Operant Bloggers: The Demon on our Shoulder

C.S.Lewis_demonAs I have started blogging,  the phrase “Operant Bloggers” has floated more than once into my imagination.  We bloggers have only a few ways to numerically judging our blogging success:

1)  Number of Comments
2)  Numbers of Views (which you can see with WordPress)

Of course, one could rate one’s success on self-congratulations or thankfulness of a few readers but when it comes to empirical statistics, I think we are only left with the two above.

Now, the downside of these measures is that, there is a sizable audience which prefers posts which are written with vehement anger, hatred, bigotry, or personal attacks.  If we write for these folks, our numbers will go up.  Angry, bitter audiences will feed our numbers and we then could end up writing more negative posts.   Thus the lesser side of our nature is reinforced. This operant conditioning via our numerical measures could easily lead us to become a very different blogger than the one we began as.  We must take care to weigh our measures of success !

I remember a C.S.Lewis story about a demon on a man’s shoulder tempting the man to do bad things.  And as the man gave into the demon’s suggestions, the demon grew larger and larger while the man grew smaller and smaller, to eventually disappear.  I think this captures well how we imperceptibility change over time to become a different person depending on where we fix our attention.

Note:  Maybe a reader could help me remember the source of that story.   I think it may have been from C.S.Lewis’ “The Screw Tape Letters“.  My memory may have altered the fact-as it alters everything !  But I think C.S.Lewis was the author of a similar story.  Oh well, in my mind now the story captures both the wisdom of Christian and Buddhist insights which I treasure.  The photo is clipped from a 1947 Time Magazine Cover on C.S.Lewis.


Filed under Blogging, Philosophy & Religion

5 responses to “Operant Bloggers: The Demon on our Shoulder

  1. Ian

    Its a combination of two stories, both from “The Great Divorce”, by Lewis.

    In the first the narrator witnesses a man with a Demon on his shoulder talking with an Angel. The angel wants to destroy the demon but won’t without the man’s permission. The demon is saying things like “I’ll be good in future, I won’t tempt you” and so on. Eventually the man agrees, the demon is destroyed and then brought back to life as a great white stallion, that the man mounts and rides off upon.

    The second is a man holding a lead with another character on the end of it. He is reasoning with someone from heaven. Over the course of the conversation the leashed character (maybe a demon, but not described as such) grows and they diminish, representing how the mask we can put on can grow until there is nothing left of the original person. Eventually the real man has shrunk to nothing, the leashed character picks him up, and the soul is forever lost.

    For sheer writing, the book is exceptional. If you can get past personal theological disagreements, it is worth a read.

  2. Thanx Ian — fun how the mind conflates ! I must say, I like my version.
    I agreed, if you can read past the theological stuff, Lewis’ writing is good and even in the theological stuff are hidden gems.
    Ian, do you have a blog yourself? I imagine/hope you do.

  3. Ian

    I don’t have a blog, no. I’ve thought about it, but not got round to it. Maybe someday when there are 25 hours in the day.

  4. I guess it’s similar issue with the more established media. The more sensationalist the stories, the greater the audience. The financial incentives for being sensational and simplistic far outweigh any incentive for accuracy.

    On almost every occasion I happened to have inside knowledge on a news story, I find that they are a very bad approximation of what had actually happened.

  5. Exactly. When numbers matter, numbers change us.
    I guess it is staying a head of the numbers–of remaining conscious with intent–that matters. Hello Rene !

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