My tryst with the automobile

I’ve been on a real car kick lately. Watching videos, TV shows, and listening to podcasts about cars, how they’re driven, how they’re made, how people fix and maintain them— it’s all fascinating to me. All this makes me think about the idea of the automobile and what it means to people all over the world.

My formative experiences with cars

When I was an 18-year-old in India, I wasn’t very enthused about cars. They were just metal transportation boxes, liabilities, a headache to use and maintain. My experience learning to drive a car solidified that mental model. I learned to drive in an old beat-up Hyundai Santro, learning to shift gears on a gearbox that felt like it was held together by crunchy peanut butter, with an instructor screaming instructions into my ears as I barely managed to avoid cars, motorbikes, bovine creatures and callous old ladies on the mean streets of Thane. It didn’t help that I chose to take lessons during peak traffic hours and that the instructor made me go to traffic roundabouts at a time when I barely had a few hours behind the wheel.

This video closely resembles what I went through in my first few driving lessons.

 
I went to a “driving school” as most 18-year-olds do in India. That’s where I got behind the wheel of the aforementioned Santro. The thing about “driving schools” in India is that they only really teach you how to pass the driver’s test. Once you pass your test and get your license, you’re on your own. That’s the interesting and honestly scary thing about learning to drive in India—  having a driver’s license doesn’t mean you actually know how to drive.

The stresses of car ownership in India

From my point of view as a child and young adult, car ownership always seemed like quite the hassle. I lived in Thane which is part of the greater Mumbai metropolitan area (some might nitpick that but I don’t want to get into that). Due to this, some of the things I quickly learned to associate with cars were “stress”, “traffic”, “pollution”, and “the stress of parking”.

I remember whenever we had relatives over, or whenever we visited someone, one of the first questions was always about the drive itself. “How was the traffic?” “How are the roads?” “Which route did you take to get here?” , and so on. The discussion would go on for a few minutes before the conversation moved on to other topics, but the conversation about the journey was invariably present no matter the occasion or time of year.

Parking was another constant pain. I remember my father used to ask us to keep a lookout for parking spaces every time we drove somewhere. I remember the paid parking attendants, the merciless tow truck operators, and the moped owners chasing behind them to get their vehicles back. I remember parallel parking in a tough spot only to get bookended by cars parked bumper-to-bumper and having to go home in an auto rickshaw. Twice. It didn’t matter if you had a compact car or even a two-wheeler, parking always involved a bit of luck and a whole lot of patience.

The aspirational aspect

maruti

Source: Indian Express

In India, the experience of driving a car is wrought with stress but the idea of owning a car is still aspirational. Being able to buy a car with your own money is a sign that you’ve made it in life. I remember hearing anecdotes like “Sachin Tendulkar bought a Maruti 800 with his own money when he was 18”, as examples of someone to look up to. The anecdote aims to show people the success you should strive to achieve, and the car is a symbol of that success.

From Urban India to the Midwestern United States — a shift in perspective

Four years ago, I moved to Indianapolis. Indy is technically a city, but it was nothing like the city I was used to living in. Much fewer people, much larger roads, and much longer distances. All of this, and a nearly non-existent public transport system.

In the midwest, not having a car is like a handicap. Distances are measured in how long it would take to drive there. A small indicator of how deeply rooted car culture is in the American way of life. Throughout my life as a grad student living in the midwest, I felt this handicap every day. Calling it a handicap might be hyperbolic, but it was definitely a small pain in the side, a small hurdle I needed to overcome just to be able to keep up with people better equipped on the transportation side of things.

patelstore

Due to the long distances in the Midwest, a car is almost a must.

The nearest Indian grocery store was eight miles away. The nearest Starbucks was a couple of miles away. Getting around on the University campus was not much of a big deal, but I remember spending up to twenty minutes at the bus stop waiting for an Indy-go bus that was always late, riding the bus for fifty minutes to the Patel Brothers store, trudging through wet lawns of car dealerships on the highway to get to the Wal-Mart that was “next door”, along the streets near the I-65 that were built with cars and drivers in mind (no footpaths and barely any crosswalks!). Then, waiting for the bus again, heavy bags in hand, trying to balance six bags of groceries in two hands and trying not to spill anything, balancing some of the grocery bags on the handrails, trying to ignore the other passengers’ looks of confusion mixed with curiosity, trying to hold back the restlessness in the fifty minute journey back as the bus stopped on each and every bus stop spaced two blocks apart…

This experience was enough for many of us to try to get driver’s licenses. And indeed, many of us did. It was like a whole new world of opportunities presented itself to us. Enter “ZipCar” — a car rental service that charges you by the hour, perfect for those trips to the Indian grocery store. The nearly hour-long journey was cut down to about fifteen minutes. There was no walking through lawns or footpath-less highway roads— just drive to the store and find a parking spot. We needn’t balance heavy bags in our hands anymore,  just put them in the trunk. To an American, this was a mundane, everyday experience. But to us, it was like we were given the keys to the city.

Using ZipCars wasn’t always without its pitfalls, though. there were four cars for about four thousand students, and availability was limited. More often than not, the window of availability was only an hour to ninety minutes. That’s not enough time to go to both the Indian grocery store and Wal-Mart. Walking through the vast expanses of a Wal-Mart’s aisles takes at least an hour, and it takes fifteen minutes to get there. We were often found wanting more time, which more often than not, we didn’t get. The car needed to be returned to its designated parking spot on campus, where a new set of students lay in wait for a chance to get behind the wheel and do their own shopping.

Despite all these travails, it was still much better than taking the bus. Driving in the midwest was fundamentally different from driving in urban India. Wide roads, clear signs, everyone following traffic rules, and most importantly —  almost no honking. All of this meant that for the first time in my life driving wasn’t just a chore anymore. Dare I say, it was almost… enjoyable.

Uber/Lyft—  a new hope

In the midst of the revelation that was driving in the Midwest, I began using ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. I didn’t use it often as a grad student, but as a newly minted college graduate with a job, I use it almost every day. It hits the sweet spot for me. I can get to places I want to be but I don’t have to drive. Why wouldn’t I drive if I felt driving in the midwest was almost enjoyable? That’s because of the realities of car ownership and car buying, in the united states.

Wants versus needs

Getting a good deal on a car depends on a lot of factors, and there’s a lot of research that’s necessary. This car research is what got me on the car kick I mentioned in the beginning. I got so involved in research that I ended up spending my evenings binge-watching consumer reports videos. All my research points only to one thing— don’t buy a car unless you need to. I don’t need to buy a car. I live in an area well-connected by bus, and my ride-share app expenses end up being lesser than it would be to own and drive a car myself.

