Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Reporting bias

After my most recent miserable blog post, BigBear was prompted to comment that he didn't recognise the person writing as the person sat next to him - I only ever seem to be miserable in writing, which doesn't reflect the "me" that he knows. Since I was feeling miserable at the time, I came close to a knee-jerk reaction along the lines of, "but I do feel like this, so it must just be that you're failing to observe or care about my feelings." A calmer head prevailed, however, and I realised that BigBear was (rather irritatingly) right. I do tend to write more about negative feelings than positive. And I stopped to think about why. 

I think there's more than one factor at work. For one thing, despite my very un-British willingness to talk about my feelings, I still possess a certain self-effacing tendency that makes me reluctant to paint a picture of bliss and harmony. Nobody wants to read about someone else's lovely life after all do they? The warts are far more interesting. And this sense that misery-blogging is more interesting to readers has been reinforced in my mind by looking at the statistics of my most-read posts - political ranting and emotional over-exposure have consistently attracted more visits than any other posts.

Besides which, we all know people who only ever portray the positive in their lives, who tell you about their perfect children, their extraordinary holidays, the wonderful meals out they've had, the impressive project they've just completed at work, the stylishly renovated listed building they live in. And I don't want to be either the person who seems to live in a perfect world, untouched by everyday stresses and strains, or the person who erects a facade of perfection that everyone knows is a facade and nobody feels able to broach, leaving me alone and isolated as I strive desperately to maintain an illusion of calm and beatitude because I dare not admit my failings publicly.

And then, there's everyday life. And, quite frankly, there are a lot of days that possess nothing in them of any great noteworthiness. Days that have their ups and downs, but barely contain enough interest to manage to sustain a conversation with my nearest and dearest, who might be presumed to care about the minutiae of my life, let alone being worthy of writing about.

So I thought I'd draw an utterly unscientific graph to illustrate my point. There are no absolutes here, no scales, no quantification, just a vague hand-waving towards the general shape of my life:

Totally made-up graph

Mostly, I don't write about the boring, relatively happy, but uneventful stuff. Nor do I tend to write about the super, lovely, makes me sound smug stuff. Instead, I find it easiest to write about that which is notable, but not smug, i.e. the dips in my mood. And that means I am tending to depict myself as considerably more anxious and unhappy than the bigger picture would suggest. And there have been times in my life when I've been told, in rather unsympathetic terms, that all I ever do is complain...

So... I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to try writing regular, short, posts in which I recount something upbeat from my life. In the past I've used this technique on paper as a deliberate strategy to force myself to focus on the positive. While recovering from post-natal depression I wrote in my "Happy Book" every evening at bedtime, and the rule I set myself was that I had to write something positive about my day with LittleBear. This not only gave me a book of happy memories to look back on, but also made sure I went to bed thinking about the good things that had happened during the day. This may mean I post rather more "isn't my adorable boy adorable" posts, because those are most of my happy moments, but it may also mean those of you who think I'm a miserable cow might discover I quite like life most of the time.

Naturally, as well as the new pseudo-micro-blogging happy posts, I shall maintain a background level of political ranting and anxious meandering. You've got to keep the punters happy after all.

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