On Web Originality and Public Discourse

I have grown up in the age of the every-blogger, a time when any person with a brain and an internet connection can transcribe their thoughts and post them online for anyone to see. I have read the blogs of my peers who have taken their teenage angst and "big thoughts" and put them on the internet in the hopes of finding connection, support, or whatever it is they may be looking for. I have always admired the gall that each and every one of these bloggers has to expose their innermost thoughts and feelings for anyone to judge. I have read blogs I wish I wrote myself, commiserated with blogs I understand, and internally argued with posts I despise.

The effects of this constant exposure have left me with the insecurity that every thought I might have or any societal question I want to pursue has already been thought of, chewed up, and spit out a thousand times over. How many 20-somethings have come before me worried about the future, have been convinced our generation is special, have had a cause they believe is of the utmost importance, and written about it? What can I, a college student with no remarkable or distinguished characteristics, say that will be novel and add to the collective intellectual conversation?

Social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, survive off the concept that other people care about what you are doing, eating, or thinking. As a millennial with both Facebook and Instagram, I cannot begin to describe how many times I have heard disdain from my peers regarding the content posted by someone else. Statuses such as "Just had the best pizza ever!" or "Only 2 days until I'm finally home!" are commonly ridiculed and dismissed. The conundrum that surrounds the current generation is a digital society that encourages us to share, share, share, but a peer group that readily mocks someone who crosses the fragile line between acceptable and oversharing.

I see this phenomenon as a sort of "Content Acceptability Curve". A post of a bowl of oatmeal from an Instagrammer with 100 followers is not as "worthy" as the same post from a health guru with 150,000 followers. The first post is simply the sharing of an experience that a person had, while the second post serves as perhaps inspiration and motivation to those looking to eat healthier. The more followers you have, the less original your content must be before it is acceptable. (This isn't to say that people who can get thousands of likes on a picture of the sunset did not do something remarkable to achieve their following, just that their current content is critiqued with a lower standard of acceptability.) People did not always feel comfortable sharing photos of their new shoes or selfies from class, but the idea that other people care about these mundane aspects of life trickled down from the social media of celebrities to the common folk, until Katy down the street no longer recognized that people don't care about her Halloween costume as much as they care about Katy Perry dressed as a Cheeto.

The same principle applies to thoughts and writing. One no longer has to be an expert in a field to voice one's opinion and have it stimulate conversation amongst an innumerable amount of people. The result is a surplus of articles and blog posts filled with opinions, ideas, and ruminations that range from pointless to profound. Although there are an abundance of dead posts throughout the web, the freedom given to us by that sometimes confusing social encouragement to share has created a generation of writers with both the platform and the audience to learn what it means to be a part of public discourse.

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