Blogging Destroys Civilisation, apparently.

The attached article jerked me out of my self-important, self-aggrandizing daze and jerked its columns at the patches of dead grass and rabid rabbits that lurk in the leafy nirvana that is Web 2.0. The Palace is a nice place to be. Here I am safe. From here I can rain down Righteous Justice on the dictators, the lawbreakers, the wrongdoers and the ne’erdowells. Your God is in his/her/their celestial house and all is right in the Web.

Or not. Enough metaphor.

The author cites quotes from people of whom I have never heard (but who are promoted as experts and sages) who encourage me to believe their assertion that blogging is “all about digital narcissism, shameless self-promotion”, or that blogs “do not add to the available stock of commentary; they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.

Of these two quotes, I can agree with the first in the case of the virtual bike sheds that are the social networking sites, but the second strikes me as the pot calling the kettle a negro. We are all parasitic on society. Papers, TV and the internet are merely transmission mechanisms for stories and opinions created by people. Traditional news outlets only create stories when the world fails to generate its share. This differs from net-based content only in the medium and manner in which it is delivered and that it has been around a bit longer.

Which brings me to the next bone of contention; presentation. I agree that the social networking sites are primarily the domain of the teenager; indeed, the parallels bring back such memories as to make me avoid them completely. The quote;”We are creating a world in which everybody can talk – or , more commonly, shout – about themselves to everybody else.”

Put like that, it sounds like a bad thing. But while the newspapers and evening news are geared towards adults, social networking sites are not. Therefore, one cannot compare one by the standards of the other. In this connected world where every individual has the crushing fact of its insignificance thrust down its throat every day, these sites provide a beacon of hope, the chance to have your say without fear of let or hinderance.

The very word “individual” is losing its meaning. Those choices that make us individuals are no longer ours to make. This “round hole” society we have created generates row upon row of uniformly square pegs. Given that fact, are we so surprised that people feel the need to shout “I AM NOT A NUMBER!” to anyone who will listen?

The article also suggests that blogs are generally1 “claustrophobic environment(s), appealing chiefly2 to a certain kind of agressive, point-scoring male and utterly off-putting to everyone else”. The author of this comment believes signing your real name to your online contributions is the only way to ensure that people are more civil to each other. I can kinda see the point, but it’s no magic bullet and even if it were, you can’t make someone use their real name. And those who do will wind up getting death threats from those who do not.

Abusive content cannot be blamed on blogs, nor is abusive online content a new thing. People have been flaming each other in forums and on bulletin boards even before Sir Tim added the FORM tag to HTML 2.0 back in 1995. And it’s no good the newspapers getting all superior; the papers are never short of vitriol. The only difference is that the words generally have more syllables, the better to confuse the target and reduce the possibility of litigation.

It’s a case of “It’s my ball and I’m taking it home”. The internet has given those of us who scrawl our words upon it the power to commit our thoughts to immortality, a power which, until recently, was the plaything of the MSM. Now we all have to share the ball, the MSM are throwing their toys out of the pram. We all have to learn to play nice and share.

The Web is in its infancy, its ability to inform opinion and shape policy still very much underdeveloped. Like all kids, it needs to have its boundaries set, its transgressions punished and its good deeds rewarded. I don’t feel that the MSM is the body to do that, in the same way that I wouldn’t want a sullen older brother, jealous of the shift of attention to its pudgy, drooling little brother, to decide what’s best for it.

Do we need regulating? Sooner or later the web will grow, lose the puppy fat, grow some teeth and learn how to articulate itself properly. Until that time, if the Web 2.0 decides to poo itself and throw up on the rug once in a while, we should let it.

Blogging does not destroy civilization. If something as basic as freedom of speech can destroy civilization, then it deserves to die. Asking us to gag ourselves to save civilization is destined for failure. If you want us to save the world, you have to be sure we like it the way it is.

1 Always a dangerous word; you will always piss off the few to placate the many.
2 “generally” with fewer medals.

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