What Gives You The Right To Be Heard? And Our Fascination With Going Viral Instead of Being Alive

Whenever a blogger is telling me to do something, I want to know: “What gives you the right to teach something? What do you do? What have you done? Why should I listen? Are you just blogging to blog at me?”

I get the suspicion that some bloggers are only telling people what they’re not really doing themselves. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. Maybe it’s a vicarious self-punishment. Maybe it’s to look hard. Mostly though, I sense it’s just to go viral, because everyone eats that up. We always want to know the Top Twelve Things To Do Before We’re 22. We love those quotes from books we’ve never read that stir our guts for a few seconds. We love the insider secrets and pseudo-religious feelings of inspiration and guilt. So most bloggers are barely stitched up collections of quotes and inspirational zingers, like a literary Frankenstein with zero soul.

I’m sorry to sound so harsh: but those quotes weren’t written just to quote, you know. Great people wrote them to move us into greatness.

I see too many young-ish bloggers trying to go viral just by blogging. It’s a bit Kardashian-esque, like being famous for being famous. I don’t mean that blogging young is wrong. It’s great if you go viral with your words. But when the fancy articulation is over, I hope you actually care about people.

I want to know that you’re looking out for my best.
I want to know you have credibility.
I want to know you love real people’s stories and not your own glory.
I want to know you’re actually living out your blog.
And most of all, I’m preaching this to myself. I hope you’re preaching it to you, too.

I just hope we’re not preaching something that we’re not at least trying to do ourselves. We don’t need another soap-box slinger or armchair critic. It’s cool you like philosophy or theology or culture. It’s cool you got a way with poetry. But unless you’re knee-deep with the homeless and addicts and exiles and beat-up strugglers, I don’t want your eloquent pretty words. I don’t care how much you care. Your blog doesn’t reach me here in the dirt, in my hurt. I need a hand up. I need your passion more than your feelings. And I want to be that for you, too. I just want to be the real thing.

A few years ago, I did one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I don’t say that to brag. I say that because I’m obnoxiously selfish; I was going against my own nature. It was extremely difficult and I nearly quit multiple times. It wasn’t some glamorous made-for-TV story. I didn’t write a cute daily blog about how it was going. When I finished, I hardly got any attention at all.

But the only thing I knew was that I was doing something real. I finally wasn’t all talk. I was walking the dang walk. I was for the first time, and perhaps the only time, really alive. Life made sense: that we are truly living when we’re giving our life away, not when we merely talk about it. It’s when we’re actually just about it. And now I actually had something to say. I’m not saying you need to go drastic. I’m saying, Go anywhere. I have failed at this much more than succeeded, but that’s how it works. Even failure takes more than tapping text into a screen.

I don’t want you to hear my words. I want you to hear my life. And even then, don’t trust me. Discern every word you read with the utmost deliberate care. If I have earned your right to be heard, it is then my highest honor and the most humbling place to be. It’s an amazing, overwhelming, emotional event when anyone would read our words, and I hope we never get over it.

Another thing happens here, right below the surface. Blogging automatically necessitates that you must pause life in order to talk about life.

If we do this long enough, we enter a constant holding pattern where we become stagnant with observation instead of participation. We enter a room with a radar wondering, “How can I make this viral?” We squeeze personal moments into social media with the second-hand desperation of likes, reblogs, and follows. Eventually, life is filtered into a continuum of opportunistic, super-imposed cash grabs to gain approval from our following.

I do love blogging and I hope you don’t ever give up on it. But I have to remind myself to put my phone down. Quit recording everything. Quit the blog radar. Quit trying to write “beautiful” stuff to sound talented. Just soak in beauty. Be there. Be engaged. Be with. Be. I cannot consumerize every moment. I cannot throw my head into future formulations of the next post. I’m not a passive bystander to all that happens to me. This is it, right now, and then it’s gone. I want to be there when it happens.

Lately I’ve been trying to distance myself from people who squish their whole lives into their blogs. I’m afraid to be near them. I don’t want to be their material or their next allegory. I don’t want to be a secondary prop in their self-centered catharsis. I would rather do life together and keep it between you and me. I don’t need the world to know about all our midnight conversations. Some experiences are too profound for a blog post.

I’ve gotten really jaded to finding out that many “inspirational bloggers” are just jerks. I don’t trust easily anymore; I’ve been burned too many times. The level of viral-ness has nothing to do with a person’s value or integrity. But the most glorious miracle is when I meet a person who really cares. There are fellow bloggers I’ve met who didn’t hesitate to give me their number in times of crisis, who dropped everything to encourage me, who wrote long, loving letters and did not stop until I was okay. I read their blogs knowing they’re authentic people with sacrificial hearts. Their words move me because their actions moved me first. And that’s where I want to be. I want to be with the people who will roll up their sleeves because they’re inspired before they inspire others. That’s how life happens. That’s how you happen.

— J.S.

15 thoughts on “What Gives You The Right To Be Heard? And Our Fascination With Going Viral Instead of Being Alive

  1. Thanks Pastor Joon! I will be completely honest and say this is why I’ve quit blogging as of today — until the Lord calls me back to it. Praying for you.


  2. Preach it, brother! We all like to hear ourselves “talk,” don’t we?

    Wow, did this post convict me! Ouch. I had to think about the reason why I’m blogging. Now that I’ve found out how great blogging is I won’t give up on it entirely, but I realize right now it is a way for me to transition from being complete hermit to having enough courage and healing to be out in the “real world.” I used to be “in the trenches” but got hurt so bad it knocked me out of the ring. Even though this is just a virtual community it’s start. I really want to be out there loving people in a real way again.

    Thanks for your raw honesty. As always, it is appreciated.


    1. Thanks for being honest, dear friend. Sometimes the “virtual community,” as you said, does feel safer and more open. I also know that many of us physically cannot get in the trenches for various reasons. I just think blogging can never replace real life. I’m always in danger of it; I think our disconnected/plugged-in culture can stay at a screen full-time way too easily.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I can definitely see this. A friend of mine gave me an old smart phone a year ago. Prior to that I didn’t even own a cell phone (yes, I know)! I love all the “helpful” apps, and have found people to be more friendly to me (it really is taboo not to have a cell these days, which is sad), and I like having it in case of an emergencies, but I find myself staring at my phone a lot instead of paying attention to my husband and kids 😒


        1. Whenever I get the chance, I leave my phone in my car these days. I’m always surprised (and not surprised) at how much better an evening together goes when I don’t have my phone with me. 🙂
          Again, not to say that I dislike technology or that I’m trying to be contrary against the “young people.” But it makes a huge difference just a few times a week to leave the phone some place else.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This is the best post I’ve read since I started blogging in 2012. I “stumbled upon it” looking for something else. God’s timing is perfect.
    I desire to be obedient and fulfill my call to ministry in this way, in this season of life. Yet I must confess that I vacillate between wanting something I write to go viral and wanting to quit, often in the same day. You have helped me regain the perspective I had when I started blogging. Thank you.


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