This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
We can’t see all the shows. We can’t read all the blogs. We only have so much time and energy, and we have homework and classes.
You say, “I’ll get to it some other time,” “I’ll skim it the next time they post.” When you miss it, you apologize, and you swear you’ll go next time.
But that sucks. Don’t do that anymore. Go to your friends’ events. Read your friends’ work.
This is your duty. No one told you, and unlike feeding yourself or showering, it is not obvious. Still, it is a responsibility. What’s more, it’s the kind of obligation that makes you a better and happier person.
Let’s start with blogs. Your online habits probably already include plenty of low art that eats up your nights and separates you from your friends instead of bringing you closer. Still, you probably have some friends who, between filling your news feed with inanities, share real articles and thought-provoking videos or even write substantive pieces of their own. Engage them in a dialogue about these real things! While the Internet is full of ways to waste time, it can also be a powerful tool for informed dialogue.
Sometimes, the dialogue won’t be very good. Some of your friends have different perspectives from your own or are uninformed. Many students forget grammatical errors can hurt their argument. But with feedback and practice, rhetoric improves and arguments take on nuance. Engage your friends in conversations — on- and offline, cite sources, be respectful and help each other learn.
All of these ideas apply equally to the work your friends and acquaintances share offline. Local art, music and performances see much smaller audiences than they ought to. You will feel better after going to your friends’ events. They will appreciate that you took the time to see the culmination of their hard work. They’ll come out to your next thing, and everyone will become closer friends. It’s like magic.
When you share in your friends’ work, you get better — better at editing, more knowledgeable about the state of the culture surrounding you, better at being a friend. You feel better; your life has more meaning. It sounds overblown and exaggerated to think reading someone’s blog will change your life, but those changes are incremental, and the way to happiness and self-satisfaction is through many small steps.
Attending local performances instead of watching Hollywood gossip and listening to the Top 40 also helps the economy: Supporting local artists makes for healthier communities than does shipping your money across the country to some big corporation.
There’s more. Whatever content you decide to consume, you will find favorites. Something will spark a fire within you, and you will fall in love.
Now, if you become obsessed with what everyone in the world also obsesses over — superstar actors, musicians, authors, politicians and bloggers — your chances to meet and interact with your heroes is minuscule.
If, however, you are touched by the work your friends do, and become a true fan of their work, you get to hang out with your heroes all the time. You get to influence your favorite work. Admit it, you always dreamt of being a part of your favorite stories. If you are already friends with your favorite artists, you don’t have to go anywhere to be part of that story — you are already in it.
You know in the credits or before the preface, where artists give special thanks? That could be to you. So take the 10 minutes and read your friend’s stupid blog.