A recent debate on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish, contends that youthful bloggers have the monopoly on narcissism- that in resorting to largely confessional prose and memoir, these younguns regale their readerships with every “tawdry twist and turn” of their sordid, little lives.
Young writers do this, the argument goes, in part because the daily discipline of blogging makes them do it. After a while, the pressure to find something to say daily or on most days of the week turns young writers into broken records, sending the same old literary hash into the blogosphere, or compelling them to seek new lows in the airing of their dirty underwear.
Sure, maybe. I’ve read a thing or two in the blogosphere that qualifies as all of the above. The other day, a blogger, in giving voice to the truth that we all carry dirty secrets, aired her own: her confessional booth included a couple of affairs, an abortion, several diagnoses for severe mental illness, and a former drug addiction. Be it an example of narcissism or self-loathing or both, the piece held me in rapt attention, but unfortunately at the expense of a bad case of writer’s “TMI” that could shipwreck this woman’s future ambitions and relationships.
Such extreme cases aside, and for the sake of playing devil’s advocate in defense of the young bloggers and writers among us…why should young writers be singled out for such an unfair stereotype (that their blogging is little more than narcissicism)? Maybe the apostle Paul’s words of encouragement to the younger Timothy are apropos here: “let no one despite you for your youth,” Paul instructs (1 Timothy 4:12). Let’s call age discrimination what it is!
And, since when in the history of the world were people not captured by confessional memoirs? I have in mind here, for example, the most enduring, best-known work of the early church theologian, Augustine, whose Confessions could just as well have been written in our time, albeit with a few tweaks here and there.
Then there is the whole notion of writing as a transformational process. Why can’t writing itself be a vehicle for becoming better, more mature, more grounded people? Writing about our own experiences is one way to extract meaning out of the often seemingly senseless stuff of our lives. Sometimes when a friend invites me into her pain or grief, I ask whether she has written her experiences down and journaled about them; that she might choose eventually to share her life more publicly can, if not always, be a sign of God’s healing and a means of redemption.
Besides, from where I sit at this particular intersection between life and God, I am convinced that what my generation most hungers for is an experience of God in the stuff of real life. We 20-and-30 somethings are looking for more direction, more truth and more life- not as some abstract ideal, but as a lived reality that we have experienced and can testify to. The Way, the Truth and the Life is only real if we have personally experienced it. Our spiritual restlessness is, I suspect, an outgrowth of this longing to move beyond illusions towards a deeper connection with Reality. In this sense, maybe even the tawdriest reality show bears witness, if only in glimmers, to this fundamentally human (as opposed to fundamentally narcissistic) search for a reality without illusions.
But what do you think about any or all of the above?