A few weeks ago, Becky Hansmeyer wrote a post about how some of her "favorite people on Twitter seem to be…well, avoiding Twitter…and how that made [me] kinda sad". I wholeheartedly agreed with her original post and was both fascinated and excited (for her, this person I don't know personally) to hear this post be the topic of discussion on this past week's Analog(ue).
I've been ruminating on the concepts that Becky, Mike, and Casey all touched on for a few days. I wanted to share it with them, but I thought... is it my place to do so? I enjoy reading what Becky writes about app development1, and enjoy listening to Mike and Casey talk about their lives. Does that give me any sort of right to tell them what I think about what they wrote/said? I know the latter pair receive a fair amount of feedback. I've sent Casey some regarding his other podcast (ATP), but why was it ok for me to do that?
We live in both a highly-connected, and highly-insular world. The capability of our words to impact people we don't even know is more a reality now than ever before. There can be many positives to this, though it also leads to a logical fallacy: because we can say it, and we live in a place where "Congress shall make no law abridging" us from having our God-given right to an opinion, we therefore believe that we have the right to broadcast any opinion, no matter how completely uninformed, disrespectful, unkind, etc. We think that our opinion about a topic we just got all rage-y on today is as valid to be consumed by the masses as the critic, lawmaker, and victim who have first-hand experience with that issue and may have for far longer than we could imagine. Our perceived right broadcast our indignance leads to a world full of angry people, many of whom don't have a clue from where their rage truly originates.
And the culture uses this to its benefit all the while creating victims of groupthink rage. The mob mentality takes over before anyone can reasonably ask themselves "is it right for me to be angry?"2 .
Sometimes it is right. Most of the time, though, we're spectators in a globally-viewable personal conversation, weighing in on someone else's business or throwing trash on their lawn.
(And some of the time it's just the election season.)
Becky wrote a follow-up post and hit the content I wanted to touch on squarely on the head. It made me feel like it was 2004 all over again, where conversations between personal content creators (cough bloggers cough) was managed through trackback links and comment threads, pingomatic and technorati. Content was harder to find, and it was harder to randomly stumble into rage -- you either had to explicitly leave a comment with your email address attached, or wrote your own darn blog post to respond to someone else's ideas.
Now all you have to do is fire off a potentially-anonymous tweet, and that's why I don't blame folks who want to take their content into walled gardens instead of the public square.
But what about me and my thoughts? Should anyone listen to what I have to say in response to their opinions which they shared publicly? Nope. I mean... they can if they want, but something has changed in our culture that we expect they should, and so we send unfiltered responses without questioning if it's our place to do so.
And if I'm completely honest, some part of me wants to anyway despite knowing all of this. I want to be able to send criticism and be told I'm right because on one level I'm self-centered and consider myself important.
Instead I'm going to throw back to 2004 and be perfectly content with what I have here.