Despite arriving at a practical conclusion, buying and owning a car is still something I want to do. The answer to why that is doesn’t lie in the experience of driving, it lies in that aspirational aspect of car ownership. It lies in the fact that the car is a measure of success and personal responsibility.

It’s not the car, it’s just me

At times when I am in a pensive and introspective mood, I feel like having my own car will make me feel more like a grown-up, an adult, someone willing to take responsibility. Maybe I’m missing out on that. I feel like there’s this unending race towards self-improvement, “growth as a person” , all these things I’m seeing other people do, all these things that make me feel jealous of others with their perfect schedules and hobbies and interests and personal lives and successful relationships, maybe having a mechanical object that can transport me from place to place will placate this desire to fit in with the rest of these youthful individuals full of vitality and hopes and dreams, maybe I’ll feel like a responsible adult like so many people my age appear to be.

Maybe I need to get out into the world and cut myself a larger slice of this experiential pie. Maybe I’m hearing so much about cars all day that my mind is turning a corner on the idea of having a car. “The downsides are worth it I promise” I hear them say subliminally. Maybe I’ll go out into the world. Maybe I’ll drive down the highway for a few hours and go back to Indianapolis on a Thursday evening and go listen to some Jazz at my favorite Jazz bar. Maybe I’ll drive down an hour and go to that nature reserve that’s “super close” but I haven’t been to because I don’t want to drive a rental car.

Or maybe I’ll be a worry-worm just like I am today, but with one more sword dangling over my head. Maybe I’ll just drive around town with the windows up and the heater on, listening to some music loudly while screaming “look at me I’m not a loser”.

The modern automobile— the ultimate compensator.

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IBM Model M – My New Old Toy

Sometimes all you need is a new toy. My new toy’s a really old toy, but it has the same effect as something shiny and new. Such a thing of beauty, such a satisfying experience. It’s funny because in its heyday, this was a run of the mill accessory for IBM computers, which is about as boring and mundane you can get.
IBM Model M serial number

Serial number and manufacturing date

 

This particular unit was manufactured in 1987. Ever since I heard about mechanical keyboards in 2012-13, I have wanted to have one of these in my possession. I’m glad to report that it lives up to all that hype.

The anticipation combined with the honeymoon period of using something new. The slight hiccup while setting it up. Browsing forums to find fixes to issues. Finally getting a thirty-year-old piece of electronics to work with a modern computer. It just scratches my itch for tinkering with things, making them work together. An itch I have had since the days before digitally downloadable games were the norm, and I had to buy bargain basement games due to a lack of availability where I lived. My computer was barely able to run those games, and I had to find all sorts of fixes for a multitude of issues. The satisfaction after getting a game to run for the first time, after hours and sometimes even days of troubleshooting is what the experience of getting this keyboard to work reminded me of.

How it feels to type on it

Now that the beige behemoth was up and running, I started to type. This anticipation to type is something I hadn’t felt in ages. It didn’t matter if I’m a bad writer. It didn’t matter if a genius level intellect told me I wasn’t good at it. None of that mattered. I wanted to do this again. I wanted to tear open a hole in the dark unconscious and pour the contents of the mind into the realm of the digital, through this ancient instrument. This instrument that flawlessly captures what it should feel like to put words on a screen. Just the right amount of force. Just the right level of click. Throw in the occasional ping in there. Hear those sounds, let your thoughts achieve a particular rhythm. Lose your conscious thoughts and inhibitions about your apparent skill or the lack of it. All of that is pointless. You write because you don’t want this to stop. You don’t want the clicking to stop. You want to keep typing through the slight fatigue, till the fingers start to feel the strain, your fingertips slightly hot from pushing down on the perfectly curved and textured plastic keys.

In a casual conversation with friends, I joked that this was my weapon against the transgressions of my upstairs neighbor who likes cranking up the volume when he watches TV and listens to music. It doesn’t matter to me now. I want to write. Write about something. Write about anything. My will to write was like a rock precariously perched on a cliff waiting for a little nudge to convert potential energy to kinetic. The nudge came in the form of a new keyboard. The rock is certainly rolling now. The content does not matter. This is purely self-indulgent writing. Writing for its own sake.

So familiar, yet so strange

This brings back memories of a time that I now feel was much simpler. The feeling is familiar, but the memory is distant. In some way, this keyboard feels just like that- an object from the distant past which feels so familiar as I use it today. I didn’t need to learn anything, I didn’t have to readjust. Everything was in the right place. Like going back to your parent’s house after several years to find your room just like it was before you left. That makes sense because the IBM Model M helped popularize the standard keyboard layout of the keyboards of today.

It doesn’t have the modern accouterments- no backlighting, no pass-through for headphones or USB devices, no macro keys. But the feel of the keys more than makes up for that. I’d gladly give all of those fancy features up for the visceral satisfaction this buckling spring keyboard gives me.

This keyboard was built for offices and workspaces. It was built at a time when the age of personal computing was only getting started. Back then, loud keyboards were more accepted. We’ve moved past the time when keyboards were designed to sound similar to typewriters. We live in a time where the most frequently used keyboards are virtual ones on a glass touchscreen panel. There’s haptic feedback of course, but it is nowhere close to what you can get from a keyboard with mechanical keys.

Some parting thoughts

The IBM Model M serves as a reminder of the things we’ve left behind in our relentless quest towards more affordable mass-produced computer peripherals. Mechanical keyboards are making a comeback as a niche community of late, but of the keyboards, I have tried, none come close to the IBM Model M. It’s so much more than just “good enough”.

This is, of course, my personal opinion. Not everyone likes clicky and loud keyboards, not everyone’s willing to put up with a hefty computer peripheral. But if you, like me, are filled with a strange compulsion to write, this is one of the most satisfying tools you can use.

 

 

Should I delete old social media posts? A few meandering thoughts.

Why I feel like deleting old posts

Facebook constantly throws old posts at me from a time when I was young and dumb. It’s a good feature because it allows me to delete those posts easily, and also because it brings me face to face with my thoughts from the past. Whether I actually delete the posts or not depends on what I am feeling at that moment. Sometimes I feel like it’s necessary to preserve those old social media posts as reminders of my past ignorance. At other times, I promptly delete them because they make me cringe at the painful lack of self-awareness I exhibited at the time.

So, should I delete my old social media posts? Have a clean slate and a clear mind? Or will the lack of an easily visible social media history raise suspicion? Will I lose sight of how different a person I was in the past? Maybe I should delete them all so nobody can go digging into my old posts to tar-and-feather me. Or should I keep them, as a reminder of how far I have come, how much I have learned and how much I am yet to understand about myself?

Going back to the research

While I was in this quandary, I remembered some course material I read in grad school. I decided to go back to gain some clarity.

