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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Essays as blog posts, and the assumption of good faith
delirium happy
I'm much more wary about what I write in my LJ these days than I used to be. In a sense, that seems an odd thing to say; I'm now often writing about fairly personal details from my life, whereas in the past I used to tend more towards writing longer, more detached, essay-like entries.

The thing is, though, I'm very burned out on the bloggish, essay-like entries. It's not that I don't have ideas for things like that to write about, nor am I lacking in ways to tie together disparate ideas, nor motivation to write about them, nor time to do so. The thing I am lacking is the energy and the motivation to deal with the negative comments that they almost invariably get.

Let me clarify: I have no problems with people who disagree with me. I expect people to disagree with me. I'll often change my viewpoint somewhat based on articulated and convincing dissenting views. The problem I have is when people focus in on a singe sentence of a 2000 word essay and choose to argue over it. Worse still is when they completely misunderstand what I was saying anyway. Worse still is when they leap in with aggressive comments based on this misinterpretation without even asking for a clarification. And the worst of all is when they start laying into me and questioning my motives based on this misinterpretation.

Don't get me wrong, I sometimes say things that could be worded better. I can put my foot in my mouth sometimes. And on rare occasions, I'm just downright offensive due to ignorance. I think pretty much everyone is from time to time, and it would be arrogant of me to try to claim I was any different. What really gets to me, though, is when people start accusing me of being deliberately offensive or prejudiced.

There seems to be a lot of that on the Internet, though. Discussions online very much have an air of "shoot first, ak questions later" about them. When people see something that they find objectionable, they tend to jump in with both feet to attack the poster, without pausing to think "Could they possibly have meant anything else? Is there any explanation for what they've said other than malice?"

To some extent, I can understand this. The Internet is inhabited by a lot of assholes who will see any attempt at reconciliation as a sign of weakness and not wanting to lose ground to them is reasonable. Not to mention that there are a whole lot of otherwise-reasonable people online who are using the "shoot first, ask questions later" strategy.

It makes me think somewhat of game theory and the prisoner's dilemma. In a one-off prisoner's dilemma, you're better off betraying the other prisoner. In an iterated series, you're better off generally cooperating with him. The Internet, with its relative anonymity and its numerous one-off encounters would make nastiness an optimal approach (from a game theory perspective).

You'd think that on LiveJournal, where you're interacting with the same people over and over, you'd get a more civilised result and to some extent, that is what happens. It's not without problems though. Long essay type entries are much more likely to be linked to by other people, which brings outsiders into the mix. Then there's the asymmetry between "friends" and "friend-ofs". There are a bunch of people who read my journal who I hardly know at all. I don't have a problem with that, and I welcome all readers, many of who comment constructively and insightfully. The problem is that it only takes one bad apple to sour the whole barrel.

I don't really have anywhere that I'm going with this entry. I can't think of a good solution, and I certainly know I'm not flawless in this regard; I try to remember to always assume good faith, but I don't always succeed. It makes me sad, though. I wish that things like this didn't happen, but they do. I wish I wasn't so burned out on essay entries, but I am.

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Thanks for posting this.

This is not why I screen anonymous comments, but I suspect that doing so would help with that. (Thus far, I have not felt the need to screen comments by LJ users not on my friendslist, but it might also be useful in this context.)

(For the record: I screen primarily to stop comment spam, and secondarily so the few people I have banned from commenting can't just do so anonymously.)

I like this essay, and the points you make. (It makes me think of a.f.p , and how it has changed since I first saw it).

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