The content on this blog does not get updated very frequently.
This is largely because, as a somewhat permanent and public sort of thing, I have to be quite careful about what stuff I write on here, since it could come back to bite me later, right? We’ve all heard the stories about people getting turned down from job offers due to some embarrassing stuff they posted on the social network du jour12, and I generally get the impression that being careful with what you choose to write into your permanent online record is generally a good thing. (Well, when you phrase it like that…)
What are blogs for, though? As far as I can tell, almost nobody reads this one; there are a few stragglers who come here through Google because I posted about something like microG or Rust programming (even though there are now much better resources to learn Rust out there, given the language has changed a whole load since I started learning it…).
Furthermore, I don’t consider myself the kind of person who’s happy to go and do lots of writing about technical topics (for the moment, at least). Some people can sustain an entire blogging habit by packing things full of interesting technical content / deep dives / whatever. This is great, because then the content is at least ‘useful’ to the person reading it (in some sense3), instead of being some poor sap whining on about random other things happening in their life.
Unfortunately, though, I’m not one of these people. So, either I go about my life and don’t write any part of it up on the blog, or I do the converse, and end up spewing things I’ll probably regret later out into the web at large.
There’s a pandemic on. Everyone’s feeling miserable, a lot of people have very tragically lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus, and people are beginning to question all sorts of things about the existence we led before this all started.
So, what the hell, let’s just get on with it then.
The utility of personal content
Some people might be of the opinion that personal content (like somewhat soppy blog posts) is not worth reading, and should perhaps be gotten rid of entirely. However – and obviously I’m going to be biased here! – I don’t really think so. Okay, I think the sort of content where people talk about whatever mundane things they’ve been getting up to (“so, this week, I washed my bike, went out for a run, tinkered with Node.js a bit…”) is perhaps a bit of a waste of time – I’d call that ‘oversharing’, perhaps. But I do think it’s possible to read stuff about someone else’s problems and gain some insight into how you might be able to solve your own, so I don’t really want to dismiss personal content entirely.
I guess there’s a distinction between content that is purely descriptive – explaining how much you hate yourself, or how annoying thing X is, or whatever – and content that has an analytical or empathetic component as well – trying to figure out the reasons why this is the case and provide some advice to people feeling the same way, or otherwise attempting to connect your own personal experience to what others may feel. The former has no value to the reader, really – oh, poor random internet commentator. How sad. Imagine an agony aunt column without the agony aunt’s responses. How awful would that be? But the latter kind of stuff can definitely be of some value; I’ve read things on the web that have influenced the way I look at the world and respond to things – most people probably have. So it’s not entirely worthless!
The title of this post
In fact, I think writing about things is a great way to process and deal with said things. I’m not just talking about personal or emotional matters – way back in 2016 when I wrote a short Rust tutorial series, the aim was as much to inform others as to force me to be honest about my own Rust abilities; writing something up gets you to specify what exactly you mean in plain English, which can be great for identifying gaps in your knowledge, or areas of flawed thinking.
This is partially why, as it says in the title, writing can be a form of relief; there’s something about putting pen to paper that makes you feel just a bit better about whatever it is you’re writing about, be that your frustrations learning a new programming language or something more personal.
It’s also, in some ways, a lot lower friction than talking to someone about something. If you start calling up your friends and ranting to them about how much asynchronous programming paradigms suck, you eventually lose most of your friends – whereas you aren’t going to annoy anyone, or take up anyone’s time, by writing about things4. (Unless you do something crazy like start sending your friends letters in the post containing your rants. This is also a good way to lose most of your friends.)
‘Mental health awareness’
Now, of course, you don’t actually have to publish anything to get these benefits; simply writing something up should be enough. (This is the idea behind journaling, I think.) In fact, as I discussed at the start, publishing things can be harmful to your career.
However, I think it’s still worth doing: I’m a human being, and you are too. There are thousands of tech blogs that just talk about tech and don’t talk about anything personal or human; there are thousands of people who only talk about technical topics on their website and never mention a thing about their private lives. I’m not saying they should – but I do tend to think that seeing other people talk about their problems publicly can be a great motivator for you to do the same (for example, I’m a big fan of rachelbythebay.com and her occasional post about toxic Silicon Valley culture). To me, that’s what this concept of ‘mental health awareness’ is about (at least in part): recognizing that other people are people too, and trying to get people to talk more openly about their thoughts and feelings, instead of just keeping them to themselves.
So, yeah. Write (somewhat critically) about things that bother you, even if they aren’t technical. It’s helpful for you, and you never know what impact it’ll have on somebody else!
Or, you know, just don’t, if you’re not into that sort of thing. But I’m going to give it a try.
Also, the hope is that just trying to get into a semi-regular pattern of writing about /anything/ without much of a filter will mean that more technical stuff seeps out as well. We’ll see what happens!
Well, people tell me this happens. I’m not, ehm, experienced enough to actually have heard of this happening first-hand. ↩
On a related note, if you’re someone who might have the capability to make me a job offer, just… do me a solid and don’t read the blog, okay?
More on this later. ↩
You also are probably not going to annoy your friends by talking about personal issues if you really feel the need to talk to someone about them, since that’s what friends are for! However, it doesn’t feel too great having to do this a lot (where ‘a lot’ is subjectively defined) – in other words, even though your friends might not actually get annoyed, your fear of them getting annoyed (and perhaps not telling you) might be enough to make you not want to talk to them. ↩