There’s been some talk on the internet about being embarrassed to talk on the internet. Htmlgiant has a post about being embarrassed over sharing one writer’s favorite poems in the context of htmlgiant, which spreads to a post on the writer’s personal resistance to participating in the kind of social/group context that htmlgiant inherently is. But htmlgiant is a particular literary online context, in which expressing one’s personal embarrassment is fairly common: there’s a recent post on the humiliation of being a writer, encouraging further confessions of other people’s thoughts on the humiliation of being a writer.
The general form that many literary posts take is one of confession: addressing first the writer’s justifications or apologies for speaking in the first place before moving on to discuss the issue at hand. To an extent, these confessions create a sense of intimacy between reader and writer, but they also tend to make the piece of writing more about the speaker.
Freud said, “...every individual is virtually an enemy of civilization, though civilization is supposed to be an object of universal human interest.” All groups press for the individual to fall in line. There’s no way around it. But there’s also the possibility of greatness in numbers, which I was surprisingly reminded of last month—an abrupt encounter with the New York City Marathon.
To add my own confessional preamble, I might have been in an emotionally delicate state due to my triumphant hangover. Nonetheless, when I rose up from the subway and heard the mass cheering, when I saw the crowd of strangers applauding and whistling for other strangers, I almost started crying. I do not like crowds, and yet here I was, ready to hug and weep with all of them.
Without doubt, a large, public group of strangers calls for very different codes of behavior than an anonymous gathering online. The street doesn't allow us access to every spectator's feelings about being there (only I get to do that). But maybe we could try emulating a similar kind of enthusiasm that lacks this uncomfortable, stilting sense of self-presentation that seems to be plaguing internet reviewers. Maybe we could pretend that the crowd is gathered for a different purpose than staring down whoever speaks.
Really, how hard would it be to inject pure, unabashed celebration into the internet? To simply cheer and gush over that which excites us?