In my research paper archive, I came across a 2013 paper titled-

“The many faces of Facebook: experiencing social media as performance, exhibition, and personal archive”

(Here’s a link to the PDF.)

In this paper, the researchers describe how people use Facebook to manage their self-image. The researchers describe the different strategies people use to manage their online persona. The first is the “performance region”, where social media posts and activity target issues or topics relevant to the current moment.

The second is the “exhibition region” consisting of managing your identity over time, is where the often used phrase “social media curation” comes into play. This is the practice of evaluating the content of your social media over time, modifying content in a way that suits how you want to present yourself publicly.

The third is the “personal region”, which describes how we tend to use Facebook as a locker for some personal information, how we may store information that holds sentimental value to us, such as old photos and videos, or even recording important events on the facebook timeline. The personal region is about reminiscing and reflecting as opposed to presenting yourself in a favorable way.

The paper then describes the “tug of war” between public and personal regions- something that you may ascribe sentimental value to, may not align with the way you want to present yourself in a public domain.

The paper also describes how the passage of time plays a role in delineating the difference between the public and personal domains. As posts become older and cease to become relevant in the present day, they “…gradually transition into a personal space… mostly seen as an archive of meaningful memories”.

Facebook’s propensity to dig up old posts, many of which I find cringe-worthy today, cuts through this temporal delineation. It digs up things from the past that may be looked upon unfavorably. Thankfully, Facebook doesn’t simply post these without your permission- the posts pop up in your feed and give you the option to share them and also add more commentary on it to provide context. But Facebook’s act of regurgitating old posts into my feed is enough of a jolt to my self-assuredness.

Concerns about “weaponizing my past”

As I thought about why I reacted so unfavorably to Facebook simply showing older posts to me on my feed, I realized I was concerned about others being able to look up old posts of mine and use them against me in some manner.

Every day you hear of people’s’ past being dug up and weaponized, forcing people to apologize for something they may not actually believe in anymore. People tend to grow and they learn as time goes by. Weaponizing someone’s past seems like an absolutely abhorrent way of undermining or completely destroying their current standing on the internet, their “virtual worth”, or “clout” if you will. A vile and underhanded way of using the past to invalidate the present.

It is just so simple to look at what people said online, without looking at the context within which it was said. A tactic used to great effect in today’s polarized socio-political landscape.

In the years before the internet, was people’s past so easy to weaponize? Were they constantly hounded by the fear that something they might have joked about or mentioned in passing could be brought up to possibly ruin their present? Perhaps it wasn’t as easy as it is today. Maybe the lack of a virtual space to express yourself in your adolescence meant all such conversations were lost in the ether, unable to be so easily used against you.

Of course, I may be overstating the dangerousness of digging up someone’s past in such a way. It could simply benign, like friends digging up old posts and commenting on them for a laugh. It could be creepy, like someone incessantly commenting on old pictures of you to get you to notice them. All of these activities fall on different points within the spectrum of propriety. The commonality between the benign and malicious utilization of older posts is how they can disrupt how you aim to present yourself, in the present.

Conclusion

How I present myself online is something I think about every day. As the internet gains maturity and becomes an integral part of our daily lives, a person’s online persona is equally important to if not more important than what they say or do in the real world. When I was a teenager I didn’t realize how important what I so thoughtlessly posted would be in the grand scheme of things. Fast forward to now where I am painfully aware of it every living moment.

As social media continues to become ubiquitous, as these virtual ledgers of our activities grow longer, our responsibility towards tending to our data and indeed the responsibility of the platforms themselves grows more important. We have all heard of how we need to be careful about what we post online, what we share and with whom. But in light of recent events, it is also the responsibility of the platform to make sure an individual’s information is not used against them or used in a way that benefits third parties and not the individuals themselves.

 

 

When things are worth doing, they are worth doing badly

Why I haven’t posted anything lately:

I’ve never been the person with the highest sense of self-esteem. Feelings of inadequacy are a part of the human condition- most of us if not all of us have felt that we are not good enough to do something, at some point in our lives. The latest bout of such feelings came about when I was faced with an honest critique of my writing. The criticism was quite understandable, in my excitement, I decided to forego making multiple drafts and carefully re-writing everything. I just stuck with the first draft and I felt that it was good enough. What I wrote was full of grammatical and structural errors and wasn’t the best work I could have presented.

I got so excited by the subject matter, so carried away by the fact that I was working on something interesting that I forgot to remember to see it through to completion properly. I should have written and rewritten, I should have pored over the draft to make sure the grammar was correct, I should have made sure the structure was cohesive. I didn’t do any of those things because I was too excited. The response to that was inevitable and swift, and I welcomed it (or at least I thought I did). I felt that my motivation to write something and my belief about the correctness of my points would shield me from the negative feelings that come with any criticism which I expected to be minor at the most. Clearly, I was wrong about both the quality of what I’d written and the effect the criticism would have on me.

When the criticism came my way, I was devastated. Being able to express myself through writing is an important part of my self-identity and self-worth. I never thought I was world class, but I did think I was pretty good at it. When you believe something to be an integral part of your identity, your public face, your “personal brand” if you will, having that put into question shakes your foundations. The question was not only if I was good enough now, but if I ever was any good at all at any point in the past.

The criticism itself was pretty easy to understand. My emotional reaction to it took longer to fully understand and process. The rational mind would say it is a good thing to be given honest feedback but the sheer bluntness of it really shook me to the core. I was good at writing one moment, and in the next, I was just not. Was this just an isolated mistake? Am I really any good? Was I ever any good? Did I ever improve? What have I been doing all these years? Will I ever actually be as good as I thought I was?

All this turmoil made me hesitant to write for several weeks. I needed to articulate these emotional responses in my head, but each time I thought about it, I ended up in the same spot. I realized I needed to do something different. I needed a change in perspective.

For days I kept thinking about my apparent lack of writing skill and even though I wanted to get myself out of the inertia that I had accumulated, it was difficult to put any plans into action. Days passed and I kept going through the motions of my daily routine, and I kept turning a blind eye towards the mental turmoil hoping that in time the memories of this upheaval would fade away.

But they didn’t fade away. Those comments and my reaction to them were constantly on my mind. I was able to push them away during the week when I was occupied with work. Whenever I found myself with free time, however, the feelings rushed back to my mind and occupied center stage.

Trying to get to the bottom of things:

I decided to look back at why I wrote the piece that started it all- my post about the self-determination theory. I looked at the reasoning behind why I felt I was intrinsically motivated to write. When I was truly engrossed in writing, the act of writing was its own reward. Whether the writing was any good was not a part of that equation at all. I understood that although the act of writing is what I truly love to do, I am also drawn to the feeling of validation that came with showing off the writing to others. The process of writing on my blog, sharing it with the world and watching the page views grow by the day is integral to my sense of accomplishment and also my self-worth.

