digg—that curious reluctance to write down the world-beating, heart-warming tales you have in you. Skill doesn’t come into it; the ability to identify good stories and construct compelling sentences and paragraphs doesn’t come into it, oh no—not when you have a free hosted blog service. Everyone’s a star! And if the world doesn’t flock to your Vox blog, that’s just because you didn’t feel like sharing. You could have if you’d wanted to.

Coincidentally, someone just showed me this post on Web 2.0 and narcissism. I get tired of criticisms of personal web publishing as narcissism: by that standard, any form of artistic or literary expression is narcissism. And perhaps that’s true, in part, but it ignores all that artists and writers throughout the ages have given us.

If, on the other hand, the argument is that web writers are narcissists because they aren’t Real Writers with Real Editors, then it’s just snobbery. Newspaper columnists like to take potshots at bloggers, because bloggers have shown that they can do exactly what columnists do—spout opinions and tell anecdotes in an amusing way—for free. And bloggers don’t have to churn out 600 words a week whether or not they’re any good; they just post when they feel like it.

And yet I have some sympathy for his argument, especially when companies start telling all those egos that nothing but fear is stopping them from reaching the hearts of thousands. You could be famous, you and you and you and you—and if you pour your creativity into your free hosted weblog and the adoring masses don’t swamp your comments box, why, it’s because you were afraid. Afraid to be the best, baby!

1 March 2007 · Net Culture

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