Yesterday I read a long, painful and moving essay on the LoveLifeEat blog called “When you can’t be the person the Internet wants you to be.” It affected me so much that I wrote to its author, Felicia Sullivan.
Short form: I told her that writing about the dark places in her life make her honest, not self-indulgent.
I also said that her words matter. By daring to tell the truth about life, i.e., that sometimes it is horrible, she has helped and will help an unknowable number of people.
Some readers will be bolstered by the fact that they aren’t the only ones dealing with depression, unemployment, the loss of a parent, a difficult relationships with the surviving parent, the search for meaning. I’d bet my next freelance paycheck that her essay encouraged some readers to examine their own dark places and get help for them.
What a refreshing change from the everything-is-awesome drumbeat that makes up so much of the Internet. So many blogs resemble a never-ending, humblebragging stream of fake Christmas letters: Look at me! Look at me and my perfect life!!!
My daughter reacted to Sullivan’s essay with a piece of her own, “Thank you.” Abby congratulated the author on her honesty, and then went on to thank her readers for being willing to listen — and to respond.
It’s the journey
Unlike Felicia, my daughter hasn’t struggled over how much to reveal online. “It rarely occurs to me not to chronicle my pain, emotional suffering, self-doubt, trials and/or tribulations, and other less-than-Disney-grade days,” she writes.
That’s because she has a great group of readers (as do I!) who are more interested in real life than duck lips and haul photos.
“As best I can tell, my life – our journey through the peaks and troughs and everything in between – is what you guys come for. You’re not looking for sterile money advice or listicles. (Unless it’s about money lessons from Deadpool, Sons of Anarchy, Spock or Wrestlemania.)
“You come for my pontifications (and occasional rants) about money, frugality, disability, depression, infertility or whatever shiny object catches my attention. And most of you keep showing up for my next emotional splat onto the virtual page.
“So I keep sharing. Sure, partly because some of these subjects (disability, depression and infertility) do need to stop being taboo. But mostly because you guys are my support system, my sounding board and that patient friend who sits through your weltschmerz-laden tirades with a smile.
“As a consequence, I have almost no qualms about sharing intimate aspects of my life. … Sometimes they even seem to help you, which is an excellent way for me to rationalize continuing this ultimately self-indulgent, navel-gazing exercise I call my blog.”
I suppose some people do consider blogs to be self-indulgent. And yeah, some of them are. (See “Christmas letter,” above.) But even though I’m a former print newshound who occasionally despairs over what the Internet has done to journalism, I also have to say that blogging is the greatest invention since movable type.
Writing that’s real
The Internet enables communication (for good or for ill) in ways we could never have imagined. People who have had tough financial times sometimes leave comments or e-mail me to say, “We’re now out of debt” or “We weathered a very long spell of unemployment in part because of what I learned from your work on MSN Money/Money Talks News/Surviving and Thriving.”
That’s both gratifying and humbling. Being able to help people is a big part of what which keeps me doing this. It’s a two-way street, since I have drawn knowledge and support from the comments on this site (and from other people’s blogs).
Thus I do what I expect many of you do: Read the stuff that matters and ignore the virtual Great Pacific Garbage Patch of bloggy crap.
As anyone who reads my Facebook page knows, I don’t shy away from a funny cat or dog video. Mostly, though, I search for good writing — by which I mean posts with style, wit and truth.
Sometimes that writing is raw as well as real, i.e., not prettified for publication. I appreciate that. Here’s to life in all its imperfections. And here’s to honesty.
Readers: How do you decide which blogs to read?