In which I ask you to put away your social media video droppings and take a few moments to search out the lesser-known joys of reading about people’s lives.
There is intense competition for your online attention.
It has been referred to as the attention economy. From Facebook to YouTube to TikTok, curators of social media content want to grab your attention and then hold you for the duration, and then get you back for more.
Over time, social media posts on these platforms have become ‘clickbait’ and superficial and banal, offering up a cluttering of short-form, contrived narratives with the sole intent to both grab your interest and game the algorithms that distribute their product out into the world.
You only have to browse the YouTube home page to see plenty of people generating manufactured drama (of one type or another) served up as their very own reality TV channel.
Here is a short selection of clip titles from my YouTube homepage today:
- THIS IS A DISASTER
- I spent 20 days customising my new Xbox
- THE GIANT STEAK CHALLENGE MEANT FOR TWO
- THE END OF AN ERA (EMOTIONAL).
- I hired a $200 stylist and a $20 stylist to dress me for a week
- ROAD TRIP! This road is crazy!
On and on we scroll.
To be fair, it requires great effort to film, edit, and thumbnail a typical 15-20 min YouTube video. Even some TikTok clips must have required a bit of work to produce.
But like the emperor’s new clothes, once you disengage from the dopamine hype, the actual content is increasingly shallow, perfunctory, empty and often intellectually condescending. It is fairy floss entertainment.
Which is fine, and might be precisely what you are looking for (I watch plenty of this type of stuff too).
Some of the time.
But there is an alternative.
Before Facebook and YouTube and all the other social media platforms were used to self-promote, people used to just write about themselves.
They would write about what interested them, and they would write about their lives. They would journal, and compose poetry.
They would comment, narrate, and tell stories.
They would think about their lives.
Thing is, they still do.
You just have to log off the big social media platforms and go find them.
These posts may not be as visually cinematic as YouTube, or as visually funny as TikTok, and they require a little effort as you augment them with your imagination and mental imagery….but they are more authentic…. both contextually and metaphorically.
Written journals and stories are often deeper, more emotionally articulate, and move to explore more interesting places than videography. They are worth your time to hunt them out and read them.
But…I hear you say….reading is boring.
OK then. Here is a random excerpt from a random blog I follow.
Wilderness of Waves, follows the travels of Olivia O Wyatt as she sails her 34ft (10.36 m) boat Juniper, slowly solo circumnavigating the world.
Her journal posts are well written, evocative and engaging. They leave me anticipating the next leg of her adventure.
The Passage to Fulaga.
I wake up like a live wire. I’ve been waiting all week for the wind to turn north of east and today it is turning. I’m going to ride it back out to Fulaga in the south eastern most part of the Lau group- where the women are wild and the limestone rocks are psychedelic.
It’s 7 AM and I’m weighing anchor. It’s a laborious process without an electric windlass. I switch back and forth between my arms so one doesn’t get bigger than the other. By the time I have the anchor up, I’m out of breath, and my face is wet, and I feel like I’ve just completed a Jane Fonda workout.
I set Juniper to course, hoist the main, and glide out to sea. I’m on my way to the Lau with Gecko and Paikan. Lilou and her family are on Paikan, and Holly (AKA Boat Lizard) is on Gecko.
Holly is my soul sea-sister. She singlehanded her boat all the way from Maine to Fiji and we share the same philosophy on sailing. We both sail under reefed main only when the weather is rough. We think that heaving-to is a dreadfully unnatural feeling. We both sail slow, so what? We aren’t into buddy boating offshore because it’s too much pressure. We rarely use our engine because we hardly know how to fix it. We love fish and moonshadows and pineapples. We are mesmerized by plants and hug trees as soon as we get to a new shore. And we both have reoccurring nightmares that our boats are on land and we are dragging them back to sea.
Sometimes it feels like she is me!
Before departing, Holly and I gathered items from our boats to give away to the villages; clothes, a blow up paddle board, a guitar. And we went on a shopping spree for them at the dollar store; soap, rice, underwear, flour, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, fish hooks, lipstick, feminine products, jewelry, diapers. And while we were out and about, Holly and I splurged and bought matching underwear for ourselves. It’s pink with a cat face painted on the derrière.
Our last stop was the fruit and vegetable market. It’s rows upon rows of colorful people and green things that my eyes have never seen before. I found the pineapple man and said, “Can I get a pineapple that will be ripe in two days and another one that will be ripe in five days.” That’s how you have to think when you provision for a boat. You don’t want everything to ripen all at once, otherwise you won’t be able to eat it all before it spoils. Think green baby, think green.
An old salt told me that sometimes the outgoing current in Fulaga is 7 knots with standing waves, so we have to time our arrival just so. We need daylight and an incoming high tide to enter. It’s 187 Nautical Miles. To catch the tide I can either average 5 knots and get there in a day and a half, or 4 knots and get there in two days……
Now, wasn’t that more satisfying than spending 2 minutes scrolling TikTok?
Don’t you want to know what happens next?
Such is the power of the almost extinct art of journal blogging.
Photo by Yannick Pulver