I was recently reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling to my 6-year-old daughter and she asked, “Why are they telling us that his parents were killed by Valdemort and he lives on Privet Drive with his aunt and uncle again? We already know that!” So we talked about the author not knowing if the reader had read or remembered the previous books so she has to cover the same ground again.
This reminds me of blogging. I post my stories and since I know new readers won’t know my daughter is 6-years-old and my son is 2-years-old, I mention their ages almost every time. And then because my stories identify me both as an American and one that at age 52 is unusual to have such a young family, I often explain that I spent my younger years climbing mountains, starting my own company, getting married, divorced and only then having children.
Now I’ve spent a lot of the post just providing context. But it’s necessary in order to create relationship as explained so eloquently by Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist from Yale – “The deep irony, in order to be social, we first have to be individual.” I heard him expand on this idea in a podcast. I have to be identifiable as an individual so that you can differentiate me from other people.
He went on to say that if you put a person in a room of 1,000 people, the idea of cooperating with 1,000 individuals is overwhelming. So humans have adapted two different methods.
First, if you break up the room into 10 groups of 100 people with each group wearing a different armband, then a new individual can identify and attach with a smaller group because it feels do-able.
The second way that we’ve adapted is to make friends. Which we do in part because we have something in common with them. Nicholas Christakis’ work in the field of sociology is about the long view of human history. He’s deeply optimistic about our ability to cooperate, teach others and love because we are one of the only species that does that outside of the family structure.
That brings me back to social media. The idea that I need to be an individual in order to be social. And yet the format doesn’t easily hold the history of my story outside each post and without that history, it is hard for others to identify how we will cooperate and be friends.
I started reading the Harry Potter books to my daughter when she was 5-years-old. It’s my requirement that we read each book before watching the movie. We snuggle up on the bed in our jammies and she curls up beside me, sometimes fidgeting, sometimes not. I’ve discovered that at the ages of my young children, bedtime routines are very rarely about the book. But when she commented that the author repeated herself, I found it reassuring to know that she was listening.
So it’s very nice to meet you – please forgive me if I repeat myself. But it’s nice to know you are listening. And I will listen to any comments you want to leave.
Wynne Leon’s personal blog can be found here.
Follow me on Instagram at @wynneleon
(photo from Pexels)