I’ve had Kristen’s post called Validation in my head since I read it yesterday morning. Kristen asks herself (and us): “Do I simply search out people who reflect back to me what I want to see in myself? And, if so, is that a bad thing?” She goes on to talk about how she gravitates towards blogs whose general perspective feels familiar, and wonders if this reflects a “preference for a pot unstirred and waters untroubled.”
But I’ve been thinking more about this today, and about the comments, particularly that by BigLittleWolf. It was on my mind when I commented on Kristen’s post: I thought about blogs I read that are “different,” and realized that those that are the most different, the most off-topic, don’t really push my thinking about parenting or identity or presence or love or any of the big questions that roil my brain daily. Yes, I read a bunch of technology blogs, and also some superficial celebrity blogs. Both of these groupings I would call very different, in both topic and worldview, from my own blog. But that very difference opens up a gulf, and in that space the ability to influence my own thinking about my own thorniest personal issues is lost.
In my comment I defended what Kristen worries is a tendency towards validation as something more fundamental. I stand by my overall belief that those who feel “like us” in the blogosphere are probably much more legitimately “like us” than people we meet in real life. In a world where we are represented by words on a page a lot of the superficial identifiers that we use to sort through other people are removed. So when we resonate with another blogger we are, in large part, resonating with a very real and honest part of her. Not, for example, whether she has a kid at the same school or is wearing the same jeans we are.
And so what I’m mulling over now is that in order to really expand our horizons about topics like mothering, does a blog (or a person, or a point of view) require a baseline degree of familiarity? If something is too foreign, don’t we all instinctively dismiss it, some psychological version of graft-versus-host disease? I agree with BLW, in fact, that while there are some similarities in theme and tone among the blogs that I read most passionately and loyally, they are hardly identical. I am sure that those of us who blog about parenting, for example, actually differ quite widely in the ways in which we mother. I’m sure we have different points of view on bedtimes and food and time-outs and appropriate behavior. And none of us is right, by the way. The learning comes from hearing other people talk about why, and how they think about it.
At least for me. I think the most valuable conversations – be they in person or in the blogosphere – are often (not always) with people who are relate-able enough that their view is credible to us, their input valued because we know we respect their opinion and perspective. Of course this respect is earned multiple ways, and similarity to ourselves is neither the only way nor a guarantee of it. The people whose input I esteem the most highly in this world are not all like me; they are not all mothers, not all women, not all like me. They are, universally, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and deeply engaged in the business of living.
And this is what I look for in blogs I love – in fact in all media that I consume. I am drawn to people whose outlook on the world makes me think, people who are able to spin words into a dazzling gossamer web, people who are honest about their struggles and challenges and weaknesses. I think that having this, ultimately, is the similarity of which Kristen speaks: the willingness to share candid stories, to actively engage in the effort to live more thoughtfully and consciously, and to admit difficulty. If that’s what the blogs I love best have in common, then I can only aspire to call myself similar to that. That’s a community of “sameness” that I would be proud to be a part of.
Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox