When Doogie Hower had a blog, it wasn’t connected to the Internet. I don’t know that a lot of the people watching Doogie Howser, M.D. knew what the Internet was or imagine the thing that it would become. It was just a journal, but we knew that it was hipper and more modern that Kevin Arnold’s voiceovers in the preceding half-hour because it happened in a word processor. Beep. Bop. Boop. Beep.
I had a laptop as a kid. It was a big, hulking beast of a thing intended for road warrior salesmen like my dad was; it was his cast-off laptop that I inherited. It ran text adventures and Battle Chess and Thexder (which grew in me a specific kind of small affection for MIDI versions of other songs) and, most importantly, WordPerfect. I think one of the reasons why I still code myself as a writer when I think about myself is that I wrote constantly on that stupid twenty or so pound laptop with its orange and black LCD screen and its battery that was the size of a small dolphin. All manner of really dumb stuff, mind you, but I clacked and pecked at those keys in most of my spare time that wasn’t full of comics or painting my Warhammer miniatures or poring over Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books.
Don’t worry, I know all about how tragically uncool I was. But the point is, it helps to write.
That Doogie Howser journal, it was a blog. It was just that nobody read it. Except probably Doogie’s mother.
I think the worst thing that can happen to a blog is that it gets readers.
I’m thinking about this because I found myself browsing through the series of posts on Dan Harmon’s blog in which he talks about his breakup with his girlfriend. Harmon’s outpouring is remarkable for its emotional honesty and teen-movie earnestness. It’s a lot of brooding shoegaze stuff about love is a lie and all that – not true, but true to what’s in his head as he’s writing it, you know? And there’s a sad shoegaze-y poetry in that that resonates. I’m not going to post excerpts and I’m not going to link to it – I think that undercuts what I am trying to talk about, maybe. Google is your friend. Hell, this is three months ago – you’ve already read it already.
Like you’d expect, Harmon’s ex finds these posts and replies angrily. But that’s not the thing. The thing is the hundreds of people who ‘like’ this naked emotional outpouring from a guy who’s probably at a bad place in his heart. I read through the notes, because I’m the sort of person who says “I’m done reading comments” but then get sucked in when I should be doing other work and find myself doing exactly the things I know are not productive for me (that’s what I’m doing right now, in fact). Some Tumblr user reblogged it (lots of Tumblr users reblogged it, but this one in particular) and said “I love this.”
You love this?
I’m a big Ben Folds fan. You know this about me, probably. “Brick,” the one song of his to really become commercially successful, is an autobiographical song about being a high school kid who was so poor that he had to pawn his Christmas presents to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion. That’s some heavy shit, so much so that Folds didn’t talk about the song for a long time, choosing to let it stand for itself. If you’ve been there, he reasoned, you’d know what it was about.
I can’t imagine talking to Ben Folds and gushing about how much I love that song, is what I’m saying.
I listen to what my ex would always call “Sad Music;” I listen to it a lot, no matter what my mood is. Ask Natasha, because she still lovingly ribs me about my effusive praise for The Antlers’ Hospice album. The why of that is that, as a music listener, I crave that same emotional honesty that Harmon is laying down, the real Old Testament Western stuff about pain and loss and the limits of strength. I’m an eclectic guy who owns weeks worth of music, but that’s the stuff that’s my Sanctum Sanctorum music. You can be moved by it, you can excise the emotions and respect it as a text, but to say ‘I love this’ is perverse. To be ebullient over such a naked expression of sorrow, you have to be a fucking monster.
Putting those words down – whether it’s on a blog or in a song – is therapy. Because writing the words down is a solitary act, you get fooled into thinking it really is solitary and not for a billion people to read. As a result, it can be jarring when strangers find it and proclaim it “the best thing.”
That’s a mistake I made when I was at my worst. I started blogging six years ago to try and make myself write with more ease and regularity. Most of that early stuff was nonsense – paragraph-long movie reviews and silly anecdotes. As I got more comfortable with doing it, it started to become a zone of catharsis for me. There were no comments and only a handful of my friends knew the address of the damn thing. Maybe not much has changed, right? I even tried to stay anonymous for awhile, but for various reasons, that didn’t stick for very long.
At some point, the comments started popping up on things that I’d written for me but foolishly assumed that other people wouldn’t read and wouldn’t care about. That’s an awkward feeling to have. Scratch that; having your belief that you’re beneath scrutiny exploded as a myth, it’s a terrifying feeling. It’s like being naked in a bad dream scenario. You may notice, that it hasn’t stopped me from oversharing about my life. But you get over your terror by looking it in the eye, and besides, it would be hypocritical of me as someone who once wrote a social media column in a magazine to not live in public by my own best advice of openness and reasonable transparency.
And that comes with occasional moments of discomfort. But then, everything does, and in the end it might not be worth stopping all the sociopaths from telling you how hilarious it was that time when you got your fingers broken with a claw hammer (which is a fake thing that has never happened to me, nor is it ever a thing I have done to others). Ultimately, that’s on the sociopaths. Who are also us, a lot of the time, really. In a culture of constant data and instant gratification, it really all comes back around to fan-entitlement, I think, and how we need to stop perceiving every piece of information we devour as a thing placed there solely for us to consume.