My intent of writing about self-determination theory was to understand some of the different factors that motivated my writing in the past. As I mentioned before, I got carried away by those thoughts and the post was not vetted as well as it should have. It was rushed. That left me to ponder over why the blunt feedback affected me so deeply.

To try and understand my thoughts, I wrote them down in a journal. The simple act of writing the things that were on my mind had helped me on multiple occasions in the past. All it takes is a pen, paper and a stream of consciousness emptying itself out from your brain and into the physical realm in the form of the written word. Journaling my thoughts helped me through a lot of tough times, especially as a student living in the United States, away from my friends and family.
An entry in a journal doesn’t have to be perfectly worded and devoid of grammatical errors, it doesn’t have to be drafted and re-written in order to form a cohesive story for others to read. It is a means by which you can get your thoughts out of your head and in front of your eyes to see. It turns an intangible, nebulous swarm of thoughts into something physical, which frees the brain from the entanglement of those thoughts.
Journaling my thoughts definitely helped clear the cobwebs in my brain. I was done avoiding my thoughts and I had met them head-on and articulated them in as much detail as I could muster. Writing down my thoughts was definitely a liberating experience.

Now that I knew what I did wrong, and had come to terms with my reaction to the feedback I had received, the only thing I needed was a little nudge in the right direction.

The A-ha moment:

A new perspective on this whole situation dawned upon me when I was watching a video by Jordan Peterson where he said: “If something is worth doing it’s worth doing well, but if something is worth doing it is also worth doing badly.”

As children, we are taught the importance of doing things the right way. Making your bed- make sure there are no creases in the bedsheets. Solving a math problem- make sure you write down all the steps properly. Cleaning your room- don’t just shove the dirt under the carpet. It is a good virtue, striving towards perfection, aiming towards the ideal, living your best life, being your best self, and so on.

The trouble occurs when you don’t think you’re good enough and you end up not doing anything, because what’s the point of writing if it’s not perfect and people are not going to like it? Well, then you’re looking at it the wrong way. And indeed, I was looking at the whole situation the wrong way. I was too caught up in trying to look smart, and the sole purpose of writing was for the feeling of validation that I got from others reading my blog. Now I realize that if you really think something brings you joy, then you do it even if you’re not good at it because it is better than not doing anything at all. A lack of motivation to write is the reason why countless blogs die, and I’m not going to let my blog become one of those symbols of discouragement getting the best of people.

This whole episode has really helped me understand myself, my reactions to things, and how best to deal with situations such as these. In fact, the act of writing this has been quite cathartic because I’m not writing this for anyone else. I’m not a great writer, I may not even be a good writer. That doesn’t matter because I’m not going to stop trying to get better. I feel like maintaining this blog is worth doing, and when things are worth doing, they are worth doing badly.

Self Determination Theory and my writing journey

 

Introduction

I’ve been re-reading some of the research papers that I read when I was a graduate student, and now that I have the leisure of ruminating on the concepts stated in them, I’ve started to correlate those concepts with my own experiences.

I decided to start reading about Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation, specifically the Self Determination Theory (SDT) developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. I think I picked this topic because I haven’t been inspired or motivated to write about new things for the past couple of months, and every time I set out to write about something, I haven’t seen it through.

What is Self Determination Theory?

Self Determination Theory is a meta-theory, or a collection of theories about motivation, self-regulation of behavior, and personality development. Self regulation refers to the process of internalizing extrinsic or social values into self motivations and personal values. Two of the key sub-theories with SDT are Cognitive Evaluation Theory, and Organismic Interaction Theory.

Organismic Interaction Theory and the Self Determination Continuum

The organismic Interaction Theory is a subtheory within SDT, and it describes more fine-grained distinctions between types of motivation.

Self Determination Continuum

The figure shows six types of motivation. Each type varies in the amount of autonomy the person has as well as in the level of internalization (i.e. how much the person has taken in a value, or how much the person values the activity).

My writing journey through the lens of the Self Determination Continuum

Amotivation- the beginnings

I didn’t actually start writing blogs until 2012, when I started to write for a football blog. My first foray into blogging was for a football website created by a group of friends and acquaintances at college. I wasn’t motivated in any way, extrinsic or intrinsic. I started off with a regular schedule but I soon found myself lagging behind, rarely writing new posts. Even when I did manage to get myself to write a blog post, I was simply going through the motions. Writing became a chore.

I consider my initial foray into blogging as lacking motivation. I begun with good intentions- I wanted to try my hand at writing on the internet. However,I never truly got engrossed in it as I wasn’t truly interested in football, and I wasn’t getting paid. Also, because I didn’t know much about football, I didn’t feel competent enough to write about it.

External Regulation – Writing for “exposure” and monetary rewards

When I started writing technology related blog posts and articles, my dream was to one day have enough clout to receive devices for review. In pursuit of that goal, I approached many a website, and agreed to write for “exposure” or in some cases e-commerce store credit.

There was little to no autonomy because it was just about slaving away writing “hot takes” , blindly copying and pasting information about the latest goings-on in the tech space. The only reason I ever wrote was because I loved seeing my name in the by-line, getting some sort of presence on the internet however infinitesimal it may be, and hoping that the relentless grind would get me one step closer to my dream of being a gadget reviewer on the internet.

This was a recipe for burnout, and I burned out in spectacular fashion. There was no feedback, positive or negative. There was nobody guiding me, helping me find my way, nobody helping me grow as a writer in any sense. I was all just a blind rush to get the latest “Hot Take”, and get the most page views by any means necessary. I felt like a hamster in a wheel. At the end of it all I wasn’t interacting with an audience. I was simply throwing hastily spewed out words their way in an attempt to get more clicks. I was neither forging an identity and for the most part, nor was I getting any sort of proper remuneration for it [1]

Introjected Regulation- Writing for validation

There was a point in time where I used blog posts just to get validation from people. The act of actually writing the blog post was secondary to the act of sharing the blog post on social media and on messaging apps. I spammed links to my blog posts everywhere and found inventive ways of trying to get as many views as possible. I was only writing blog posts as a method of ego enhancement. I wanted to show the world that I was a writer, a content creator, who took the time and the effort to write blog posts regularly. I wanted to prove to the world I could do it, and I also wanted to show off to the world. I tied the act of writing with my own inherent self worth- I would feel guilty or anxious if I didn’t write and share it with the world.

