Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In Which I Ramble In A Very Self-Actualized Manner

I've been blogging for over a year now, and this blog has metamorphosed into something wholly unexpected.

I didn't intend for it to be an outlet or a catharsis or a cheap alternative to therapy, but it has been. I wasn't supposed to be a means for reclaiming my voice or my identity, but it is. And I never thought it would be the impetus to finally become a "real" writer, but its given me the courage and the confidence to do just that.

I remember those early days of blogging and how, to my surprise, it became a very positive, edifying and empowering thing in my life.

I took a look back at some of my earliest entries today and laughed. My inaugural post was tongue in cheek jab at blogs, bloggers and blogging. If I had known then that I would fall prey to the very thing that I was poking fun of, it would have been a very delicious irony indeed.

Recently Her Bad Mother posted a very thought provoking missive about Bloggers and narcissism. I think I believed then that Bloggers really are the epitome of self-involvment and self-importance. I think I believed that narcissism defined blogging and vice versa. And I said so.

I have had cause to reconsider, obviously. And I've felt compelled to examine just why we Bloggers blog, or more specifically, why writers write.

I don't think it's narcissism.

Abraham Maslow addressed the compulsion for self-examination and understanding in his theory regarding the human Hierarchy of Needs. Put in the simplest terms, he believed that needs are motivating. Needs that are not met, or are only partially met continue to motivate.

Guess what is at the very top of that Heirarchy of Needs?

Self-Actualization. This is a need that does not need to be fulfilled in order to live or maintain mental stability, but one which undoubtedly provides the most stimulus for personal growth and a kind of self-awareness that provides balance and inner peace.

Maslow asserted that one cannot achieve self-actualization if lower needs are unmet, as one cannot fully devote oneself to realizing their inherent potential. For this reason he estimated that only about 2% of the world's population was truly self-actualized.

But that was then, and this is now.

Self-Actualization as a psychological construct is far too complex for me to do justice with my layman's interpretation. Basically, self-actualization is quantified by 12 principles. If you want to read about them, you can find a pretty comprehensive but straightforward explanation here.

But what strikes me as a particularly relevant parallel between bloggers and self-actualization are these two observations from Maslow regarding a group of individuals he believed to be self-actualized given the standards he set forth.

1. They had a sense of humility and respect towards others -- something Maslow also called democratic values -- meaning that they were open to ethnic and individual variety, even treasuring it. They had a quality Maslow called human kinship or Gemeinschaftsgefühl -- social interest, compassion, humanity. And this was accompanied by a strong ethics, which was spiritual but seldom conventionally religious in nature

2. And these people had a certain freshness of appreciation, an ability to see things, even ordinary things, with wonder. Along with this comes their ability to be creative, inventive, and original. And, finally, these people tended to have more peak experiences than the average person. A peak experience is one that takes you out of yourself, that makes you feel very tiny, or very large, to some extent one with life or nature or God. It gives you a feeling of being a part of the infinite and the eternal. These experiences tend to leave their mark on a person, change them for the better, and many people actively seek them out. They are also called mystical experiences, and are an important part of many religious and philosophical traditions.

In addition, there is a list of meta-needs that tend to define self-actualization:

Truth, rather than dishonesty.
Goodness, rather than evil.
Beauty, not ugliness or vulgarity.
Unity, wholeness, and transcendence of opposites, not arbitrariness or forced choices.
Aliveness, not deadness or the mechanization of life.
Uniqueness, not bland uniformity.
Perfection and necessity, not sloppiness, inconsistency, or accident.
Completion, rather than incompleteness.
Justice and order, not injustice and lawlessness.
Simplicity, not unnecessary complexity.
Richness, not environmental impoverishment.
Effortlessness, not strain.
Playfulness, not grim, humorless, drudgery.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency.
Meaningfulness, rather than senselessness.

See what I'm saying here??

Now, I'm not saying that bloggers are so enlightened as to be fully self-actualized. But I am saying that our need to to examine, to question and to elucidate stems from our pursuit of self-actualization.

It isn't a love of self which drives us, it the need to know who we are and why we are. It is a big existential question mark that compels us.

