May 11, 2012

no comment? yeah, right!

The ability to publish anything we want is new, but we've adapted to it quickly. Talking back to anything published is newer, but we're just adjusting, painfully, now.
"Lately, there’s been a new focus on commenting culture, with significant players in the industry starting to think and talk about the monster we’ve created and how we might course-correct after all this time."
For many years I had a regular column published on the second page of our regional newspaper. It was a thrill to see it on the newsstand and peel back to A2 and see my little photo and my clever headline. But the essay had to be accepted, I sometimes had to do a re-write, and it was seen by one editor and one copyeditor at a minimum before it was printed. Every once in a while, someone would recognize me in town and mention something I wrote. Once in a great while there'd be a letter, sent by US Mail, pointing out an error or with a compliment. My editor might or might not pass it on.

Now, as an author and blogger, and someone who comments on other blogs and articles, the responses are fast and often furious. I don't think savage is too strong a word. The world of online commenting allows all the naked, undigested, indigestible thought flotsam to surface - in real time.

I don't want to go back to the sterility of one-way publishing. Not only was less satisfying it was a dead end. An idea was sent out, maybe echoed a bit, and generally died. Even if it got scrapbooked or put on a fridge the writer rarely knew how it landed except by having the editor willing to publish you again. Now writers, and everyone with a screen, gets to hear the response: there's no distance. This feedback makes its way into what we write, and what we do.

I don't like reading the horrid and ignorant thoughts in the comments of many newspapers and blogs - especially on topics that matter to me. But they are real, and they do reflect reality. It isn't about civility as much as it is truth. There's a lot of ignorance and thoughtless cruelty in the hearts of man. There is also wisdom and beauty that may not come out without the safety of a bland username and anonymous email. There are bullies, but there are also allies.

Writers have to develop thicker skins, and perspective. Readers have to stop believing that comments have to be right or kind. Get your word in, show who YOU are, and let people live with their own conscience at night. These days, we all get the last word.

7 comments:

  1. Is that you officially letting me and a certain lady from the Great Pacific North West off the leash?

    I suspect more it was in response to the wonderful comment from Anonymous yesterday. Her clear, honest and balanced words stayed with me for the rest of the day. It reinforced my resolve to carry on. xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. As if I would or COULD put the Tall Ones on a leash!

    More the latter, certainly. That and the tiresome habit of the un-Internet-involved to spend their time disapproving the etiquette at a party they don't attend!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sweetheart, when it comes to the Internet you are the LIFE of the party!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Being a Lady In Public is a misdemeanor that's always going to draw some judgey-pants' unwarranted commentary. When you get to the felonious Lady Publicly Displaying Opinions, things can take a nasty turn indeed.

    Conversation that embiggens the territory certainly does require thick skin. Or at least, a willingness to sit and stew in it for a while. In honesty my skin has never gotten *any* thicker; I hate being wrong or being taken to task as much as I ever did! I've just concluded that I don't learn *anything* until I shut up for long enough to take it in :).

    However, there's a lot out there PRETENDING to be conversation, that's REALLY about silencing. Silencing is never about embiggenation or exchange or growth. It's always about preserving someone ELSE'S status quo at your or another's expense. It's a very dangerous truth - opposing it brings one set of risks, ignoring it another. Is this "the only way to win is not to play" territory? IDK, but I think about it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Embiggens! LOVE it!

      Perhaps we need to stop expecting it to be "conversation" and instead reserve that term for live interactions between equals. Internet comments are more in the order of graffiti, messages in bottles, releasing balloons into the air, and shouting into canyons! One way comments say more about the source than the object, IMO.

      LPDO

      Delete
  5. I wanted to comment on this, well the part about being anonymous. Anonymity is both a blessing and a curse. It can be used to hurt and to save lives. If we don't protect anonymous speech, then where does the whistle blower turn, or the person with the crime tip go?

    ReplyDelete