I consider writing for validation as a form of Introjected Regulation, because even though this form of motivation may seem internal, but it’s still caused by external factors- in this case my need for validation by others, may it be through likes or comments or social media, or even the number of hits each blog post got[2]

Identified Regulation- Writing about UX

This form of regulation is more internalized as the person perceives the action as personally important. During my final semester in the Master’s in HCI program, I realized I needed to showcase my writing skills and use them to talk about concepts of UX that I was learning at school. This was because having a web presence was integral to my job search which was in full swing at the time.

I consider this a form of Identified regulation, because I valued the goal, and considered the action personally important. It was important to me because it lined up with my goal of creating a digital identity, a writer’s equivalent of a UX portfolio.

Integrated Regulation- Writing for Pocketnow

In the summer of 2015, I got the opportunity to write for pocketnow.com, a website that covers mobile technology. I was very excited because writing for a tech website was a long time dream of mine. This was different from the “writing for exposure” days because I was given increased autonomy by my editor in chief, and I was actually being paid for my work.

When I look back at those days I feel like that experience was the single most helpful thing that ever happened to me in terms of growing as a writer. I discussed ideas for articles with the editorial team, and after getting the go-ahead, they always provided constructive feedback about what I wrote[3]. Writing for a legitimate website like Pocketnow also helped me communicate with a community of readers.

I consider this a form of Integrated Regulation because writing for Pocketnow helped me really identify as a writer. However, even though I the experience was enjoyable and helped me identify as a writer, the motivating factors were still external- getting paid, gaining an audience, and improving my writing skills.

Intrinsic Motivation- Writing for myself

There are times where I write just because I enjoy it. I like the whole process – coming up with a topic, doing some research, writing, editing, sometimes rewriting. Sometimes what I write doesn’t see the light of day, but I enjoy it anyway. It’s not about the validation, or getting money, or the pageviews. It’s just about thinking about something, writing it down, and crafting something cohesive. It’s about getting engrossed in the act of writing itself, and losing track of time.

I’m at a stage now where I have a strange compulsion of sorts, to write something, anything. I use the word compulsion because there’s something that truly compels me and I can’t explain it using external motivators. I want to , I have to write because I like it. This is, in my opinion, true intrinsic motivation.

My writing journey through the lens of Cognitive Evaluation Theory

My writing journey can not only be categorized using the self-determination continuum, but also using Cognitive Evaluation Theory. Within Cognitive Evaluation Theory,  the authors mention three factors that influence intrinsic motivation:

Autonomy: a sense of being in control and having freedom.

Competence: a sense of being able to do something.

Relatedness: a sense of being associated or connected to others.

Initially during the football blog days I was unmotivated because:

There was no autonomy- others decided what I should write about, and I could not deviate from the section I was assigned

There was no competence- I had no idea if I was good enough, and I was able to capture what people wanted from a football blog

There was no relatedness- I really wasn’t that into football and hence couldn’t really relate to the other writers and their football enthusiasm

When I was writing for “exposure” , my autonomy was restricted to writing about whatever had the potential to get the most page views. I may have felt more competent, but that was because what I wrote was formulaic and had low complexity. All my initial feelings of relatedness quickly vanished because I was doing nothing to connect with other people.

As I started writing for my personal blog and even for Pocketnow, I had increased autonomy because I could decide what to write about. The subject matter was always about what I liked (technology) or what I was learning (User Experience). I felt more competent because I always got feedback from my peers, and I could see a progression in my skills as a writer.

When I write for myself, I have complete autonomy. I am confident in my ability to write, I feel competent. I try to write things that encourage a discussion with other like-minded people, which helps with relatedness.

Reflection

The path between Extrinsic Motivation to Intrinsic Motivation is non-linear:

Although the self determination continuum looks like a linear progression, it doesn’t imply that motivation follows that order. In my personal experience I have gone from External Regulation to Intrinsic Motivation, and then fallen back to one of the intermediary phases when I lacked inspiration. Inspiration is fleeting, and I feel like I’m intrinsically motivated or experiencing “flow” when I am inspired. However, there are times when I am not inspired or intrinsically motivated, and I need some form of external regulation, or an intermediary form of regulation such as Introjected, Identified or Integrated. I think the Self Determination Continuum really adds more nuance to the idea of writing as a disciplined practice versus motivated or inspired writing.

Going through the intermediary forms of motivation helped me fully incorporate intrinsic motivation:

When I started writing, I thought that inspired writing was always my best work because it was “from the heart”, a stream of consciousness captured as words and sentences. The more I forayed into writing about specific topics however, I realized that writing, getting feedback and rewriting until you have a cohesive narrative was great as well.

Now when it comes to writing, I realize how important it is to have a proper procedure. Having a stream of consciousness is great, but it needs to be channelized properly. Getting feedback from others more skilled than I am really helped in that regard. In my initial attempts at writing for myself, I didn’t really have a sense of direction. I had complete autonomy, but I had no competence, and others were unable to relate to what I was saying. In the case of writing for Pocketnow, the slight reduction in autonomy was worth it, just for the increase in competence that I experienced as a result of working with more accomplished writers.

In my writing journey, I started off like a bullet shot from a gun- I had plenty of ideas, and I put them into writing as fast as possible. Soon, I was out of inspiration. I went from intrinsic motivation to being unmotivated.  Nevertheless, I continued writing for various reasons. I slowly went through the intermediary phases and regained the intrinsic motivation I started with. I feel like my intrinsic motivation is in fact stronger than when I started writing, because I continued to write and gain feedback.

References:

Footnotes:

  1. I eventually realized this wasn’t the right way to go about writing. Looking back, I still feel quite bad about the incessant spamming of links that I used to do. A few people even blocked me on social media because of it. I wrote this blog post around that time, describing what was on my mind.
  2. Spamming friends and family with blog posts was not only a form of seeking validation, but was also a fun activity. I’m not so proud of it now that I look back at it. But I think I needed to go through that phase to get it out of my system.
  3. Shout out to Michael Fisher, Stephen Schenck, and Anton D’Nagy, the editors at Pocketnow who helped me hone my writing skills. (Also Adam Doud, who helped me learn to deal with haters/trolls/ general negativity in the comments section.)

I like First Person Shooters

I have been trying to write about video games ever since I began writing blogs on the internet about four years ago. I never got around to it because I felt like I wasn’t really qualified to write about games like those guys on them fancy websites. That’s probably still true. This isn’t going to be some complex analysis of themes and a deep dive into nuances of a game or a genre. This is just me talking about first person shooters.

Now, one of my earliest memories of playing video games apart from watching my sister play solitaire on Windows 95 while I waited my turn, was Wolfenstein 3D. That was the beginning of a long love affair between me and the genre. There’s just something very enticing about FPS games that I cannot fully explain. Perhaps it’s me playing out a power fantasy. Perhaps it’s getting involved in the story and a feeling of empathy towards the protagonist. Perhaps it’s the right level of difficulty that keeps you coming back to try again when you’re stuck on a particularly difficult level. I think it’s all of those things and some other things that I haven’t thought about yet.

