(Blog) has earned the achievement [Stood in the Fire]!
No, not my blog, for which I both thankful and disappointed. While I envy the voluminous passion that comes through in the comments on other blogs, I question the validity of that passion.
A brief teaching lesson. One of the most valuable things I learned in college about teaching (admittedly, there were very few valuable things I learned in college about teaching, but this is one of them) was the use of silence. Silence can be a battering ram against all sorts of bad behaviors in the classroom. Whether it’s attention-seeking bad behavior or the whole class launching into an off-topic conversation, a silent posture of patience works wonders to get people back focused. You see, silence makes people uncomfortable, and when people expect you to be yelling to quiet them down and you just stand and wait, it unnerves them. Silence is a beautiful, easy-to-handle weapon.
As you know, dear reader, I’m new to the blogging scene, and other than reading a stray class-related blog now and then, I really didn’t know anyone or anything when I first dipped my hoof in the water. Tamarind (who I gather was the author of Righteous Orbs)’s post on Pink Pigtail Inn yesterday brought me quite up to speed with what it’s like out there. I learned a lot about the musings and misunderstandings via his post and read up on some of the unintended consequences of errant words. I replied to the post, and some of what I said there I’m going to repeat here (for which I apologize if you are the type to read comments), but I felt like the short comment I wrote wasn’t enough to say on the issue.
What I said then and reiterate now is about responsibility. Let me first tell you a morality tale, only somewhat related to my topic. One of my four leveling buddies, for the fourth Friday out of five, has told me that he has other plans, thus again screwing up our leveling schedule. I use silence a lot, and due to the silence on the phone after he told me this, he continued that he had been bought a ticket to a comedy show without having been asked. This is after last weekend, where he was expected to go to someone’s black belt test (an adult’s), after the Friday he had to go see a friend he hadn’t seen in 10 years (who had been in town all day), and after having to go play a game with his brother (an adult) that they expected him to play.
Taken one at a time, I could forgive any of these things (and, realistically, I forgive all of them because he’s my friend and can spend his time as he sees fit). However, the tone he frequently uses is that he’s helpless to resist these constant interruptions. To which I respond, “Take some responsibility. It may not have been your decision, but your sheepish nature has led people to treat you this way” (coincidentally, this is the very friend who did not, in fact, sheep the diamond, which led to hilarity on vent that night).
In his view, he has very little control over this aspect of his life (his free time). As a result, he’s dragged around like a rag doll with no free will of his own. Nonsense. He could say no to any of the above. Or half of them, or any amount that would show he’s making an effort to make our weekly get-togethers a priority.
Refusing to take a stand for or against something can happen for many reasons. His, I know, is a desire to avoid conflict, which is a purely noble endeavor. He doesn’t want to upset one group of friends, so another gets put on the backburner. Others, though, don’t take a stand due to cowardice, or a tacit agreement with whatever’s happening, or because they think it’s not their responsibility.
Here’s the connection to the blogosphere. I acknowledge up front that my attitude comes from a lifetime of ignorance on the subject. That said, I see a lot of heated personal interactions in my job being a teacher. I’m excellent at defusing them. I don’t italicize much, so take it for its weight.
I feel that a vast majority of the nasty interactions that occur on blogs are a result of misunderstandings in which neither side is willing to take a stand to admit wrongdoing, miscommunication, or to clarify what was meant. What their motivation to sit by is I cannot know, for I barely know any of these people. I do know, though, from the ONE limited example I saw in yesterday’s blog, that the simple act of sending an email even after the fact averted what might have been another firefight (though it turned out to be nothing at all).
Another morality play. I am very bad at keeping in touch with friends long-distance. Having made two 1000 mile moves in my life, I’ve left good friends behind to whom I rarely speak. I don’t call because I feel embarrassed by not having called, and every day that goes by makes me more embarrassed. I think this cumulative shame may factor in to these firefights, as well. Not having doused the fires early on by taking a stand against the commentator’s rhetoric, be it violent, mean-spirited, bullying, or just irritating makes it harder to take a stand later because now you’ve got to address why you’ve waited so long.
I mentioned the Penny Arcade situation in my comment as well. They wrote a WoW comic in which rape was used in a lighthearted manner. This offended many people, to which PA responded with sarcasm. Accusations were made about Penny Arcade engaging in the rape culture, to which they responded with sarcasm. PA continuously refused to engage the issue in a serious way, because they knew that their intent wasn’t to perpetuate any rape culture ideas. However, the fervor grew (and continues to do so) until a twitterer wrote (paraphrased) that it would be funny to go to Mike’s (one of the comics) house and murder his wife and child.
No one on either side wanted things to escalate like this. The threat was widely denounced, but it took such strong rhetoric to finally get people to back down a little. We see afterwards a very thoughtful post by Penny Arcade on the subject that, if written a month before, may have done something to curb the final outcome. Instead, neither side stood up to denounce the ridiculous things being said and instead ignored the situation or acted glibly about it. In the end, the lack of action only perpetuated the problem.
All that said, I think this example clearly indicates my point. There’s some crazy folks out there on the Internet, and when you start a small brushfire, they may fan the flames into an uncontrollable inferno. Like releasing a feather into the wind, once you put your opinion out there, you lose control over it.
So, the advice from the completely untested, brand-new, green, wet-behind the ears blogger who really knows nothing about what he’s talking about? Think about what you say and how you say it. Hold your tongue from time to time. Don’t rise to every spar put out there about you or your blog. Sometimes silence is the best option. I’m not asking anyone to be disingenuous or to refrain from stating their opinion, just to remember that giving yourself a night to think over what you want to say (as I did before writing this post) might improve not only your writing but the overall response to the situation.
Remember: we’re part of a constructive collaboration. We’re teammates who occasionally fight, not competitors who occasionally agree. Our goals are one and the same: to create a intelligent, thoughtful WoW community where people feel free to appropriately express their opinions, to be heard, and to be responded to in kind.
Any deviation from that harms us all.
Stubborn (a quality I hope not to have the first time I’m attacked)