The Banal Quest for Validation

ZachsMind just posted a very thoughtful response to a post of mine from a few weeks back that seemed to get a wee bit of attention from the Tumblrsphere. The meat of my post that has been a few times bequoted is thus:

How many readers does it take to make a blog worthwhile? What constitutes a sufficient number of pageviews for a given post? The most obvious answer is that there is no line of demarcation; the act of writing is an end in itself. If I were to have a meaningful conversation with a single person, or even just have something good and substantive to say to an audience of one, would that not be enough?

That was me. Then Zach writes:

Ignoring of course the obvious irony that it takes Fidalgo a blog post about people ignoring his blog to again take notice of his blog (or is that coincidence? I never can tell…)

Oh zing.

That’s not the thoughtful part, but it is funny. Anyway, Zach’s post, which you should read in its entirety, rests on the oft-posited bit of healthy idealism that says it’s really All About the Journey:

It’s not about where we’re going, but the things that happen to us along the way. It’s not about attaining whatever goal you set for yourself or what was set forth by others. It’s about whether or not you enjoy yourself as you go, about the people you meet while traveling, and about the traveling itself. It’s not about the degree or diploma or commendation or trophy. It’s about all the little things you learned to get you to that place… .

Etcetera. Nothing wrong with this, but nothing I have not been advised before. Then Zach, recounting his own first forays into webbyness, hits me with this:

I had wanted people to recognize my gift of gab and my off the wall sense of humor and my quirky individual me-ness. I was hoping somewhere out there an unspecified number of people would naturally and unequivocally accept me for who I am, even if I never figured out just what that was. I reached out. Sometimes I was met with a handshake. Sometimes I was met with a slap on the wrist.

Yowch. That, while not intended as a barb, hit me where it hurt. Because that’s what’s really underneath all of this, right? An age-old and probably banal quest for validation, undertaken in cyberspace where one is a little more protected from the usual prejudices of the physical world (fewer people can judge me for my looks, for example, from my blog). But of course it wasn’t as simple as my fantasy would have it. It takes more than a well-intentioned quirkiness to get people’s attention and have them stamp you with the Humanity Seal of Approval.

And more to the point, it’s not smart to seek validation in this way, or in really almost any way. As I’ve been very painfully learning, if I don’t already buy my own self-worth, all the retweets in the world won’t buy it for me. Trite, but horrifyingly true.

And then Zach gets all poetic, which I totally didn’t expect.

We are all Near Earth Objects revolving and spinning around the sun and each other. Sometimes we bump into one another and that’s sometimes fantastic and sometimes that’s cataclysmic.

How many readers does it take to make this worthwhile? One. You.

It’s all gravy.

Okay okay. I get it. I haven’t digested it quite, but at least I get it.

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