I’m just going to list some FPS games that I really enjoyed playing, while talking about what I liked about them. Spoiler alert.

Wolfenstein

The first FPS I ever played. I spent a ton of time on this game. You could not look up or down, and you only got a few weapons, but the premise was simple, and it offered a great level of challenge which ramped up as you increased the level of difficulty. The cheat code was pretty simple too, which was helpful.

I recently played The New Order, which really brings this franchise to the 21st century, while keeping the essence of this game intact. I really appreciated the story the new game offers. You can dual wield assault rifles, which looks stupid considering how massive the gun models are. It is all stupid in a good way, however.

I really wish I had a lot more to say about this, the first ever FPS I ever played but suffice it to say that this is the game which made me fall in love with the genre.

Doom

I like Id software’s approach towards the original DOOM. The story is there, but it isn’t shoved in your face with cutscenes. It’s just kind of in the background, left for you to piece together yourself. The central aspect of this game is shooting demons in the face. Of course, this was the most influential game in the early history of FPS, and the fact that it is still offers up an enjoyable experience to me today is a testament to it’s timelessness.

DOOM 2 is my personal favorite of the franchise, as it extrapolated all the ideas of the original into a more complete package. More enemies, different environments, skull keys.

Which brings me to DOOM 2016. You’ve heard everyone wax lyrical about it, so let me do that for a little bit more. The music is phenomenal. The glory kills are amazing and don’t slow the game down. The gun-play is viscerally satisfying. The Doom-slayer’s absolute disdain towards story exposition and indeed demons, which he shows through his actions makes him a great protagonist. However, the Cyberdemon gets defeated way too easily,and the cliffhanger ending to the single player campaign pissed me off a little. The multiplayer is nothing to write home about but I’m not much of a multiplayer person myself so that’s neither here nor there.

Duke Nukem 3D

Duke Nukem is a problematic figure that is best left in the past. The character and the game itself exemplifies the ultra-violent, highly inappropriate FPS that ran roughshod across the videogame landscape in the 90s. As pre-teen/teenager however, I really didn’t care about political correctness and really liked ultra violent power fantasies, so I played countless hours of this game.

This game had you in the shoes of a roided up freak, a one man army who threw around one liners and was in a world that seemed like a homage to 1980s action movies. Women are treated like objects of desire, things that need to be rescued, hostages and incubators for the alien invaders.

But behind all the crassness which I felt was cool at the time, there were a few clever game mechanics. Not only could you shoot aliens in the face, but also lay traps and use holograms to distract them. Shooting aliens in the face worked for me at the time.

Shadow Warrior

I found this game in the bargain bin of a CD store. Me and my cousin bought a game each. He bought something that turned out to be a set of ghostbusters themed mini-games. I got Shadow Warrior.

The original Shadow Warrior is quite similar to Duke Nukem 3D- this game outs you in the shoes of Lo Wang, an assassin for hire who needs to kill demons on his mission to exact revenge from former employer Mr. Zilla. His name’s a pretty obvious dick joke.

This being an FPS from the late 90s it came with its fair share of inappropriate racial stereotypes and toilet humor in the form of one liners and objectifying women. It was a step above Duke Nukem in terms of gunplay, with weapons having alternate fire modes, a melee weapon and having different kinds of grenades.

A similarity between SW and DN was also the level design which was often maze like. Areas were cordoned off and you had to find keycards. There were also a lot of Easter eggs and secrets.

I enjoyed the hell out of Shadow Warrior, so I was extremely excited when I heard that it was being remade. The 2013 remake of the original Shadow Warrior is indeed a great FPS which has it’s own identity. The new Lo Wang is the greatest example of how a character can be brought into the 21st century. No longer is he an inappropriate old man Asian stereotype. Lo Wang is an irreverent assassin who is also an unabashed comic book and pop culture nerd. In the beginning of the game, he flubs his one-liners. He tries too hard to use one-liners and his early attempts fall flat. After a spirit entity enters his mind and gives him magic powers, he gets to be the bad-ass he always dreamt of being. As the game progresses he gets into his stride. Towards the halfway point Hoji ( the spirit entity inhabiting Lo Wang’s head) even says something along the lines of  “Am I misunderstanding or are you actually enjoying this?”. This is a subtle arc of character progression which continues into the sequel.

In fact, his psychotic enjoyment of vanquishing his opponents is reflected in the initial few dialog sections of the sequel, and they took me by surprise. I was turned off by this change in character initially but it made a lot more sense to me as the game progressed. His anger juxtaposed with the psychotic enjoyment he took in slaughtering demons was surprising at first, but it really makes sense in a world taken over by demons.

Side note: Flying Wild Hog really seem to like using a person occupying the mind of the protagonist as a way of plot exposition and character development. I came to this conclusion after playing Hard Reset, which is in many ways the proto-Shadow Warrior.  

Also, the sequel is a Borderlands style looter-shooter with a focus on Co-Op. You get weapons, and you add stuff to your weapons to give them different characteristics. The UI for that was pretty terrible in the beginning, with no way to filter the different types of stuff you could add to your weapons. Having a favorite gun was pointless because you’d run out of ammo for it and would have to use whatever else you had.

The guns however, are secondary to the excellent melee weapons in Flying Wild Hog’s rendition of this 90s classic. The melee weapons feel satisfying to use, and there are powerful ranged and area of effect attacks associated with them so they end up being the most useful weapons in the game.

The sequel is also very movement focused. You can strafe, circle strafe, jump, double jump, dash, and dash in mid-air while jumping. This dovetailed with the new approach towards level design. The first game was linear. The second has procedurally generated levels with a lot of open space, and multiple routes across the map.   

All in all though, the single player campaign of the sequel was quite unsatisfying. It lacked the sense of purpose I saw in the first game. The interactions with the new spirit entity in his head were nowhere close to the amazing back and forth of the original.

Red Faction

To be honest, all this was just an excuse to be able to write about my personal favorite FPS of all time, Red Faction. I’ve thought of countless think-pieces about the Red Faction franchise, and some of them even made it to the draft stage, where they lie for eternity, because I couldn’t flesh out the ideas.

Red Faction was released at around the same time as the original Halo, Serious Sam, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, to mention a few. It probably got lost in the shuffle in an overall great year for FPS games.

Looking back at the game, I can see why people thought of it as a B+ game overall. The gun play wasn’t really genre defining. The plot wasn’t as complex as a Half-Life. But it’s still my top favorite FPS.

