Thursday, July 20, 2006

Commenting on blogs

When I started blogging, my take was to regard it as my personal learning pad. It's a place for me to sort out my thoughts and try to learn something about the way I conduct myself, how I interact with the opposite sex, and what I want to be when I grow up. It's also a great way to reflect upon changes in personality as one moves through life.

The blogs are public because I thought that even if it helps one person learn something for themselves, I'm satisfied.

I left myself open to comments because for several reasons:

- to test whether or not I'm making sense
- to get opinions on things I'm not sure about
- to get confirmation that I'm doing the right thing

I prefer people identify themselves for comments because:

- I don't like random people who try and post advertisements disguised as comments
- if you're going to comment on my personal life I think it's only fair you give me an idea of who you are

I didn't start reading other people's blogs until this year. It's been a very eye-opening experience to reach outside of my safe, little world and see how other people live and breathe. I especially enjoy reading comments on those blogs because it helps me to see other perspectives (whether or not I agree or understand their point of view).

The thoughtfulness and time people invest into comments is impressive. Sometimes I don't feel worthy of posting a comment because I lack detail and the ability to concisely articulate my rationale. I think a lot, maybe too much, yet I don't feel like I have as good a grasp on the realities of human behavior. On the other hand, feeling inadequate has challenged me to think more carefully about what I say and how I say it. (I've been working on this entry for a couple days and still am not happy with it.)

I was shocked, however, to observe how nasty and bitchy people can get over opinions. My assumption was that commenters would be respectful of people's opinions and express oneself in a constructive manner. It's not something I'm necessarily good at, but I think it's good behavior. Disagreements are to be expected but let's be fair about it. The Internet really has loosened people's boundaries of etiquette.

I don't pretend to be an expert about anything. I know that my life has had few ups and downs compared some others. Everyone has an opinion, but I don't understand why people have to get so defensive and mean. We all have been shaped by different experiences. Perhaps I'm naive and simple, so be it. I like being a generally nice person.

The other day, I went back to see that someone had commented on my comment. Honestly, at first, I thought they were being mean. Now, I'm not sure if they were just trying to joke around a little. (Yes, I'm that clueless and tone is impossible to accurately convey in writing.) I was purposely vague because I don't claim my definition is everyone else's, but apparently being vague leads to people filling in the blanks and stating that you're a bad cliche. In another case, my attempt to look at the bright side of things was put down by one reader as some excuse for bitchy people. I remind myself that I shouldn't take personal offense at these, and that I need to toughen my skin. Still, it stings a little.

These are examples of how the Internet creates anonymity. Anonymity emboldens people to say and do things they normally wouldn't. On a positive note, it frees people from societal and self-imposed limitations. From a negative standpoint, it encourages dangerous and destructive behavior. Is there enough balance?

As for my own blog, I certainly would never discourage comments. Constructive criticism is welcome. It's hard to hear, but I know it's a good thing. Partly, my hope is to get some honest answers; things my friends would not feel comfortable saying to my face.

I do request a modicum of etiquette. That means no personal attacks, no monologues about unrelated subjects, and I prefer generalizations be accompanied by some amount of evidence. Is that so unreasonable? Even I have days where I'd like to lash out at someone, but I don't feel it's healthy for anyone.

If you have issues, go see a therapist, don't take it out on other people.

And isn't it funny that Blogger's spell check doesn't recognize the word "blog."

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