Blogging unsettles me because I associate it with narcissism. The feeling is exacerbated by the limited reach of this blog. However I have found reasons to keep blogging through introspection.
1. Contributing to the documented collective experience of humans.
The internet brought about an unprecedented level of communication between people and a lot of it is documented. Many people are unaware of the extent but it is safe to assume that anything that has been on the internet is on there forever. I find reviews particularly useful as they help me come to an informed decision about a new product I am considering purchasing. I find reading about others’ experiences helpful because it is more information for me to use in my own life. I don’t want to be only a consumer in these and other pieces of communication that benefit people. I want to contribute. Blogging is one way of doing so that balances the skills needed for entry, the time required, and the potential audience in a way that suits my circumstance.
2. Developing and maintaining skills related to writing.
There are benefits of blogging to me that provide the driving motivation to continue writing provided I set my expectations properly. I am not hoping to become famous though I certainly won’t deny that it’s nice to think about. Probably the most immediate and tangible result of blogging for me is improvements to my writing. If I don’t write I can’t continue to improve my grammar, use of vocabulary, and my voice. Rather than lament a lack of development I want to choose to be proactive and practice by writing regularly.
3. A combination of keeping in touch with friends, journaling, and learning.
I want to keep in touch with everybody in my life but that can become temporally prohibitive. There may also be cases where I have the time but my friend does not. These are cases where having a blog can be useful. Especially with useful titles and headers a friend can understand if a blog post is useful or not. My prior flirtations with search engine optimization also indicate that this is good for building a wider audience as well. Mysterious titles may be useful for self-aggrandizing but serve no further purpose. Additionally some thoughts come out better when written than when spoken in a conversation. There are benefits and drawbacks to both forms of communication and maintaining both lines can be helpful.
In the process of revealing various details of my life from my thoughts to mundane details like a new purchase I am also journaling. A quick Google search for “benefits of journaling” finds sources (many of them blogs!) that claim benefits of journaling. Anecdotally speaking I find that I am better able to process my thoughts and feelings, I have some sort of record I can look back on for future reference, and seeing my thoughts in writing often provokes further inquiry and insight.
I think that practically reasons 2 and 3 are what drive me to rationalize blogging as useful via reason 1. Still I think that the thought process is valid so I have no problem with crafting an experience that benefits me if it also serves to benefit others.
Now comes the difficult period of forming a habit so that I can reap the benefits.
Lately on the radio I’ve heard Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City collaborate on the song, “Good Time.” There’s one part in the song that gets my brain going all fuzzy so being the lazy spendthrift I am I simply looked it up on YouTube. And thus began a crisis of existence.
Here, take a look at the video:
The premise of the video seems to be a group of friends gathering in an ambiguous location surrounded by trees, ostensibly a camping site in the middle of a national forest. The video and song ooze qualities of a bohemian lifestyle and glorify it. Certainly nothing harmful, at least intrinsically, but for a guy who tends to study and research in his free time there’s a little bit of bitterness for where nothing glorifies my lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. In fact, I enjoy it and take pride in it which is why it stings to never see a engineer’s life glorified. We are the people who bring to you everything you have yet everything indicates that to have a “good time” we must abandon what our instinct drives us to do and what our heart tells us we enjoy.
Heck even within engineers I get the sense that a large gap exists where there are those who have answered a calling and those who simply got a degree in engineering. I get the feeling more and more that finding a fellow engineer as passionate as I am is extremely rare (and for that matter I’m really lucky to work in a company with so many amazing, enthusiastic engineers).
It’s a sore spot for me that the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself is never seen as “fun” or “cool” except among others who share that thought. I’ll never see 50 Cent rapping about the engineer life, for example.
Then again, maybe I just feel this way because I don’t find as many people around me with the mindset. Where I live is not exactly a hotbed for technology.
What does it mean that I’m wondering this at all? I certainly love what I do, but there is the realization that I’m at a sort of stagnant point. Of course, that’s on me though. I have to break through this barrier.
Mark my words: I will succeed. I will excel. I will innovate. I will change the world!
It occurred to me as I attempted to organize my bookmarks that over time I’ve accumulated several hundred bookmarks. I’m sure it pales in comparison to others out there but I think there’re interesting insights to be had in the midst of all these links.
I find that the links that stay on my bookmarks list are bookmarks that resonate most with my being. Take for example the following image I saved in my set of bookmarks (it’s a bit long, but I think it’s real good):
For me there exists a somber sense to this image, this comic, this snippet. This and other links with a similar feel make it while other things I’d saved on a whim get culled.
Other topics of note in my set of bookmarks includes engineering and programming links.
The introspective insights were unexpected here. My bookmarks reveal a man drawn to sadness, enthralled by the possibilities of engineering, and excited by everything he encounters.
What do yours reveal?
But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.— Umberto Eco
I’ve spent considerable amounts of time deciding what I wanted to get out of blogging. The thought process lead me to ask questions like “What exactly is the role of blogging in my life and the lives of others?” and “Does my voice even matter?” After much thought I think I’ve settled on some answers that work for me.
What is the role of blogging in my life?
To be honest I have delusions of grandeur about blogging. There are a number of resources that cultivate the idea that any blogger can become an internet phenomenon, achieving fame and fortune in one fell swoop. The truth is mundane, however, and without joining the circle jerk that is blog optimization I either have to be famous outside of the blog originally or have insight into a niche that relatively few others have access to for sharing. It takes time and effort and nothing can fully develop overnight.