The original Red Faction featured “GeoMod Technology” which allowed players to alter some parts of the terrain. Although you couldn’t just destroy literally everything in the game, you could use that mechanic in enough spots to make it interesting.

What made Red Faction so amazing to me though, was its sense of humor. It had a weird dichotomy to it- the plot took itself way too seriously, but the game allowed you to do stuff like stick bombs on to enemies and watch them run around screaming and flailing their arms. The NPCs had some hilarious dialog. The enemies call you a miner in the beginning of the game and the way they address you changes as you progress. A simple touch that really makes you feel like the protagonist of the game.

The campaign isn’t short either. Of course there are the customary turret and vehicle segments and a couple of stealth segments shoehorned in but they aren’t overbearing. The game ramps up in difficulty towards the end, with tougher enemies and more powerful weapons. All of these points are better explained in Classic Game Room’s Review.

This was the game which I played for hours on end without stopping. I played and replayed Red Faction’s single player campaign and I enjoyed every single time. The game found a balance between story, gameplay mechanics and humor that I’ve tried to find in every other game since.

Which brings me to Red Faction 2. I’ll admit I was very disappointed by it when I first played it. I was expecting something closer to Red Faction, but the sequel didn’t make a good first impression at all. The initial levels were terrible, and it was on earth instead of mars, which didn’t make sense to me. Also GeoMod was barely used in the game. The UI was pretty bad too. Using and switching between grenades was too clunky. The environments weren’t as compelling as the first game. The voice acting and NPS dialogs were quite funny but the game lacked that great balance between violence and humorous dialog that the original  had.

Looking back at it though, I think I may have judged it too harshly. It did have it’s own sense of humor and it did have some great local multiplayer. The game allowed you to dual wield weapons, something I hadn’t seen since the original Shadow Warrior. It also had cheat codes which allowed you to do some really interesting things. The third game in the franchise was a return to form, with GeoMod being front and center. It was however, in the third person perspective. The fourth and final game was also quite stellar in my opinion, with the best use of a magnets in a game ever.

Half Life

One of the finest linear narrative driven FPS games. That’s me trying to find a fancy way of saying that despite all the scripted events that take place while playing these games (half life and opposing force. Not Blue Shift. That one I don’t like so much.) all those events make sense and drive the story forward. They don’t feel like they take away from the experience.

That’s all I really had to say about this game, honestly. It isn’t a power fantasy. You have to conserve ammo. Some of the enemies are very annoying. The section of the first game where you are on the alien planet is pretty weak. First person platforming in general is bad.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Modern military shooters are focused on multiplayer and the single player campaign is mostly an afterthought. Bad Company 2 was the most bearable of these kinds of shooters. The scripted events in these kinds of games are annoying. Speaking of annoying, “Please return to the battle zone or you’ll fail the mission” makes me sad and angry.

Dishonored

This was more of an experience. A short game, but both the stealth and violent approaches were interesting to play. I had to watch a walkthrough to be able to complete the game using stealth because I am impatient and not very good at video games.

Metro Last Light

Great story, your gas mask gets dirty/wet/whatever and you have to wipe it off. It looks cool. Again, this isn’t a power fantasy. There’s a focus on survival and it goes well with the post apocalyptic setting.

You can use different types of guns. The currency is bullets. Post apocalyptic. The last level was annoying because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to shoot at and had to watch a walkthrough video.

Borderlands 2

Handsome Jack is probably the greatest video game antagonist in this list of games. The game has a unique and interesting universe. Different weapons, and one of them involves throwing the gun itself to reload it. It is a definitive looter-shooter, which means there’s a lot of leveling up and too many weapon drops, but I waded through all of it because I liked the story so much. It was funny and self aware.

For the final boss I just sat in a corner of the map and sniped for hours instead of actually doing it like the game wanted me to.    

What was the point of all this?

For a long time I’ve been feeling like I’m playing it too safe. I don’t write my own opinions on here anymore. I try to cover my bases at all times. That’s not a bad thing- nobody can complain, I do my research, and try to remain as objective as possible. But that’s not really very fun to write, or interesting to read.

Also, I really wanted to write about videogames, and I was too afraid to write anything at all. I looked at all these think pieces trying so hard, being so serious and thought provoking. I really don’t have anything to say along those lines. However, I wanted to say these things anyway. All this time I was trying to find something to write about and the only thing I cared about was creating something thought provoking. Every time I tried I found that it already existed. So I decided to look into my own experiences and talk about those.

I wrote this mostly for myself. I thought about all the games I’ve played over the years and saw how many of them were first person shooters. The reasons why were pretty easy to see, and further analyzing it didn’t seem compelling, and more importantly didn’t seem like a fun thing to do. So I took a meandering route through all these games, thinking about what it was that I liked about each and every one of them.

As Hoji would say- “Every hero needs this kind of thing. Call it a… catharsis. Think of it as a spiritual laxative.”

Thoughts and Opinions about Micro Fiction

Social Media has provided a global platform that people use to express themselves. It has also shaped the way information is disseminated throughout the world. Different platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide different ways to share information and communicate,  and at times impose certain constraints on how people communicate with each other. Sometimes, these constraints drive creativity.

Twitter’s 140 character limit for example, helped popularize micro fiction 1. Today, communities like Terribly Tiny Tales and The Scribbled Stories have thousands of followers and contributors. Trying to convey as much information and emotion in as few words as possible has been around since a long time, of course. But the micro tales format, its acceptance and widespread popularity is symbolic of the social media phenomenon and how it affects us all.

The widespread success of these communities and these works of micro fiction got me thinking about its origins, its rise to popularity, and like any massively popular meme or internet trend, and why there are so many people who think it has “lost its touch”.


What is micro fiction, and who are these communities?

The origins of micro tales can of course be traced to Twitter, founded in 2006, a social media platform that allows users to share short posts (140 characters or less) called tweets. The aforementioned “Terribly Tiny Tales” started of as a Facebook page in 2013 2. The about page on their official website, terriblytinytales.com, says

“terribly tiny tales brings together a diverse pool of fantastic writers to create one tweet-sized story, everyday. We invite readers to contribute a word from which the writer picks a word of his/her choice.”

Another popular micro fiction community is “The Scribbled Stories”, which started off in 2015, and seems to have a similar format, but describe themselves as

“… a collective of amateur writers and serves as a storytelling platform for writers across the globe.”

As such, the latter does not seem to be limited to micro fiction as can be seen from their website, thescribbledstories.com. However, their most popular content seems to be in that format, most often shared as an image with white text on a blue background 3.


Why is Micro Fiction so popular?

