Much to Say

Social media has ushered in an age of endless consumption. What was initially designed to facilitate connections among friends and build online communities has become a never-ending content machine.

When online advertising first started to become a viable business, it took big-tech companies about two seconds to realize an important fact: the more time users spend on a platform, the more money they could make. So they allowed users to become addicted. Rather than trying to promote the best content, they decided to promote the most controversial, the most addictive, and the most engagement-driving.

Over time, this addiction has led to the degradation of attention spans (among other concerns). This is most easily seen in the replacement of long form content, like that on YouTube, with short TikTok videos that provide a brief moment of stimulation before the next video begins. However, the problem hasn’t originated with TikTok. For a long time, Twitter’s character limit has discouraged thoughtful debate; instead, people jump straight to insults and regurgitated slogans.

Perhaps the most shameful thing about the rise of social media is what it has done to the internet. The “web” got its name from the intricate network of thousands of interconnected websites. It used to be that if you wanted to post content online, you created a blog. If you had a specific interest, you found a forum meant for discussing that interest. Now, the internet is merely a group of a few social media websites that get all the traffic.

I suppose this website is my small act of defiance. It is an effort to mitigate these issues in my life.

I am certainly not immune to the problems created by social media. I use it much more than I want to, and as a result, I often fail to give significant thought to some of my ideas. I usually have a very clear picture of my beliefs, values, and ideas in my head, but I often struggle to articulate them. This is a problem with many sources, but I have no doubt that social media is partly to blame.

Writing is a great way to counteract this. I’ve always liked to write, and its one of the few things in which I’m very confident in my abilities (don’t get me wrong, I have much to learn, but I wouldn’t consider myself a bad writer). The benefit in writing is that it forces you to understand your subject on a deep level. You can’t rely on facial expressions or tone of voice to convey a message. If you want to write anything of substance, you can’t rely on meaningless slogans. To write well, you must understand well.

This is one of the reasons I started my ministry, Upward Gaze. My Christian faith is very important to me; I want to understand the scriptures and I want to know my God. Additionally, I want to help other believers grow in knowledge. Writing and publishing articles helps with both these goals: I must study a subject in order to write about it, and hopefully the wisdom I gain will be of use to someone else.

However, I have recently been reading a lot of classic literature, and in doing so I’ve had a desire to write about other subjects as well. I would love to write a series of articles covering the themes in 1984 and Brave New World. I would like to write about Dostoevsky’s works, as he is quickly becoming my favorite author. I want to write about tech (and encourage people to use Linux). I’ve rekindled my desire to write fiction. All of these things would be out of place on Upward Gaze.

That being said, Upward Gaze isn’t going anywhere. Any article that relates to my faith will go on Upward Gaze, and everything else will go here.

The biggest problem I face is that, although I have much to say, I struggle to commit to writing. I’ve started numerous books throughout my life, and never finished them (but I do think that’s a good thing. They were good practice, but they were never very good books). I started Upward Gaze as a YouTube project with one of my friends, but we never made it to the second video. I built the Upward Gaze website to publish articles instead of videos, but I let work and school get in the way of that.

So why do I think this will be any different?

For a start, I’m not publicly announcing this website. I’ll probably tell a few people, then I will hide the link in my social media bios. If I publicly announce this, I may feel like I need to write stuff. This way I only write when I want to.

In addition, I’m not limiting myself to anything. As I said before, I have a lot of interests from classic literature to tech. If I want to write a short article that takes 30 seconds to read, I will do that. If I want to write a major essay that’s 10,000 words, I will do that.

The main reason I think this project will stick is much deeper. I am at a point where I need to give serious thought to what I want to do with my life. I’ve been working toward my computer science degree with plans to get a software engineering or cyber security job, but the more I work on that, the more I desire something more meaningful. And when I think about what that more meaningful thing might be, I keep coming back to writing.

As I said above, I’ve always liked writing. For a long time I wanted to be an author. I drifted away from that goal through high school, and I think that was because my younger self failed to see the meaning in writing. I liked reading because it was entertaining, and I liked writing because I had some cool story ideas. I certainly thought the themes in writing were important, but they were secondary to me.

Classic literature has changed this.

After years of making excuses about how I “don’t have enough time to read,” I finally made the time in November 2023 and read 1984 by George Orwell. Before that I had only read isolated quotes. The book read like an old prophecy that was currently playing out in the modern world. And I loved it.

For once, I didn’t see the themes of a book as something merely alluded to by the story or some kind of Easter egg for attentive readers–the themes were the entire point of the book. I’ve seen this even more as I’ve begun diving into Dostoevsky’s writings.

I could write much more about classic literature, but I will save that for another day and return to my point: why does all this mean I won’t give up writing after posting two articles?

I want to write like Orwell and Dostoevsky. I want to write something meaningful. Maybe I won’t be able to turn writing into a career–in fact, it’s very likely I won’t–but this is what I want to do with my life. That means I need to sit down and commit. I need to hone my craft. And that is what I plan to do this year and in the years that follow.

If you take the time to read my ramblings in this small corner of the internet, thank you. As has been my goal from the start, I hope my wisdom can be of use.