That is why bloggers blog. Why painters paint. Why musicians compose. Why clergymen preach. Why politicians pontificate.

So. I don't think we are narcissists one and all. I think we just want find ourselves, to know ourselves and then to love ourselves just a little.

"Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth."

~Abraham Maslow


  • At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, my dear -- that was fantastic. You're so completely on-target with that: on our best days, I think that we blog completely to satisfy those inner needs, although I have to admit there are days (those days when I check my feed stats, especially) when I am looking for a little plain-ol' outside approval.

    Nicely done, and thanks. I'm gonna go read some more about this stuff and (more effectively, probably) make the pyramid my desktop background.

  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger Bea said…

    I love this.

    What struck me about the pyramid is how people tend to assume that blogging is about the previous two tiers: belonging and esteem. The idea is that we do it in order to create an illusory sense of community (because really we're lonely people, and blogging makes us lonelier), and we do it to drive our ego-needs, lapping up all the (false) praise the blogosphere provides.

    Needless to say, I like your interpretation much better!

    And I do think that the degree of civility in the blogosphere is evidence that we are not in fact driven by the need to create in-groups or hordes of fawning sycophants. Those needs tend to drive a much different kind of interaction.

  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    Having sat and talked with you about this over coffee, I nodded and nodded as I read.

    ...and then I thought... "I need to have coffee with her again!"

    I loved this.

  • At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting. I am happy to see someone looking beyond the surface of blogging and perhaps finding a more deeper process going on while we blog.

    Do you still think blogging is a fad?

  • At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I enjoyed your post a great deal. Why do I write? Sometimes I find I understand things much better once I get them out of my head. I'll get to the end of a post I'm writing and all of a sudden I'm writing something I didn't even realize I felt or believed.

    And your comment "That is why bloggers blog. Why painters paint. Why musicians compose. Why clergymen preach. Why politicians pontificate." resonated with me. I find now that when I publish a post I'm proud of, that I worked hard on I feel good, feel like I've created something. I look at art differently now, even newspaper headlines. I wonder now if people who create things feel the same.

    Thanks for making me think.

  • At 2:19 AM, Blogger Amie Adams said…

    Yeah! What she said!!

    You're such a thoughtful blogger, and I feel like I just vomit words on a screen. Thank you for this perspective. I am humbled as always by your writing.

  • At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh this is awesome. And I'm so glad your opinion has changed.

    And btw, thank you for your recent comment at my place. You really lifted my spirits.

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    This is a great perspective. A great post. Well done, BA.

  • At 3:08 PM, Blogger Foofa said…

    Very true. I think it is hard to blog without reflection, although some people do. Some days it is deep, others silly. It is simply an expression of self. Well written.

  • At 10:21 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    i studied a lot about this in graduate school, and yes, you know, i agree.

    it's the striving we are trying to achieve. the strive itself.

  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger Cathy said…

    Excellent post! I loved this mainly because it touched home for me and the reasons I blog..

    But also because you are a great writer! Your thoughts and words just flow beautifully together.

    That was a wonderfully written and well thought out post.

  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger Code Yellow Mom said…

    Fab. u. lous. Such a great thought and you articulated it so well...I still fall into a lot of what I would mock mommy blogs for, but it has been a means for really identifying myself that I don't think I'd find otherwise.

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger thailandchani said…

    Joseph Campbell once said that we are not looking for the meaning of life. We are looking for the experience of being alive.

    Bloggers blog for the same reason people talk to each other.

    We learn from each other, we grow with each other, we get to know how other people think and live.

    It's just an updated version of the Roundtable.



  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger Debbie said…


  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Radioactive Tori said…

    What a wonderful post! My major was psychology but I have to admit I never thought of blogging in this way. It makes perfect sense.

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    Wow I'm seriously impressed.

    You are my favorite blogger ever who has used Gemeinschaftsgefühl in a post.

  • At 10:08 AM, Blogger Wendy said…

    Then why do salesmen sale?

  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Namito said…

    Why am I not surprised to see Maslow's pyramid here?

    Wonderful insights. Self actualized, even!


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