Why Self-Help Articles Are Popular

I was reading a philosophy book yesterday.

It was written a couple thousand years ago, but you could have fooled me. It sounded just like every other article on the internet these days.

Yes, it’s true that there are many low-brow self-help articles that populate the narrowed halls of Medium and every other platform. And yes it’s true that many of these articles — some of them even written by me — are horrible.

But here’s the thing, there is a reason why people read them. Why even though they are ostensibly terrible and tell us things we already know, we continue to consume them at an almost staggering rate.

The truth is that nothing ever really changes, and that almost from the dawn of civilization, man and woman — Adam and Eve, if you’re into that sort of thing — have been trying to find answers, looking for knowledge, seeking out direction.

And while it may have once been a religious text we turned to for answers, now we’re just Googling things. Partially because it’s easy and partially because there aren’t that many institutions out there left to trust (not that we can trust Google or any other web entity, really).

Ultimately, it comes down to this. We may want people to care about serious things, care about the issues — the environment, the refugee crisis, water crisis, this crisis, that crisis. Everything’s a crisis.

But most people only truly care about one crisis. The crisis of self.

How do I live? Who am I? What do I do? What am I supposed to care about? How can I be happy? How can I find a job? How can I find love? How can I love better? What’s this bump on my arm? Why does it hurt when I pee?

People, they mostly just want to know how to live.

Written by

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store