What if you had the power to make a complete stranger on the other side of the world feel joyous? Powerful? Excited about life? What if you had the power to make him or her feel angry? Insecure? Marginalized? Bored to tears?
Which would you choose?
I recently read an article on an Australian media site that I rarely visit. I rarely visit the site because they tend to pull sensational and/or controversial stories from the headlines, make a provocative statement about them and then ask readers to comment. Hackles are raised, vitriol is spewed, commenters break into camps and fight it out.
There is rarely a call to action associated with the stories. People are not asked to donate or write their councilperson. The provocative story is regurgitated and dumped in their laps. Here you go. It's yours. You're welcome.
As you can imagine, after I've read something on this site I feel bad in some way. Grossed out or sad or disappointed with humanity. I almost always feel angry.
Obviously, such stories translate into a lot of traffic, which translates into money, which many people value quite highly.
Yesterday I also read a very beautiful post that dealt with the same issue as the controversial article. But after reading this woman's post, I didn't feel bad at all. I felt good. I loved the way she expressed herself. She got her point across without name-calling or sensation. She shared her own story and after reading it, I felt a connection to her. That felt good.
Earlier this year, I was invited to speak on the Blogging for Social Good panel at the Digital Parents Conference in Melbourne. Unfortunately, I had to pull out because of everything I've been dealing with on the home front. I was very sad about this. The panel turned out to be a great success.
Before I realized I couldn't attend, though, I had thought about what I had to say on the topic (which, incidentally, turned out to be different from what was actually said – not better, mind you, just different).
What I wanted to say, in a nutshell, was this:
Blogging for social good is about more than partnering with nonprofits or supporting social causes, both of which are beautiful things to do. It's about being conscious of what you are sharing with your readers.
It's about sharing your stories and opinions in such a way that they have a net positive affect.
Remember the question I posed at the top? If you had the power to make someone feel something, what would you choose?
The fact is that you do have that power and if you are a blogger, you are exercising it on a regular basis. You are writing words and someone else is reading them. As they are sitting in their kitchen in Toronto or Perth or Cape Town, they are reading your words and your words are having an impact on them.
In fact, every interaction you have, virtual or in person, has an impact. Your neighbor, your spouse, your child, the clerk at the post office, the cashier at Target, that guy at the bus stop, 200 blog readers, whomever. If you interacted with them, they felt something.
Everything you write has an energy to it. Every time you hit publish, you are sharing that energy with your readers. What is it that you want to leave behind?
I'm not talking about sugar-coating your writing. You can write about some fairly uncomfortable topics and do so responsibly. Honest writing about even the darkest experience has the potential to inspire, heal, create connection, elicit compassion and act as a roadmap for others who find themselves on a similar path.
I like to read blogs that make me laugh. Laughter is awesome. I like to read blogs that make me feel less alone. I like to read blogs that make me feel good about myself.
Having a blog following, whether it's ten people or ten thousand, is a gift and a responsibility.
When you hit publish, what is it, truly, that you want to send out into the world?