Look to the Comments

I read a Facebook post today that had been shared by one of my friends. It was a birthday post by a 31-year old man (blogger, writer, inspirational speaker) who was despairing that ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ was giving us a generation of adult males who wanted to stay boys forever and weren’t growing to be men. He went on to state that he (husband, father) was appreciative to be a man. It felt to me like the kind of post that might get people riled up, so I clicked through to read the comments.

Wow, was I right.

Comment after comment came down hard on one side of the issue or the other — men largely reflecting that they believed his was a single opinion on male maturity; women largely supporting his image of the male ideal. Few comments took a nuanced or balanced view of the issue.

I wasn’t surprised, not really. The Internet is flush with self-made experts and binary opinion setters. As a blogger myself I worry about whether my posts have a tone that might suggest righteousness. So, I try to frame these thoughts around my experiences and focus on that fact that my failures and successes are just those, mine. And while I enjoy hearing from people who share that I’ve said something that resonated with them or that they have had a shared experience, I would hesitate to advocate my life decisions for anyone else.

Of course that may be why my Facebook page has 68 likes and his has 109,596. The specific post I found had more than 300,000 reactions — I may never get that many total views. Part of me knows that people flock to someone who asserts their point of view not just as opinion, but as fact. I know that drawing a black and white line is sure to bring you fanatical fans and foes alike.

I’m ok staying in the gray because I don’t see life as black and white. Instead, I see it as a series of fascinating stories of how people have succeeded despite crazy conditions or failed masterfully and managed to pull themselves back together again. No one situation is the gold standard, comparing any two is silly. And if doing that means I generate less reader passion, that’s ok. I’d rather have a small following if that interest is made up of people who are looking for thoughtful questions.

Because in my opinion there is only one thing worse than telling someone you have the right answer — telling them you have the right answer for them.