I know that at least some of us are hesitant about the move from paper to wireless, but I have found at least one positive result from the switch: the wonderful world of blogging!
With the advent of the internet has come a new phenomenon that has created an unprecedented space for people – average, everyday people – to express their own thoughts and opinions about whatever they please. Whereas traditionally this sort of expression was reserved for newspapers, scholastic journals and the like, now you can find any number of sites that provide tons of different perspectives from anyone with access to a computer and the web. It’s pretty insane, and it’s very cool to experience.
Anyone can create one of these blogs, and they can literally write about anything. I’ve seen blogs that are more like online journals (à la LiveJournal and Xanga), blogs that help friends keep up with one another (I myself started a blog about my senior year as a way to keep my friends in the loop about my life), and blogs about food (serious eats), humor (Lamebook, textsfromlastnight, FML), random acts of awesome (1000 Awesome Things), and any number of ideas you might want to explore.
Most recently, I’ve been reading opinion pieces on blogs about cultural phenomena like Star Wars and Twilight. And while these blogs are great because they allow people who previously might never have been heard of to get their own ideas out there, the backlash is starting to make me a little wary.
How many times has this happened to you:
You’re aimlessly surfing the web when you stumble across a random post that seems like it might be interesting. You read the the post and it’s as you suspected – awesome! You love the idea, the way it’s written, and that you found it on a blog that you can now follow. You scroll down to the comments to see what other people think about it, and to your dismay you find a raging flame war.
It’s the most frustrating feeling in the inter-world, finding that people have reverted to childish antics and hurling curses, insults, and whatever they possibly can to denigrate the opposing party. Let’s look at Twilight. (Am I sensing a theme in my blogs here?) A lot of bloggers have risen up in protest of Meyer and her vampire saga, offering criticism based on what they feel is wrong with the novels. These writers have garnered a generous number of supporters, generally referred to as Antis (anti-whatever they dislike, in this case anti-Twilight), who express similar thoughts on the subject in the comment section. They tend to be logical and well-composed, but they’re also incredibly condescending and group all Twilight fans together into some kind of subhuman entity, making sweeping generalizations that they’re all brainless and that their thoughts and opinions don’t count. These Antis are met with a passionate defense from “twi-hards” and “Cullenists” who claim that Antis are just jealous of Meyer for her writing ability and newfound wealth, Bella for getting a gorgeous guy, and Edward for being hot. They accuse Antis of thinking too much and fabricating a problem where there isn’t one.
Both sides make statements like this: We’re entitled to our own opinion, and if you don’t like it, then SHUT UP!
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure flaming someone else into silence is the best way to talk about a book. I like the internet because it promotes discussion and encourages people with different perspectives to offer their opinions and insights – I wasn’t aware that it’s just another place to find people who agree with you and hate on everyone else. I’m not so hot on Twilight, either, but I’m certainly not attacking anyone who disagrees with me. I much prefer to have a debate about why I don’t like it and to read what someone might say to defend the series than call someone an idiot because they’ve expressed an interest in a book that I don’t like.
Luckily, a lot of bloggers recognize this, and they warn in their posts not to flame. They monitor the comments, or they shut down the section altogether when discussion gets out of hand. This is encouraging, but it doesn’t stop people from trying shut each other down.
I’m happy to see that people are passionate about topics and about what they believe, but I’ve got serious doubts about the effects of flaming. The internet is an opportunity to have your voice heard, but that’s not going to last long if people keep burning each other so often and so thoroughly. I can only hope that these wars will go the way of dial-up connections and fade into obsolescence before people are shut down so many times that they just don’t express their opinions in the first place. Then the potential of the internet for sharing ideas will be completely lost.