1. Easy to Share

The character restriction lends itself to the creation of short tales, snippets or even poetry, often with complexity and nuances that force the reader to “read between the lines”. As these works of fiction are short by definition, they are often shared as an image rather than in text format, which makes them easy to share. The combination of being easy to consume and easy to share can often create a snowball effect of viral internet success.

2. Easy to write, and your work gets validated

Writing, and creative writing especially so, is often perceived as being the domain of the creative. It is looked upon as something that you need to have an innate knack for. Terribly tiny tales started with a group of 15 writers, but it has since then been opened to the public. The Scribbled Stories also has a similar system, people can submit their creations via the submit page on their website. They even mention various categories based on word limits.

Once you submit your work, it’s looked at by a team, and shared on social media if it’s accepted. This is the modern equivalent of writing to a newspaper, a radio show, or your school magazine. The convenience of being able to submit your work online, and the validation of your post being read and accepted by someone and shared on social media for thousands of people to see is the ultimate reward in today’s world. The relative ease of writing something in the micro fiction format, combined with the anticipation, waiting to see whether or not your post will be selected, and the reward of having your post shared with thousands of people, and indeed even being “liked” and “shared” by people is a massive validation of a person’s writing capability.

3. In tune with our short attention spans on social media

This post by Mark Manson explains this very well. In the world of social media our attention is at a premium- and anything that grabs your attention is shared, and in most cases, forgotten about soon after. Micro Fiction communities generate so much content that spans across so many different topics, that any given piece of content has a chance of resonating with a certain section of the general populace.

Most people, when asked about why they share certain things, often reply with “I don’t know, it just felt nice at the time…”


If it’s so popular, why do some people hate it?

When something resonates with people, as is the case with internet memes and viral trends, there’s always a saturation point, where the interest begins to wane, or even turn into a dislike due to it being repeated many times. In this post I’ve mentioned only the two most popular platforms for micro fiction, but in reality there are a lot of such pages out there, and while Terribly Tiny Tales does touch upon the problem of curating so many entries 4, there are so many other spin-off communities around which perhaps look only for viral success via post volume, rather than post quality.

I think that this lack of curation is one of the key reasons why some people are annoyed. With so many people getting to post their micro fiction and get published, with little to no curation, these communities become less about getting your work accepted, appreciated and understood, but more about being cannon fodder that feeds the social media machine. This might sound cynical but it does seem like the move away from a small group to an open community with no moderation, no community feedback mechanism and no centralized curation is a deliberate move to gain followers, gain likes, shares, and perpetuate the aforementioned social media machine.

What do the owners of these pages stand to gain from this perpetual social media juggernaut? When you have a massive social media influence, it can be used to make money, and brands have already begun to utilize these communities as a platform to gain some traction.

hotspot

This image shows how blatant the brand tie-ins can be at times.

 


Objectively analyzing micro fiction

What constitutes good micro fiction is highly subjective. What some people might find appealing in a cute, smart or funny way, might not be looked at the same way by others.  Personally, I feel like good micro fiction should have multiple layers of meaning, requiring you to “read between the lines”.

However, looking at a lot of these works, I find that many of these “stories” have simple, linear narratives. They are often simple anecdotes which while a lot of people can relate to, aren’t really very complex. A lot of these are based on common events and are thus regarded as unoriginal. When a lot of seemingly trite content floods social media feeds, it leads to an inevitable negative reaction 5. Anecdotes are easier to write, as they are based on real life events. They are easy to read because of their linear narrative. They are easy to relate to because most of these anecdotes are based on very common events that occur in most people’s lives, such as getting bad grades in an exam, for example.

This brings us back to the broader issue of categorization and curation. The micro fiction communities have broadened their scope, and their definition of what they consider “tiny tales” or “stories”, for the reasons mentioned previously.

What can they do to improve?

I feel like the key component missing in this whole micro fiction “community”, is the lack of any feedback. There is no community moderation. A sign of a healthy community is discussion, and constructive criticism, which I find completely lacking in any of these Facebook pages. People are expected to submit their work, and hope that it is published. There is no feedback from the people who run the pages, and there is no way to garner feedback from the other members of the community 6.

One of the ways to provide constructive feedback is to connect these prospective writers with established ones. Of course, this seems like an idealistic solution, but I do believe that social media is an extremely powerful tool that can make this happen. If a community focuses on the core group of people that actively want to improve, and aren’t just there to feed off its popularity for personal gain, I believe that it could be a great tool for people who want to be better.

A few points in conclusion:

  • The topic of micro fiction and it’s popularity is full of nuances that I wish to capture, and I’ve just scratched the surface. I would love to have a hear from others about their opinions and experiences, so I can see things from all possible points of view.
  • I would love to be able  to know how these pages/communities are run to get a better understanding or appreciation of the challenges involved in bridging the gap between the current and ideal state of the community.
  • Feel free to criticize, but keep it civil. I may even create another post where I respond to your comments.
  • While criticizing, poking fun at  or even hating these micro fiction communities is fine as a personal choice, having a “holier than thou” attitude is not. What I do not like, are people who try to act like the gatekeepers of “good writing”, which may demotivate people. Say what you will about micro fiction, but I like to think that there are at least some people there who want some positive affirmation, some validation of their creativity, people who just need someone to provide feedback and maybe even guidance. Don’t be like this guy.
  • It would be great to look at Micro Fiction in the backdrop of our social media culture as a whole and how it can be used to explain our behavior on social media.
  • Shout out to @thewisecrab and @twatterbaba on Twitter who listened to my ideas and provided feedback.

Footnotes:

A few good examples of micro fiction on twitter are Instant Fiction and @ThePatanoiac

  1. This Quora post talks about the origin story, and it is as follows:

“Terribly Tiny Tales started off as a Facebook page back in 2013, conceptualized by Anuj Gosalia, and later joined in by Chintan Ruparel. The platform consisted of a team of 15 writers who contributed regularly. 3 years later, we are a community of approximately 100 writers who work closely with us as well as over 50,000 writers who share their work with us from all over the world.”

Anuj Gosalia also has a Twitter page in which he describes himself as the “Co-Founder/CEO – Terribly Tiny Tales”, which gives credence to the above.

  1. As such, Terribly Tiny Tales also seem to have a distinct style of white text on a black background, but they have often deviated from that style for collaborations with various websites or for particular topics. This can be seen on their website under collaborations.
  2. On the topic of curation, Terribly Tiny Tales had this to say, to one of the commenters on their website:curationttt
  3. In fact, there are a lot of people who openly poke fun at this trend. One example is Stand-up comedian Sahil Shah who often shares “terribly tatti tales”, like this one.
  4. Perhaps getting feedback from others does not make too much sense in the case of micro fiction, as the amount of words used are too less, and it is not too easy to critique something that is meant to be interpreted in multiple ways. But I am open to more suggestions!