I always kept a diary as teenager. A self involved, rant about myself, those I loved who disappointed me and what I hoped to be when I became a grownup. These books have all been destroyed by me after I moved out of home. Sometimes I regret this decision but mostly I am glad. When I had dared to dip back into them, they were pretentious, self involved bordering on narcissistic and poorly written. (No, not like this blog, slightly different, jeesh.)
Though I do remember them being beautiful to look at, with my collages and drawings inside, trinket and souvenirs pasted in and significant quotes carefully copied out. A true book of hours, devoted to myself.
Which brings me to Thought Catalog. What is Thought Catalog? I think The Observer describes it best.
Thought Catalog is a blog written by pretty much whoever wants to write for it (read: mostly teenagers and young twenty-somethings who have spent far too much time on Tumblr). It’s mostly filled with their overly earnest attempts at cultural criticism and irony, in a totally unironic way, as well as rhetorical questions about being young and in love and broke. It is insufferable. Gawker called it a “fascinating experiment in ego-blogging,” which is being kind.
Sometimes I read the writings on there I want to shake the author and tell them to stop being so self involved but then I realise this is all part of growing as a writer. You concentrate on yourself as the subject because you don’t yet know about anything else.
When I destroyed my own teen Thought Catalogs, I knew it was the right thing to do. I didn’t need to reread them again. I just kept all the learning and self-awareness that comes from having my heart smashed, losing friends, falling in love with the wrong person and wearing some bad clothing in the eighties. The last thing I needed to do was share it with anyone else.
What I am aware of now is that my writing was unedited in those books in the best way. I was honest with myself when I wrote in those diaries. I never thought anyone else would read it so I didn’t try to be funny, wise or didactic. Instead I wrote down what was happening inside and outside my head. You can’t learn if you aren’t being honest with yourself. You also can’t grow, if all you are doing is trying to impress.
What I don’t have to do as a semi-grownup now is go back and read my about painful emotional growing pains into being me. I lived it, I don’t want to remember it again and again. I wonder if these aspiring writers have thought of when they posted their articles on Thought Catalog. Writing about when they shit themselves at work or when they got chlamydia from their postman or slept with their best friend and then pregnant resulting in a termination and then ate Chinese food afterwards and didn’t care about the anything except the message in the fortune cookie. *tears at own hair*
These writings are now on the internet forever. Once it’s on the net, it’s FOREVER. Like that stupid tattoo you got of a chain around your neck, it’s forever and if not forever then f*cking painful to remove and there will always be a shadow stain that remains.
These decisions you make now as a teen or a twenty something will define you for a long time. You have to commit to that tattoo saying ‘AWSUM+” across your back or that essay about how you love giving anal sex while wearing a Yogi Bear suit. The evidence sits on a server somewhere in perpetuity and even if it gets taken down there will be a screenshot to remind you that you are an ‘awesum yogi bear ass bandit.’
So stop sharing EVERYTHING. Start sharing what matters and when in doubt…shut up.