I have long regarded what we so inaccurately call “self-help” with deep distaste.
Ultimately, the reason for all that is that its premises are deeply at odds with reality.
Self-help culture assumes that life is some kind of individual test where individual outcomes accurately reflect individual virtue, or the lack thereof. It assumes that one is in total control of their life, that their problems are entirely of their own making, that all they need is the generic “one size fits all” advice it offers to enable them to unmake the problem and live the life they want.
You can be a billionaire! Everyone can be a billionaire! Yes, all eight billion of us on this planet! They just need to do what it is in this book/seminar/program.
And if they don’t, well, whatever happens to them is their fault.
The stupidity — and cruelty — of this ultra-simplistic outlook beggar description.
And yet it goes on flourishing.
As anyone familiar with the nonfiction book market knows, apart from gossip (memoir, biography and autobiography and “history” and “current affairs” indistinguishable from either, tabloidy “journalism” like so much true crime), self-help (especially if one counts in those diet books that have somehow never put a dent in the obesity problem, and overtly religious tracts coming from the same place) is pretty much all the publishers sell to a broad audience.
A certain amount of this, of course, is directed at those attempting to make a name or a place or a career for themselves online, writing for an audience. For instance, bloggers whom such “gurus” presume to give advice about “why people are not reading your blog.”
You, they snarl, are not going about it the right way. You do not post frequently enough. Your posts are uninteresting. You do not pay enough attention to feedback. You do not have each and every post professionally edited and copyedited in advance of posting. Your blog is not pretty enough.
And so on and so forth.
But the reality is that while the prospect of writing professionally has always assumed a low ratio of content creators to content consumers — one to many thousands, or millions — the ratio, in the age of social media, seems to be approaching one-to-one.
The reality is that computer screens lend themselves poorly to any sort of long-form reading — which people are less inclined to attempt in any medium with each passing year as the alternative uses of time multiply, and the pessimist would say, the requisite faculties wither. Meanwhile the ratio of creators to consumers may be even higher here than with other kinds of online content, because of that faintness of demand relative to supply. (Fellow bloggers, how much time do you spend reading other people’s blogs relative to working on your own?)
The reality is that the search engines are not friends to most of the “competitors.” Secretive as the companies which created them may be about the algorithms that spit out the results, the reality is that they favor those who have been successful in the past over those trying for success now, favor those who are associated with high-profile platforms over those striking out on their own, favor those who pay to be promoted. Thus go your chances of being at the top of the list of search results — any distance from which hits means the exponential decay of the chances of anyone clicking the link at all.
The reality is that in these circumstances the only real hope for the obscure, no matter their talent, is going viral — and as I have had occasion to remark before, nothing ever goes viral.
No, it isn’t that you are necessarily doing anything wrong.
Rather it is that whether you are doing everything right or wrong simply does not matter, the chances so few that the meritocrats’ notion of life-as-a-test-with-the-worthy-guaranteed-to-get-ahead-and-the-failures-deserving-to-fail is even more meaningless here than it is in most other areas of life.
And there is nothing we can do about that bigger problem individually.
Alas, such little truths do not sell seminars and books and the rest. And so no one has much incentive to talk about them. But for what it is worth, they have been published here.
Originally published at https://raritania.blogspot.com.