After reading the recent Time article on one of my favorite websites, ThoughtCatalog.com and learning of the apparently overwhelming criticism of this type of writing, I just HAD to input my five cents
The author of this Time article attempts to retain an unbiased expository feel to his writing (I believe he still is very pro-O’Connell, however) and does a wonderful job of portraying both sides to the argument, an argument I never even knew existed until reading this piece. Basically, to sum up if you don’t have it in you to read the article in question, though I think everyone should because it is superbly interesting, there is a large group of critics and writers who believe that the ultra-personal writing like that present on Thought Catalog’s site is worthless and narcissistic self-talk, with no value to society other than for the author to listen to him or herself whine/verbally masturbate depending on the specific post’s topic.
“Too sincere for the internet,” the Time article’s title asks/professes about O’Connell and the Thought Catalog team’s style of writing. But more importantly, I believe this article and the series of criticisms that it cites illustrates that the perception of my entire generation (today’s twenty-somethings) is becoming more and more negative. We (my generation) are perceived by the general public as nothing more than a collective orgy of self-serving narcissists, which I believe to be nothing more than a wildly cynical misunderstanding.
Yes, the writings of Thought Catalog are passionately personal. Each post and submission is a slice of that author’s perspective, emotions, inner-workings, etc. I cannot argue that; every single item of writing present in Thought Catalog is a confession. But it’s the intention that’s misconstrued.
As an incredibly significant segment of my yoga teacher training, and an important aspect of life in general, intention is ingrained in every single thing we do and say. Common phrases used and heard throughout anyone’s day constantly refer back to this idea. “I didn’t mean it that way,” or “You misunderstood,” don’t signify that the message itself was unclear or that the verbal structures used were confusing. Those phrases we say over and over again exist simply to explain the fact that we believe someone listening to us didn’t understand our intention behind our words.
In yoga, intention is just as important. Walking into a yoga class, everyone, both teacher and student, wants to feel safe. No one can walk into that class with the intention to judge or harm, or else it will not work. It will not be a safe place. This is not necessarily a verbal or physical cue; it’s something beyond that: a sense or a feeling to which all people are innately attuned. It’s a vibe, if you will.
And it’s the intention behind Thought Catalog’s style of writing that’s being consistently misunderstood by these critics. Yes, they are personal stories. No they are not written for narcissistic or self-serving purposes. The intention behind every Thought Catalog piece is connection.
They offer the solution for the need of so many young people to find someone who understands, who can provide a sort of connection through shared stories and experiences. All we really want to know, as a twenty-something, is that we’re not alone. Sorry if that makes us narcissistic or self-centered. I think it just makes us human.
The key difference between the narcissism of which Time Magazine’s critics speak and what I believe the writing of Thought Catalog actually achieves is a method of communication that I like to call “I-talk.”
Basically the thinking behind “I-talk” is that we, as non-telepathic creatures, cannot speak or think for anyone but ourselves. We cannot claim to know how anyone but ourselves feels, thinks, or experiences anything . Thus, the general “you” should be rendered obsolete. Instead of saying something like, “you know when you ride the L, and you try to walk through the turnstiles, but then you find out that your card is out of money, and it’s so embarrassing!” what should be said is, “It’s really embarrassing for me when I walk through the L turnstiles and my card doesn’t have any money.” And trust me, this is not an easy thing to learn. It’s almost become second nature, at least for me, to project the way I think and feel onto others around through my use of the general “you.”
I believe Thought Catalog is simply working towards negating this over-generalized “you” usage that runs so rampant throughout our society’s speech. Instead of professing how others like them should think and feel, the authors of Though Catalog are simply writing about how they think and feel and hoping that someone else feels the same.
It’s not about narcissism; it’s about being unassuming and open. It’s about not projecting their problems or opinions onto anyone else, and it’s about hoping that they can help someone or make someone feel better along the way.