Make the Internet Modest Again

We gained an audience but overexposed our souls.

Ten years ago, I published my first book. Like many of my peers, my work draws from personal experience and uses elements of memoir. After all, I became a writer in the heyday of confessional blogging when Glennon Doyle and Jen Hatmaker were writing from their kitchen tables about the struggles of domestic life and womanhood. The first blog I ever read described the pain of childbirth in all its gory detail.

But that openness is nothing compared to the kind of self-exposure that today’s platforms demand.

As blogs gave way to social media, content became both more staged and, ironically, more intimate. Instead of writing from the kitchen table, influencers go live from their kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Nothing is off-limits. Audiences are invited to ride the dramatic arc of personal relationship, sexual experience, and religious doubt. Together, we celebrate milestones in the lives of children we don’t even know.

In publishing, the pressure to expose one’s personal life is rooted in the author’s need to drive sales through online presence and platform—what has been deemed the “personal brand.” Writer Jen Pollock Michel, whose career mirrors mine, recently confessed that she’s considering stepping back, not from writing but from book publishing, because “there are fewer and fewer ways to publicize a book that don’t look self-promotional.”

All of this makes for a deeply immodest publishing culture—one in which self-exposure is deemed a virtue.

To name authorial self-promotion as a problem of modesty may strike you as misplaced. It’s gimmicky, to be sure, maybe even cringe as the kids say, but immodest? Part of the …

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