The joy of writing about things that don’t matter

….because sometimes they do matter.

I’ve been fascinated by what people share, when they share it and how they share it for some time now. And for even longer, I’ve been thinking about why we share what we share. [Those of you who’re interested may want to read some of my earlier posts. Why We Share: A sideways look at privacy and Musing About Sharing And Privacy are two that come immediately to mind.

Take this post. The trigger for my writing it was StumbleUpon (I’m a fan!), who wrote to me saying they thought I’d like a particular set of sites. One of which I loved. Because it contained illustrations like the two below:


You guessed it. Someone has spent time taking the world map and reassembling it in order to depict the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac. He’s a graphic artist called Kentaro Nagai, you can see the entire work, entitled Twelve Animals: Piece Together for Peace, here.

I loved it. And thought I should share it with you. Because somewhere out there there may be one person whose day becomes brighter by reading this. Because somewhere out there there may be one person inspired to do something about something as a result.

That’s what matters. We’re human beings, social animals who look to each other for friendship, support, camaraderie, motivation, inspiration, whatever.

When I started writing blogs I had some very deep-seated views about what I shared, when and why. When I started on Facebook I had some similarly deep-seated views about the whys and wherefores. By the time I started using Twitter around five years ago, I’d figured out how little I knew about all this, my views were no longer as well-formed or as deep-seated as when I began.

Take Twitter. When I started tweeting, I said to myself “Share only when you have a clear idea how it would be valuable to someone. Even if occasionally that someone is you.” As I learnt more about the phenomenon, those views changed.

Now, I tell myself, “Share as long as you know it will not cause someone else harm”. It was arrogant of me to presume I would know how something would be valuable to someone else, and to filter everything else out.  I realised that the “do no harm” filter was a better one to use. Is it perfect? Certainly not. I rely on your feedback to tell me when I do harm. I will make mistakes. But this way it is more likely that through the organic process of people reading posts like this one, someone somewhere who needed to read this gets to read this.

Life is about abundances and scarcities. For most of my life I’ve seen stuff like bad news and negativity and criticism and cynicism regularly in abundance, and things like good news and encouragement and building people up and saying well done and smiling and making someone happy, all in scarcity.

For some reason, it appeared that what we term as mainstream media tended to focus on the negative, apparently because it “sells”. I can never figure out why. Time we inverted that. And maybe it’s happening.

I find social media in general much more upbeat, more focused on the positive, more willing to thank, to encourage, to support, to enthuse, to motivate. I don’t have a rose-coloured spectacle view of the web, about social networks or about social media: I am acutely aware of how dark a place it can be, how evil cyberbullying can be, how truth can be twisted, how people can subvert the web to nefarious purpose.

But still, overall, I find the web to be an uplifting place where people can and do support each other. It’s something they put in the water. And it’s one of the reasons I share what I share.

Why do you share what you share? Let me know, I’m interested. Fascinated.

9 thoughts on “The joy of writing about things that don’t matter”

  1. Well, JP, let me tell you about some good you’re doing merely by writing pieces like this. I have been struggling to write more frequently on my blog and, thanks to you and Euan Semple, I’m beginning to loosen up and think of it more as sharing the things I find of interest and not as some esoteric exercise in pontification.

    I have been sharing things I find interesting on FB and Twitter for some time now and I’m beginning to see how I can – and should – do the same on my blog. I’m a big fan of serendipity and, if we don’t throw stuff out there, how will it be fed?

  2. I share to preserve the values that I hold dear. That is one way to ensure those values will survive.
    Thank you for your lucid expression of humane and erudite views. It enriches me.

  3. Lovely post JP, thank you. I was just having this discussion recently of “How do you choose what to share?” My friend who is a lurker asked the question. My answer: Connection. I share because I am hoping for connection. I also hope to share something of value to others, but as you said – how can I know what is valuable to others? So, I share things that I gained value from.

    I love your observation about positive and negative news, sentiment, content. With each person’s ability to create and share on all the various social media avenues, we do have the power to create more positivity in the world. Here’s to being the change we want to see!

  4. Perhaps the mainstream media spends so much time with the sad and the bad that is all they see. It is the same reason why judges don’t decide in court cases – they are affected by their constant exposure. Just like you need juries in court, you need social reporting in the news world – lets hope it continues.

  5. I share the things I read that I find interesting or that have increased my knowledge – who else can make that judgement? Work-related (very loosely careers information) during the week based on deliberate reading of journals and other media, “non-trivial trivia” at the weekend because I garner quite a lot along the way. Twitter tends to be more conversational and personal but sharing items of immediacy to info practitioners and librarians as I come across them.

  6. JP, you know what. It is through confusion and chaos and amidst disruption , I find meaning. Whenever, I read your blog, it inspires me to write even more and share my vulnerabilities as much as experiences .. . It is through collective dialogue that i learn more actually. I like comments as much as original blog. Thank you for sharing your deep seated thoughts with us , as you said, you never know in what all ways you are inspiring people :-) JP, I would love to see your comments on my blog too, your insights would enable me to learn better.


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