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I'm not writing for my friends or family


I did some experiments using Facebook, in the summer of 2010, which convinced me, again, that I'm not writing for people whom I know.

I couldn't help a brief moment of sadness at my discovery, but cannot pretend surprise.

The melancholy felt a bit like this: people who make pictures and sculpture and music are all able to show their work to family and friends, if they feel confident enough to do so. Why not me, with writing?

But I know. Writing is different.

I did two experiments, on Facebook, making links to pages I'd created. The first one was not a fair test — and may have colored peoples' experience of the second one. It concerned religion, and specifically my correspondence with the administrator of a website dedicated to ex-members of the Christian church of my childhood.

A few weeks later, I made an improvement to the page "do you understand this," which is a criticism of the tendency of bilingual people to interrupt, obsessed with knowing my level of comprehension of a normal conversation in their language.

There's nearly always one person — usually a friend of mine who knows I hate it — who must ask me, in English, "Do you understand this?"

I use a stat-counter, of course. As part of the experiment, I watched this. I can't know who looks at my pages, nor would I want to — but I can see when somebody does, and what pages they look at, and for how long, and I can see where they're from. It could be an invasive tool, in a way, if I chose to use it that way, but I never do.

Anyhow, nobody clicked on through to look at even the one page that I'd posted.

This is, of course, proof of nothing — but, I'm convinced, it is evidence of a basic principle. People with whom I'm acquainted are not interested in my website work. Of coure, they're not really a good audience, either; but that's another line of thought, and one that's been well-explored.

When somebody I know visits my website, they are always going to be driven by two subconscious questions: "how might this work affect me;" and "how does this work affirm or contradict what I think I know about Steve?"

My acquaintances will never be able to understand the work as I intend it.

It's writing, only; meant to be experienced by reading.

They'll never comprehend it in that way.


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