Well, for all of you fiction writers, this post might not be so incredibly helpful. However, it is something that I’ve been wanting to address for some time now. I cannot count the number of posts that fill-up my facebook wall that are titled ’20 Things Rich People Do’, ’10 Things Poor People Don’t Actually Do’, ‘The 15 Worst Things About Being an Introvert’, ‘7 Things Every Man Should Do Before Getting Married’… really, I could go on. I’ve got at least a couple of paragraphs of these that I could use, but I’m not going to do that to you, poor reader (you’re welcome), because I’m not a complete jackass… only a partial one. I generally try to put some thought into the titles of my blog posts, and I usually try to put some thought into my actual posts as well. Admittedly, any blog post is, at its core, an opinion piece. Blogs are not peer-reviewed, and generally aren’t known for their use of evidence in presenting a case (though there are some exceptions). However, in a world where there are already a thousand different voices telling each of us what to do and who to be, these blogs don’t help. Not to mention the fact that most of them present inane, trite, cliched claims will little explanation and no real defense.
I have my own opinions about certain things (seriously, ask my friends, they’ll tell you), and I generally think that my opinion is the correct point of view on the subject. After all, if I honestly thought I was wrong about something, then I’d probably change my opinion. However, I am not of the opinion that everyone in the world should always agree with me. While I don’t think that any of my opinions are wrong, I understand that some of them probably are, and that some of them really are a matter of opinion. That being said, if we disagree about something significant, I’ll probably try to convince you that you should agree with me. There was a key word in that sentence, did you catch it? I’ll try to convince you to agree with me. I will present my position, argue my reasoning, offer up evidence, and then respectfully listen while you do the same. In other words, I will engage in a dialogue with you about the subject, and while we might ultimately agree to disagree, we’ll probably be friends in the end.
This is what I see that is fundamentally lacking about the majority of these kind of lists. I could argue that their titles are lacking (which is definitely true, can you imagine a title like that on the front of the New York Times or Washington Post? No? There’s a reason for that.) I could argue that their lists are insensitive, problematic, inconsequential, or (frankly) sometimes ridiculous. However, I’m fine with the ridiculous, if you can defend it. Heck, I believe that two thousand years ago God took human form, got himself executed, and then resurrected himself from the dead. It doesn’t really get much more ridiculous than that. However, I can also defend that belief with sound logical reasoning and a plethora of historical evidence.
The majority of these lists that I see offer no reasoning behind their claims. The ’20 Things That Rich People Do’ didn’t provide reasoning to show how any of those actually enhanced their wealth or made them better people. In fact, some of the things on the list were clearly a result of being wealthy, rather than a contributing cause. The ‘7 Things Every Man Should Do Before Getting Married’ list provided a plethora of bad advice with the only basic reasoning being: you can’t get away with it afterwards. Each of these lists gives me a little glimpse into the way someone else lives and things, and I’m understandably saddened by what I see. Even assuming that your list is filled with good ideas, why are they good ideas in the first place, and why should anyone else listen to you? Often these seem to be either defensive jabs (yes, there actually is such a thing: its a light quick punch that’s intended to get an opponent to back off, rather than to do actual damage) at the world, intended to (and failing to) justify the writers viewpoint, or bellowing intended to get everyone’s attention (which they succeed at) without actually being meaningful in any real way.
Instead of trying to force the world to agree with us by being louder, more belligerent, and more verbose than everyone else, let’s actually try to be convincing in what we write. Say the same things more often doesn’t actually create change (though it might get you elected). What creates change is presenting good, well-thought out ideas backed by convincing argument and evidence that people can not only accept, but can see ways to work towards.