Hi friends! So fellow aniblogger Arthifis, whom I greatly enjoy, has been posting some really helpful stuff recently on improving your blog. (Believe me, I’m making use of his tips as much as possible!) In his most recent one, he wrote about the importance of being yourself on your blog, and how that will attract more readers and reader engagement. That got me thinking.
What follows is my reflection on Arthifis’ post. Note the word “reflection”: I’m still working the ideas out in my head, and have only come to tentative conclusions. Also, a reflection is different from a response: I’m not disagreeing with his post, but rather trying to tease out more from his ideas and see where they lead. Ok, we academics can get really long-winded qualifying and hedging to make sure we’re not misunderstood. Let’s jump into the meat & potatoes.
First off, he makes some really important points, among which these are my favorites (i.e., those I found most meaningful):
- We’re all writing about the sames shows and topics much of the time. To distinguish yourself from others, something has to be different. That something is you. You know, your personality.
- People are moving away from ingesting corporate media and turning towards personal media. Obviously, corporate media isn’t going anywhere (we are an anime community, after all), but the balance has dramatically shifted. (Here we are, not only watching anime but discussing it at great length.)
- It’s important not to get a big head when you have success as a blogger!
He also makes this statement which I found more intriguing the more I mulled it over:
“That’s why I always tell you that showing your personality is the most important when writing content. It’s important to give your opinion, write/talk with no filters and just show yourself to the World.”
Here’s what I find fascinating: It sounds simple to “just be yourself”, but in point of fact that’s a really complex problem! First of all, what does it mean to be or have a “self”? What is a “personality”? (I’m going to use the terms “self” and “personality” as more or less the same here in this post.)
I’m not asking for dictionary definitions, nor do I mean to say let’s all go read Kierkegaard. (Although, now that I think about it, that would make the world a more interesting place…!) Just be a bit existential for a moment and meditate: How do you understand your personality, and your self, as distinct from all others? Or is it in fact true that our personalities are distinct from others’? Is there any facet of who you are that you did not receive from someone else who also shared it? Family, teachers, friends, rivals… all contributed a piece of who they are to form a piece of who you are. And you’ve done the same to them. Or if there is anything that didn’t come to you by way of personal interaction and experience, it came by way of your genetics—and that, too, you received from another.
Which raises another key nuance: How can you think of and talk about your personality, when that personality is constantly changing and evolving? The moment you think you know yourself, your self has already moved beyond what you think you know. Can you grasp a personality and say, “This is me”? Not really, at least not in any simple fashion. (And for the record, I don’t think Arthifis is saying that we should.)
So is the self more than an ever-shifting patchwork of influences picked up from others? Is there a core or aspect to your personality that is “you-and-not-others”? And if so, how do you find it? How can you describe it? The moment you use a word to describe yourself, you run the danger of wiping out what distinguishes you from anyone else who can be described by the same word. If I ask you about yourself, and you say, “I’m an otaku,” I’ve learned something about you, true; yet not only is every otaku an otaku in a unique way (or so it seems to me), but also every person understands the word “otaku” in a unique (though hopefully somewhat similar) way! All that nuance which distinguishes you from all others like you gets lost.
Or take the word “white” as another example. What does it mean—to you? PicoPrimes, my little boy, toddled up to me the other day and asked, “Are you white?” Now, part of me immediately inferred that he probably wasn’t asking about my Caucasian origins; but being on vacation I didn’t feel like teasing out his exact meaning from his two-year-old brain. So I lazily just said, “Yes, I am. Are you white?” He looked at his arms, then announced, “Nope.” “Then what are you?” “Silver!” And then I was caught in the beautiful moment of enjoying someone who can truly see colors because he hasn’t yet learned to “see color”. (I also observed that his understanding of “silver” was somewhat different from mine!)
So to put my own twist on what Arthifis says: When we say to just “be yourself”, we’re not talking about some fixed set of characteristics that are “you”; we’re talking about a fluid and ever-evolving process, and the process is you. A self is not something you get, like a cookie; it’s something you ride like a wave.* Your readers want to see you riding the wave; and the more fluidly you can accommodate the ordered yet unpredictable fluctuations in the wave, the more your readers will enjoy watching you as they come along for the ride.
- I’m tempted to say: “A self is not something you get like a cookie, but rather something you get like a disease.” But that opens up a whole range of potential meanings that I’d rather not get into…
** Since I put in the affiliate link for the Kierkegaard book, I’m legally obliged to say: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”