Neither describe me very well.
For me, blogging has come to be an avenue of self-development and introspection. Through writing content I learn, grow, and use words that I don’t get to use frequently as an engineer. When I sit down and write about games I am playing, such as my impressions of Warhammer 40k: Space Marine or my experiences with choice in games, I am taking a passive enjoyment of video games and making it active. Through this process I have teased out what I like and dislike about video games, allowing me to do things like focus on the aspects I do like while being able to determine if any flaws in a game are deal-breakers for me. I engage myself with my passion of gaming by criticizing the industry, analyzing games, and looking to the future. There’s never a stale day as a result.
Blogging also provides new perspectives. Because the nature of the beast is to be public I take time to consider what other people might think of what I blog. This takes me out of my shoes and into others’ shoes, seeing my thoughts with an angle I personally may not have. On top of that I have people who leave comments with thoughts that may not have crossed my mind at all. Taken together my ability to mature myself improves every time I go through the experience of blogging.
What is the role of blogging in the lives of others?
Does my voice even matter?
I think the simplest answer for both questions is that readers will answer this for me. If people find my words to be appealing they will come to the blog and seek more. If they do not, they will not. That’s all there is to it.
As long as I am benefiting from this endeavor it will hold value for me and I can continue without feeling as if I’m wasting my time.
What does this mean for this blog?
I have thoughts occasionally of halting this blog and doing something else. What kept the blog alive was the uncertainty in the “something else” I’d be doing. Now, with some thinking behind it, I can say the blog has positive value to me and I will continue writing for it.
Interestingly, in this re-imagining of blogging as something very personal I find that a lot of successful blogging tips still apply. For example, one of the most popular tips for blogs that I’ve seen is to write often. I think that’s also useful for me because when I go long stretches of time without blogging I find I’ve spent less time processing what’s been happening in my life. Like keeping a journal for some, blogging slows things down and helps me deal with things in life.
You’ll definitely see more from me and I hope it’s entertaining and useful for you.
If you’re a blogger, what are your answers to these questions? If you’re not a blogger, is there anything else in your life that plays this part in your life?
Bioschock is a highly rated game from 2007. I just today beat it on the Xbox 360 (I know I’m a bit behind) and had my mind blown with awesomeness. I tried to play as accurately as I could to my personality and one thing always kept me wondering. If I were actually in the shoes of the protagonist (rather than experiencing his adventures virtually), would I rescue or harvest the little sisters?
This post DOES contain spoilers, so if you haven’t played the game for whatever reason, you’ve been warned!
For this thought experiment let’s assume that even as we transfer the game concepts to reality the framework of the game remains sound (Plasmids exist, you can still endure just as much punishment, carry around all those weapons, etc.) Given this premise, when you first meet a little sister you can choose to liberate or harvest you are told two different things:
- Atlas tells you to harvest the little sister, claiming they are no longer children – no longer human – and you should have no remorse for harvesting Adam from them.
- Dr. Tenenbaum asks you to rescue the little sisters at this point after providing you the means of performing the rescue. She also claims she will make it worth your while.
At that moment all you know is that you can get Adam from the little sisters by harvesting them or forego that benefit to get a reward that may or may not be commensurate with the Adam you obtain from the little sister directly. There’s no way to know in advance that you get any Adam at all from rescuing the sisters nor do you know how Tenenbaum will make it worth your while.
Up to this point you’ve been harassed by splicers who you’ve dispatched with no remorse and have no human contact except Atlas and Ryan. Tenenbaum is a third. Whatever your thoughts coming into Rapture are, you’ve also searched many a dead body for loot just to survive.
All these things are fine if you know you’re playing a video game but should this happen in real life how would you feel? Though you are coerced by the magic phrase to pursue certain paths you retain some level of autonomy. (I don’t see why Atlas simply doesn’t say, “Would you kindly harvest the little sister?” or “Harvest the little sister. Would you kindly?” I think that’s how it should actually be phrased.) Evidence indicates that even as you do what you are commanded to you retain your own thoughts and emotions and it’s your body that is being controlled (an audio diary from Dr. Suchong).
Now, back to the situation in front of you. What do you do?
Personally I’d like to think that I’ll rescue the little sister because as a decent human being I cannot harm this innocent, little girl-like creature regardless of what claims are made about her. At the same time I wonder how the events that unfold would affect me. First there’s the plane crash. Next there are the frequent assaults by crazed splicers. As someone who hasn’t picked up a weapon in my life for the purpose of killing being thrown into that situation would be shocking to say the least.
Let me be clear: I can’t imagine harvesting a little sister. But I say that not experiencing the terrifying series of events that plays out in the game.
When I think about it I begin to doubt myself. Maybe because of the shock I will hesitate less to harvest the little sister especially because I can’t know that at the end of the day I’ll have about the same amount of Adam. In this hostile, foreign situation all I really know is that Atlas has helped me out (or so it convincingly seems) and this Tenenbaum person has obvious ulterior motives – the protection of the little sisters for whatever reason. Especially after the threat she makes I have no reason to think that she cares for my safety while Atlas does seem to look out for me.
Truth be told in the actual situation I don’t think my thoughts would be as clear. Still I think that I’m built to have a certain threshold I need to cross before being able to harvest a little sister. That being said it’s far more likely I’ll reach that threshold under the stress of everything that’s been happening.