jShamsul.com

Next.js is a flexible React framework from Vercel, it gives you building blocks to create fast web applications either through the server-side rendering paradigm, or in a static site generation way. I did not use much of Next.js features. I basically created a static website and never bothered to update or introduce changes to it.

But, this post is not about how I use Next.js with Contentlayer1 and MDX to turn this website into a personal blog. That is not what the word “Next” in the title is referring to.

I contemplated for quite some time about starting a blog. As someone who had gone through the “blogosphere” era during the late 90s and early 2000s, I am hesitant to get back to writing online blogs. I had several somewhat successful blog sites during the “blogosphere” days. By “successful” here, what I meant is, the blogs that I maintained had generated a few hundreds of dollars in Google AdSense. I know this is laughable by today's standard of online revenue, but for a university student back at that time, this was something.

During that time, I was obsessed with watching my page views metrics. I keep tweaking things for search engine optimisations (SEO), trying hard to fish for any sort of traffic I can get. Furthermore, I’ve used those web traffic generating tactics, which I am not proud of. Everything just to squeeze a bit more page views, to get a bit more ad impression for Google AdSense.

It didn’t start out that way in the beginning. I started a blog because I did enjoy writing, although I wasn’t any good at it back then. By writing and publishing online, I hope to improve my writing skills. At first, I only wrote things that I am passionate about, things that I feel strongly about. That quickly changed when I learned that one can make money via online ads, desperate for page views, I just wrote whatever that was trending at that time, just creating content for the sake of having content. I wrote about things in which I have no knowledge on. I was just “bullshitting”.

Nowadays, there are so many bullshits everywhere, why would I want to add more? In Harry G. Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit, he mentioned that “bullshit” is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. But, what are the circumstances in which require someone to elaborate on matters of which they are to some degree ignorant? In the book it mentioned that it is the widespread conviction that, as a responsible citizen in a democratic society, they need to have opinions about everything.

While that may have been true to some extent a few years back, I think the “bullshit” phenomena has worsened in the present time. Nowadays, people feel the need to express their opinions about everything, not because they believe that it is what a responsible citizen of a democratic society should do, nowadays, it is more about getting attention. Desperate for the views, they are quick to share things that they may not have knowledge about.

In his book, “bullshit” is different from the act of lying. To tell a lie, you’ll need to know the truth so that you can tell a different statement which you know is untrue. When someone is lying, that person knows what the truth is.

To bullshit, on the other hand, is to not bother at all with knowing what is the truth. This lack of care about what is truthful is to me far more dangerous than telling a lie. It does not matter if the opinion that you shared does not in any way reflect the reality of the situation, what matters is that you have shared your opinion. When someone is “bullshitting”, that person does not know and does not care what the truth is.

So what made me decide to start writing, knowing that I might just end up contributing to increasing the amount of bullshit online? Bullshit is avoidable if one is sincere in their pursuit of what is truthful. If one takes extra care in making sure that statements made reflect the reality of the situation.

To me, writing and thinking go hand in and with one another. Writing is contemplating, pondering, and thinking about your ideas. It is different from speaking out your ideas vocally, one can just turn on a camera and start yapping, and you have content. There is something powerful in putting your ideas in written words. When you write, you read what you wrote, you rewrite that paragraph, you read it again, you reword that sentence, you read once more, you repeat this process as you think, ponder, and contemplate on your ideas. Here in this blog, is me thinking, pondering, and contemplating.

Another reason that kindle my interest of writing was when I stumbled on this quote by Pramoedya Ananta Toer,

Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah. Menulis adalah berkerja untuk keabadian.

"A man can be brilliant as high as the sky, but as long as he does not write, he will disappear from society and history. To write is to work for posterity."

That quote really struck a chord with me. To write is to work for posterity. But let’s be honest, writing on this website that nobody visits, I would not expect much posterity from it. So why bother?

In a 1997 interview with Mr. Rogers done by Charlie Rose, he asked Mr. Rogers this question—“How many kids do you think are out there who, in 30 years you’ve influenced, who you have made a different in, and make them feel something special?”

Fred Rogers answers, “I don't care how many, even if it's just one. We get so wrapped up with numbers in our society. And the most important thing is that we're able to be one to one, you and I with each other at the moment. If we can be present in the moment with the person that we happen to be with at the moment, that's what's important.”

Fred Rogers is the TV host for the long-running children's show on PBS, Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood. A show that probably had inspired a few now grown adults to be a better person. I’m not saying that I hope to inspire children just as Mr. Rogers did, far from that. I just love the answer he gives to that question.

We have become a society that is too wrapped up with numbers. Page views, unique impressions, likes, repost, and followers. These are the metrics that we all chase day to day. Modern digital communication technology makes it easy for us to reach more people, our ideas can travel wider and farther than ever before, yet can we really be one to one and in the moment with each other?

In Mortimer J. Adler’s book, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, he says that reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. I hope in reading my writings here on this website, we did have a moment together, it’s an asynchronous moment for sure, alas I hope it’s still a moment that we shared together.

Footnotes

  1. I've switched back to parsing MDX directly and removed Contentlayer. It's a promising project, but it seems like it is not supported anymore.