In one of my reflective moments I realized that despite my extreme introversion I am someone who actually quite enjoys performing for other people when I feel competent. Although I frequently feel that I am not especially talented in any particular thing, I will be more than happy to demonstrate what I can do when I know I can do it; this means that while I usually avoid karaoke because I can’t carry a tune, I will jump in if we’re talking about doing songs from Hamilton because I know the soundtrack inside out and I can rap all the parts (just for one example). More generally, the thing that I feel especially competent at is spinning my thoughts out in writing in a way that’s fun and engaging.
This is why I started my blog five years ago. I had an excess of free time during one summer, and I needed to do something creative for my own satisfaction. I had tried my hand at writing fiction for a few years, but I never really had the knack (or the patience to keep practicing) for combining compelling prose with engaging plots and characters; keeping a blog where I could order my thoughts and leave them for other people to find and engage if they liked was a good, low pressure outlet for that frustrated creative energy. I spent that summer obsessing over what kind of content I should generate because I had thoughts about so many things, and I wanted to play the game of building a readership. Everything in the blog’s original conception was about this sense of possibility: Catchy Title Goes Here was an off-the-cuff joke about that lovely filler text that descends from the pages of Mad Libs; the site’s original tagline was something related to my general indecision about what sort of topics to focus on in this space. After my introductory post (which I accidentally published after I finished writing it when I was trying to save up some posts; I have always preferred having a backlog of content to producing it on the fly), the first thing I wrote was a review of Avatar because movie reviews seemed like a good source of ideas.
I dabbled in essays on topics in theology for years (this was pretty fertile ground for me to explore how my faith was changing as I realized white evangelicalism breeds a profound moral apathy) before my anger at the faith I had adopted in college subsided into weariness. White evangelicalism is still a monstrous instrument of white supremacy, patriarchy, and the eternal gnashing maw of capitalism, but I don’t have the energy to rail against it anymore. That all got spent up here.
It was through this blog that I landed on the pastime of critically reading comics and trying to say intelligent things about them. I question the quality of my efforts pretty frequently, but I love doing it because it’s fostered in me a deeper love of comics as an art form and made me more curious about the craft and process of their creation. I’m more of a comics nerd now than I think I would have been if I hadn’t started Catchy Title Goes Here.
Most absurdly of all, the practice of producing a thousand words on some topic on demand three times a week for five years (and even more frequently at first) has fostered in me a sense that I have a pretty good handle on this whole essay writing thing. My work on the blog is extremely informal, and almost everything posted is first draft, but there are moments when I write a sentence or wrap up a point in a paragraph and think, “This is pretty good; I should try to get someone to pay me to do this.” A healthy sense of caution about the pitfalls of the white cishet male ego reminds me that I’m probably not as good as I think, but I still want to try to follow that impulse. I’ve spent a little time in the past six months or so working on drafting and revising something a little more formal than what goes on the blog. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sell it (I’m honestly still unsure how to go about finding markets for nonfiction), but I’m taking joy in the trying.
What’s prompted all of this sudden reflection on the history of the blog and its impact on me comes from a relatively innocuous thing: I got an email from WordPress the other day saying that Facebook is changing their algorithm to block automatic posts from third party apps like the one that WordPress uses to publish my blog posts to my Facebook profile. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t a huge deal; it means that whenever I publish something, I’ll have to manually share the post on my profile instead of letting WordPress take care of that functionality for me. This is an inconvenience after five years of being able to fire and forget on blog posts. On a more existential level, it feels like a move to further discourage people from actually leaving Facebook’s ecosystem, of which my blog and the larger WordPress platform are not a part. If I had a decently large readership located on other platforms, then this would be sort of a blip, but because I run a small operation and most of my regular readers are people connected to me via Facebook it feels a lot more harrowing. Although I try to only discuss traffic numbers on my end of year summaries, a frequent concern for me is the fact that I don’t get much attention on new content outside of Facebook clicks.
I realize this sounds like a lot of whinging. Social media is largely stupid and actively harmful towards the ways that we interact with one another, but it’s also become an integral part of existing in society over the last fifteen years. As someone who tends to feel intensely uncomfortable in interpersonal interactions with people I don’t know well, I see a lot of value in the mediation that online interactions with folks afford. The Facebook thing feels like I’m being silenced in one of the few expressive modes I have where I feel totally comfortable. I want to feel heard, and there’s a part of me that feels like that will happen less with this policy change.
I could probably spin my wheels longer on this topic, but ultimately it’s not something that will be productive. Facebook’s going to Facebook, and I’m going to do my thing, and there will be a period where I’ll adapt to a slightly worse social media experience than what I’ve been enjoying. I expect within a month this won’t even register as a major event; but for now I needed to scream into the void a little bit.