The futility blog

If you’ve spent any time reading blogs, you’ve seen at least a few of them that, rather than serving as a linear chronicle of events and ideas sharing a common theme in the writer’s life, center on a particular event, purpose or goal. In a typical runner’s blog, the writer describes his training and races and daily experiences, with the implicit idea that the blog will be regularly updated until the writer gets sick of it or quits running or no longer has the time. It’s essentially a journal, nothing more. But sometimes people start blogs with titles like “My Journey to the 2016 Olympic Trials,” or “Getting to the Bottom of Russian Doping” that have either a fixed temporal endpoint or a finite purpose or both.

With the latter type, you’ll often discover right away that the person behind the blog has a goal he or she stands no realistic chance of attaining, either because the goal is worthy but simply out of the blogger’s reach (for example, a 40-year-old man with a marathon best of 2:50 hoping to make the Olympic Trials standard of 2:19) or the entire scheme is founded on delusional thinking or ferociously corrupt logic (say, a runner who predicts that a Nepalese marathoner will set a world record this fall because of sherpas’ proven ability to perform yeoman physical feats in the presence of very little oxygen). In such cases, you have unearthed a genuine futility blog.

While it can be a guilty pleasure to watch some yahoo go after a dream seemingly conceived after about a week of relentless bong hits, this only holds true if there is some meaningful reason to root against the person; otherwise you just hurt a little along with him or her as reality starts to set in.

But ah — that’s the key right there: “…reality sets in.” As the Internet has hammered home perhaps more than any other tool our species has constructed, some people are startlingly immune to reality. Sometimes bloggers have psychiatric problems that run riot over what appears to be a fair amount of baseline intelligence and lead them to say incoherent, even jaw-dropping things in complete sincerity. At other times the reality-resistant may be clinically sane but are so emotionally invested in a given outcome or system (most often a religious belief) that they refuse to make even the slightest concessions to the evidence against their positions bombarding them from all sides and instead double down on their counterfactual blathering.

For obvious reasons, blogs operated by people resistant to reality can make for great reading. (Notable exceptions occur — say, when an unhinged person with an axe to grind against someone for nonexistent offenses decides to dedicate a blog entirely to this grudge, and the “someone” happens to be you.) The perfect experience along these lines unfolds when you find a blogger who is a fifth-degree asshole, is operating from a platform of everyday anger and spite rather than manifest mental turmoil, and likes to fight with his interlocutors in the comments section (at least for a while).

So the taxonomical scheme, which I have conceived only as I have been typing this stuff, is this:

  • Personal blogs include journal types and goal- or event-driven types;
  • Goal-driven types include realistic ideas and unrealistic ideas;
  • Unrealistic bloggers can be divided into those who overreach and those who are “out there”;
  • Those who are “out there” may be formally delusional or merely stupid, blinded by anger, etc.;
  • Those who are stupid or blinded or both may be likable but are far more often unlikable;
  • Those who are unlikable make for excellent recreational Web-surfing.

I’ll get to one of these in the last category a little later, but I just wanted to set the stage in the hope that readers will share with me some of their own favorite futility blogs.