The Huffington Post and most online outlets regularly publish personal narratives about anything from sexless marriage to childless by choice. For the writer, the personal essay provides a space to work through a challenging experience and to gather a community of readers who might be able to commiserate.
Contemporary life can be isolating, especially when you're in the midst of an something your neighbors, colleagues, and even friends may not be able to understand. It's not that easy to share your husband verbally abuses you or your mom keeps pestering you about when you'll meet your future husband.
Personal reflections may provide a sounding board for those in the same journey but they also elicit the "Stop your Sobbing" response from the click and bash crowd.
American culture supports self-sufficiency. If you have a problem, it's probably your own fault. Put on your big girl panties and take it like a man. Our Supersize approach doesn't just apply to XL fries and a 32-ounce mega-cup of Coke.
The relatives, your hairdresser, and everyone you meet won't stop asking when you're going to get pregnant when you're decided to remain childless or have gone through $100,000 in IVF treatments and five miscarriages. Shut up. The woman down the street was run over by a truck and is in a coma! Your job has been outsourced and you have to choose between health insurance and keeping the lights on? Some people don't even have running water! Your husband has turned you away for two years? At least you have a husband!
We're constantly striving to minimize someone else's pain by finding someone who has it worse. Anyone who has grown up with a mother or father who tried to get you to always find the positive generally ends up with tremendous guilt for any emotion not on the spectrum of happy. Perhaps that's why we spend so much time and money at Happy Hour, shopping online, or scoring the latest pharmaceutical.
Those who choose to click on an article only to leave a message to discredit the writer of the essay might want to restrict their reading material to stock quotes or the state of ISIS. A well-penned personal essay isn't a gripe-fest. It's a reflection intended to reach those who are experiencing the same.
So, if you're tempted to let a blogger know her struggles with an alcoholic husband in prison for his third DUI just isn't as bad as your cousin with some late stage illness, why not bypass personal blog essays or posts about the Kardashians or the latest celebrity divorce to spend a few hours reading Proust or Kafka?