You wouldn’t think it would be a difficult rule to follow, really, the one in the title. The internet makes us all writers, gives us all an audience, provides us with endless opportunities to read, learn, digest. It’s hard not to inhale information when Facebook is filled with links, videos, rants, shares and the like. And if you move your face from Facebook (clue is in the name), my word, you could learn a lot.
Let us not forget that in only a few hundred years we’ve come from not even being allowed to read the book we were supposed to live by in our own language, right through ‘the holy grail is a job being allowed to write for a newspaper or get a book deal’ to ‘open laptop and splurge opinion out to several hundred people at once’. And audience. A community. The ability to inform and be informed.
With that information dissemination blessing comes responsibility of course.
- For the love of goodness, don’t press share until you’ve checked it is real. Snopes, my friends, Snopes.
- For the love of sanity, don’t share repetitive, needy memes. If it starts “it occurs to me”… it needs deleting.
- Don’t write something unless you are happy to stand by it (and that includes passive aggressive Facebook updates).
- Learn fast: if you use Google as your doctor, you’ll be dead 6 times by dinner.
But Google. We could blame a lot on Google. If you are old enough to remember life before a decent search engine, you’ll know that once upon a time, when you searched for something you got, by and large, a useful page written by someone with a passion who knew something about the subject matter. Or, you know, possibly you would get drivel with the most important word in the article written 55 times in white text at the bottom of the page. But still, mostly you got somewhere real.
And then came ‘content’, regular updated content, which is a whole different thing to ‘words on the virtual page that someone really wanted to write’. Meaningful keywords and meta descriptions and all that jazz to keep websites fresh and lovely and churning over in the Google machine. And of course, so came blogs and all the wonder that is what blogging which can do. Which is great, really great. I love blogging. The world is made better by blogging. MY world is made better by blogging. Infinitely.
But if Google was a cupboard under the stairs, it would have a serious date with a 40 day declutter.
And I’m far from guilt-free. I make part of my living writing copy for websites, trying to put together something half way meaningful from facts gleaned off the internet, a few nuggets of opinion and ideas of my own and a healthy smattering of keywords and useful phrases. It’s not perfect but I do it a whole lot better than some people who also get paid not very much at all to assemble words on a production line. And of course there are the times when trying to write for money, on my blog or elsewhere, squeezes out every last individual thought I have and all the energy for writing something worth saying.
It happens. It’s not pretty and it’s self-defeating in the end, but it happens. Possibly as self-defeating as raging against your own industry.
The thing is, in amongst all these words and all the splurging of beautiful and boorish writing, of eloquence and assaults on grammar, come headlines like this:-
“Practical Tips for Thoughtful Self Gifting”.
It’s like something from the feverish dreams of a copywriter; charged with the creation of a mail-out sales spiel to remind humans, in the ever growing scream of cacophonous void that is the internet, to come and buy… come and buy.
“Here is help on how to buy something you want, for yourself”.
Really? Has the world improved for this? Are humans so dumb now that we need help – practical help – on buying something nice for ourselves?
If this is sales and content, we need a new ploy. We are filling the universe sized space of the internet with an ever decreasing circle of meaningless nonsense; once that headline gets past an editor, are we lost?
It’s an amazing thing, being able to find words, hear words, create words. It’s the ultimate liberty, to have the right to write and the right to read and hear. And the internet is made better by the raw outpourings and connections of words like these, the raging rant of the grateful mother, pulled under by the every day ordinariness that most of us don’t ‘Facebook’ for fear of either being sectioned, seen as less than perfect, or deemed needy.
My lovely friend Josie, who lives a life making a living much as I do, with words (only I fear, rather more connected to her soul as she does so) wrote about losing her voice online. I know I have; somewhere in the fear of accidentally plagiarising, being unoriginal, speaking words spoken yesterday or being shot down for daring to voice and opinion, I lost my words. I lost them – most of all – because I wrote with such brutal honesty after Freddie died – and nothing I write will ever be as good again.
But if we all think like that, soon the internet will be full of nothing but the cud of redigested copy.
I’ve taken a leaf from Josie’s book – grabbed a notebook and started hunting, in private, for my voice.