Do you know what stopped me from taking my writing seriously for the longest time? Believing that writers are somehow redundant to the world.
Well — maybe not those who really are at the top, providing either unbelievable amusement with their novels or educated assessments of the society with clever essays. But bloggers and online indie writers? “This-Is-What-I-Learned-From” columnists sharing their subjective experiences?
As much as it was fun for me to read their posts, I used to think that it was, at the very best, good entertainment. Well, maybe I just didn’t come across good writers for quite a while?
The longer I write on Medium, however, the more value I see in what the community of self-made writers is doing here. I mean— this is so important to the world! I am starting to consider the honest, vulnerable online writing as playing a critical role in the fabric of today’s society.
Here’s why I think that’s the case.
1. Online writers name other people’s thoughts.
One of the most exhilarating experiences I can have when reading something is coming across a sentence that captures my thoughts more accurately than I ever could.
It probably happened to you as well — reading a post by someone whom you’ve never heard of before, feeling as if they were in your head, assembling your unconscious thoughts together so that they finally make sense.
I think that human experience is, for the most part, very egalitarian. Most people go through similar struggles, wins and sets of emotions in life — we are just used to verbalizing them differently. That’s why, when we talk to our friends and acquaintances, we may get an illusion that each us lives a very different kind of life.
But when we strip our experiences down to the core underlying feelings or thought patterns (i.e. our bare perceptions of what’s happening), we often discover that, for the most part, they overlap.
“People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.” — Linda Ellerbee
Online writers help us focus on the similarities, rather than differences. When I see that somebody on the other side of the world wrote into existence the content of my own mind — then I truly know what it means to be human.
2. Online writers offer empathy.
This points me to another important value that self-made online writers bring into the world. By sharing their stories in a compassionate, vulnerable way, they offer empathy to the readers that they often couldn’t get otherwise.
Not everyone is ready for — or can afford — professional therapy. But as we are becoming more and more atomized of a society, I am convinced that a lot of people could use it. That’s because many of us lack the natural support of a community which — let’s be honest — doesn’t exist in the shape that it used to.
However, the world of online writers does offer a community that anyone with a connection to the internet can join. And this can be a saving grace for those who feel trapped and misunderstood within their real-life social circle. Reading a blog from somebody “out there” who is going — or already went — through a similar experience is all that’s sometimes needed to feel like we are being heard.
And, according to psychologists, feeling understood is a cornerstone to our well-being.
At this point, I simply cannot not give a shout out to Shannon Ashley. Because this is precisely what she is doing with her work. By being extremely vulnerable in her writing, she offers an amount of empathy that allows thousands of people on Medium to feel like they are heard and understood.
This is the kind of value that many great novelists and essayists — no matter how great their work was — have never brought about.
3. Online writers change perspectives.
We are all stuck in our social bubbles. Some people make a bigger effort to expand their horizons than others — but ultimately, it is very hard to see beyond the perspective of those with whom we interact in our daily lives.
Reading online writers who originated in different contexts can help us understand the world from a different perspective. For example: being a white woman from Europe, I never had the means to comprehend the point of view of black women in America. And I likely would never have been able to, if it wasn’t thanks to certain writers here on Medium.
They disclose their personal stories that allow me to grasp the problems of racism and inequality in ways that would otherwise be inaccessible to me.
This, in and of itself, is a tremendous value brought about by anyone who is willing to honestly share their life story online. We live in an era that imposes interconnectedness on the world. At the same time, most of us are naturally lacking an understanding of what it means to be a member of a different ethnic group, minority, or even another gender.
As I see it — we need to create more of such understanding to keep building a better world. We need to be able to step outside of our convictions and adopt the point of view of another — even if just for a little while.
Online writers are helping us do just that. They are not constrained by editors, rules of propriety or their geographical reach anymore. This enables them to continue to make the necessary impact. In so doing, they enlighten the readers in ways that were unimaginable back in the times when the writing industry was limited to novels and essays.
I thank you all, dear writers, for putting out the much-needed vulnerable, honest and insightful work. And please — keep it up!