Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Joy of Reading

Mysteriously perturbed by the sudden multitude of blog entries in recent years dedicated to "the joy of" or "how to" or "why" read/write/travel.  These entries will usually discuss at length how reading/writing/traveling:

- helps you "discover" yourself;
- makes you more empathetic;
- inspires you;
- takes you "out of your comfort zone, which is trust me a good thing";
- reminds you of the oft-forgotten "here and now".

The very use of the phrases "how to" or "why", implies that the said action is something that needs to be promoted, or taught, in order to be followed by a vast majority of people.  Which further implies that the vast majority of people do not yet engage themselves in such action. Reading, writing, or traveling, is therefore a rare activity to most of the internet-literate mankind.

The author's motivations, stemming from that assumption, is that they wish the general public to be enlightened by their prior self-enlightenment. Or falling one-step short of that, they wish the general public to at least be aware of the author's self-enlightenment. It is a neat fall-back plan.

Consider the blogger who merely wishes to share his/her own amazing experience, without the noble intent of educating the unenlightened masses. They might share an anecdote, a sensation, a view in many words or few, attempting to just document that indescribable experience.  They might post a picture, which could be one of those quiet scenic contemplative ones or could be the one where the author poses in it with shades and a dainty designer bag. The writing is usually very personal and inward, simply a projection of one's impression of the experience. At the very maximum you might find the words, "OMG it was amazing you should all come-here/ read-this immediately!", and it stops there.

On the other hand, "how to" posts and "the joy of" posts attempt to do more than share.  It wants to be motivating and inspiring, treading heavily on thin ice before cracking and falling into the bottomless abyss of preaching. It assumes, perhaps unconsciously, that plenty of lost internet souls perceive reading or writing as something completely alien which they would never have known the feeling of, if they hadn't read the author's blog post.  It first lays bare the "me" aspect of the experience, and then projects that outwards to the general "you", and how "you" will find joy and discovery and meaning and surreptitious moments, because "I" did.

If, for whatever reason, the noble plans to motivate are unsuccessful, the author has at least smugly dedicated an entire social-benefit post to describing what they've read/written and where they've traveled. That is the neat fall-back.

Nevertheless it is beyond reasonable doubt that these motivational posts are extremely popular, perhaps because it touches a personal nerve when the message is "you can do it too". No matter how banal and obvious the experience, it's as if it will not be fully heard until it is forcefully conveyed to you that "you can do it too". It takes the author off a high pedestal of cool experiences into a pretentiously humble ground in which the author is the same as everybody else because "you can do it too".

This is the gist of marketing, that founding of a general vein in which everybody can relate.  But if you're not getting paid to promote reading / writing / traveling, then why would you indulge in such banal, commercial activity?