Re-Evaluating Relevance in a Crowded Age of Gab
It’s 4:25am and I can’t sleep.
I’m burdened by the potent notion that the ideas and expressions that have filled up this blog for the past eight years aren’t worth the bits or bytes they consume. I’m worried that the Hosemaster of Wine’s parodies of me and this blog have been mistaken for parodies and are in fact accurate description of a self-made tool. I’m worried that in the new age of tumbled barriers to entry, my own attempts at commentary amount to a polished grain of sand where boulder once stood. The only thing that keeps me from waking up my wife from her sleep upstairs and unloading my nocturnal concerns to her is the realization that if I’m right about all this, at least I’m in good company.
I wonder if the critics of unbound publishing unleashed by the proliferation of cheap digital communications, social networks, and easy searching are right. I wonder if the level of harsh, inconsiderate noise began drowning out insightful observation at an exponential rate when the “return button” replaced the editor. I worry that 2,530 times I’ve hit my own return button could have been time better spent contemplating the invigorating impact of silence—or at least of listening and not talking.
How does an inveterate commentator/wine blogger push the needle when the needle is already pushing hard up against “11”.
I long ago failed to understand what motivates my friends on Facebook and Twitter to explain their obsessions with bacon or their conviction that their own boredom is interesting or why they always come back to the third track on the second Dixie Chicks album when they are blue (how did they conclude I care? Was it something I said?) This questioning of motivations of others however never ends there. It always comes full circle and stops with my own.
Conceit? Desires for recognition? An unconscious (no longer, I guess) need to part with a seeming unending supply of two cents? All good examples of the inner cynic I love so much.
On the other hand—the good hand—it’s possible I care. It’s possible I mean what I write and write what I mean. It’s possible the motivation is simply a case of serving a long possessed guiding belief that if you are not in the game, if you are not seriously engaged in serious ideas, your time will have been wasted. And that’s a sin.
But wine? Really? And a wine blog? Good God! There are potholes in the streets that need filling, not to mention genocide in Africa. And for me and my good company it’s time spent on the virtues of wine criticism, natural vs synthetic cork, the value of egg shaped fermenting vessels, a debate over pH levels in Chardonnay and the righteousness of crowd sourcing wine reviews? Really? Yes. Really.
It makes you wonder if the value of an idea or opinion diminishes in direct relation to the space available for publishing that idea or opinion. It’s possible that post #2,530 could be proof of this simple idea.
But let’s reconsider the needle. That must be the cause, mustn’t it? Pushing it somewhere. Believing in a direction or a philosophy or a cause and pushing the needle over there. Without that direction, the noise is for naught. It’s for me alone and that’s just too depressing a conclusion to entertain. “I write for myself” is the kind of thing too often expressed by noisemakers like me. If you write for yourself then why am I reading it?
No, it seems to me that my wife gets to keep sleeping upstairs because I believe post #2,530 is the latest in a long series of purposeful acts that serve to more than put a mirror to good use. So what is that direction? That philosophy? That cause? Shouldn’t it always be a matter of leaving your realm better than you found it? My realm being wine, I tend to ask how I can leave it better. So for me, that begs the question: Can a wine blog help build the foundations for an industry’s greater success? Can a wine blog do anything to help move this needle?
I’ve always assumed it can. The fact is, consumers of wine ought to be responsibly served. Industry members ought to be provided with the conditions to pursue success responsibly. Yet, in my mind, long standing systems exist to hamper this goal. Retrograde ideas emerge or are sustained that hamper this goal. Public and industrial policies are pursued that hamper this goal. Expediency and protected power hamper this goal.
It’s wise, I think, to pursue the movement of the needle with the recognition that often it’s small, sometimes very small, acts in pursuit of a goal that constitute the extent of ones power in the area of public participation. And I think it’s wise to be satisfied with this, lest we find ourselves too regularly disappointed. But nonetheless, this small contribution allows us to forgo the clarion call of the ego that in blogging often sounds like, “I write for myself”.
Sometimes sleepless nights are the result of too much Thai food. Sometimes it’s clogged sinuses. Sometimes it’s the mundane troubles of daily life that keep us awake. And sometimes, it’s some sort of purposeful digression that drives us to re-evaluate the relevance of what we do and why we do it. This latter explanation works for me.
I’m going back to bed.
Must be the season for blogger self-awareness.
These kinds of pensive posts show up every so often. Anyone who writes for a living (or other creative professionals) go through the same introspection–or should.
I am on the side of “there are too many wine blogs chasing too few interesting discussions.” But in your case, when you remain on-message, yours is a service blog. It’s when you slide off message that you begin to stretch to the “11,” as it were.
At least you had a little bourbon and John Coltrane to help you contemplate….that will keep you up too….
Tom, 10 years ago we would never pick up the phone and tell our friends that we thought parmigiano was awesome. But MILLIONS do this on FB and twitter every day.
Because it’s in our nature to share as human beings.
Wine isn’t immune from that.
if you think what we do doesn’t matter, consider this: is the wine world better off than it was ten years ago, for having so many more voices? Has the landscape changed.
I’d say yes – irrevocably.
If I didn’t think that what I do matters, I wouldn’t do it.
However, though we do like to share, we don’t share everything. We never did. And we don’t know. Some things aren’t meant to be shared, and yet they are and we both know it when we see it.