I just hate sounding like one of those harbingers of doom: people aren't reading books! teenagers r txtg the language into oblivion! the world is going to hell in a handbasket!
But. I hate the way people engage online. I know folks do this stuff face to face, too, but I usually don't hang out with folks who talk like that. At least not for long. But I do like to read blogs, particularly queer blogs, and I get cranky when readers post stupid stuff.
Okay, so "stupid stuff" isn't exactly the height of articulation, but you know what I mean, right? Those knee-jerk responses that fail to take time--even one or two words--to acknowledge any possible complexity within the original post. I'm not saying folks gotta be hung up on mythical original intent, but maybe take a moment to think, "Is my gut reaction the only possible interpretation here? Am I, perhaps, overreacting when I tell the blogger she's an idiot and represents everything that's wrong with the lgbt community? Hmmmm...."
Part of it is that a lot of folks like to get all wound up about stuff. That's why they enjoy listening to talk radio or watching Fox news or arguing with each other about really important stuff, like Britney's potential comeback or whether reality tv sucks on principle. I don't really enjoy fighting for fighting's sake. There's a few things I'll get hot under the collar about, but I don't really enjoy the adrenaline rush. I'm more excited if someone actually tries to explain his perspective to me.
Lots of folks have talked about what it is about being online that permits writers to be especially uncivil. A quick glance at any Yahoo news discussion board provides a good example of this. Or the comments following YouTube videos. "YOU SUCK!!!!!!!!" is not a good example of civility. Such screaming suggests, in fact, that the poster needs to get a friggin' life, if one little online post makes her get that angry.
It's like we've developed technologies that allow us to be in each others' laps, to intertwine our intellectual and emotional lives in increasingly complex ways, without developing the social skills to manage this intimacy. Kind of like road rage: we share this complicated technological and material space, and we have rules that are supposed to manage this space, but we don't seem to have fully developed the social skills.
Maybe I'm thinking about this because I just finished listening to David Sedaris' latest book (on CD, natch, because you have to listen to him reading his stuff), and he has a long essay on living in Tokyo for a few months, and touches on how a crowded culture like that has developed strategies for preserving personal space.
Once again, I've rambled around the complexities of a problem without zeroing in on a particular cause and developing a solution. I am Uncertainty Woman! But, I shall do my part this fall, working with 100 18-year-olds to convince them to weigh their words and be rhetorically responsible! (I want an invisible plane so's I can fly unscathed through the Sea of Uncivil Discourse.)