So many people say they want to make an actual positive difference in the world with their writing. And so many people think they have at least one personal or professional avenue to do exactly that.
After all, just about everyone of any age and socioeconomic background has at least one platform they can preach from. Facebook. Twitter. Personal blogs. Posting comments to news articles.
Yet how effective are those avenues actually?
Yes, we’re sure to feel righteously vindicated whenever friends or followers agree with us. And we’re sure to feel righteously irate whenever friends or followers disagree with us. But again, how many people actually change their minds through those written interactions?
As far as I’ve seen, the number of conversions is so low it’s not worth considering.
The same applies to news headlines, and it always has even long before Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other such platforms ever existed.
Back in this nation’s founding, there were two major political parties: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. And there were two major political party-affiliated newspapers: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.
People who liked pro-British Federalist policies tended to read Federalist-leaning newspapers. Only. And people who liked pro-French Democratic-Republican policies tended to read Democratic-Republican leaning newspapers. Only.
Clearly then, human nature doesn’t change much over the centuries any more than opinions change much in the moment based on Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.
Perhaps that’s because of how we tend to present our opinions in writing.
When we write, we do so with the understanding that we’re immediately addressing a piece of paper or a computer screen, neither of which have feelings to worry about. It’s an experience of short-term liberation, allowing us to consider only our own logic and emotions. Which means we’re bound by no sense of societal constraint and are at full leave to call each other Nazis, bigots, morons or whatever other nasty labels we want to employ.
Which tends to put those “Nazis, bigots and morons” on the defensive, prompting them to lash back out at you instead of consider where you’re coming from. The end result is that you’re not helping anyone or anything.
So if you really do want to make an actual positive difference in the world with your writing, here are three possibilities to consider.
Try writing like you’re speaking face to face with people you disagree with. Imagine you can see them right in front of you, transforming them from shadowy monsters into human beings just like you.
If you find yourself struggling with that goal, then maybe step away from your writing long enough to interact with people you disagree with. You don’t have to end up holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” But talk to them anyway about everyday stuff like their jobs and families.
If you can’t manage that, then perhaps it’s best if you don’t write at all. Because unless you’re in some state of isolation beyond your control, there’s no excuse to stay in an educational bubble.
That’s no way to make an actual positive difference in the world with your writing. It’s just one more way to do the opposite.