As I go over to Medium and look for other writers to follow, I get sucked down the rabbit hole of reading member bylines. Let me just preface this by saying that the majority of people simply leave their byline blank. That’s good. Then there is a section who are honest and straightforward in their bylines, explaining what they do in the brief space allotted by Medium. Twitter has trained us all to be great headline junkies. We’re good at using a few words to describe ourselves.
Then there are the other two categories, flat-out funny stuff, and pure pretentiousness.
I wish there was a platform to answer back to some of the more arrogant or just plain stupid bylines. I realize this is harmless self-promotion, but it grates on my nerves when I see such a huge lack of humility in anything.
Then I think about it some more, usually while cleaning the litter boxes, I also get a little confused. We’re in a new era in our society where we use the power of massive peer pressure to shame people to our way of thinking, We punish those who step out of line ferociously and brutally if only verbally, to get them to wish they never said whatever instigated the ire of the Internet. We’ve gone from a state of individualism to a kind of social media “greater good” mentality. Or have we?
After I shake my head at the latest over-the-top pretentious byline: “Reader, writer, baker, odd-topic expert, patriarchy overthrower, mer-cactus disguised as a woman, and a reminder, my ass is not your metaphor.” I realize that we may be in an era of extreme individualism wrapped in a cushion of social anxiety/social justice. This could all be a backlash because we’re worried about how we will be viewed and ultimately judged by the Internet.
It’s made me question my honest byline a few times. Should I have one, even? Should I just remove it all together? Should I try to win the Internet with a new pithy byline? No, not that last one. That’s just not my style. If I ever happen to write the greatest novel ever, I still would be hesitant to do any self-promotion, so deep is the humbleness in my soul. Life has beaten me down enough times in 50 years for me to know that overwhelming success would be a factor of many things, luck being one of them.
This syndrome of “hey look at me” is a byproduct of the selfie culture, though. It’s what happens when you put the entire planet on display and each person tries to carve out their own niche, their own piece of life, one selfie and byline at a time. I would imagine these are the people who would disgust me at a bar as well by their outlandish dress and behavior. But maybe they aren’t. The anonymous nature of the Internet allows us to do things we would never do face to face. Just like road rage manifests itself from behind the protection of 3800 lbs of steel, pretentiousness has manifested itself behind the curtain of the Internet.
I just can’t decide whether it’s the hallmark of the end or the harbinger of the new era. A fundamental rise of individualism would help the country and the world right now. We need to be free thinkers, questioners of the status quo, free spirits, etc. This would break us away from the herd, not be one of the masses of sheeple, this is good. But, I fear as has happened with the tattoo, this is done under the guise of individualism, but just the adherence to it, and the mass existence and prevalence of it designates it to be exactly the opposite. It may be a sign of the sheep. People get tattoos to demonstrate their individuality not realizing that just having one demonstrates a certain level of conformity, something a tattoo was initially a sign against.
Pretentious bylines are cut from the same cloth. Just having one demonstrates an issue of some sort, I’m not just not sure how severe it is as of yet. Do you just have a horrible sense of humor, or are you a bonafide sociopath? Another of life’s little-unanswered questions that will rattle around in my head for some time until I decide to think about it way more than I should.
In the meantime, go ahead, try to be clever in your bylines. Try to be original. By all means, pull out your most offensively selfish tone, go for the full monty of arrogance, unzip your fly and underwhelm us. I’ll still follow you if the word “writer” is buried in there anywhere.