Monday, March 8, 2010

To Blog is to Berate?

Oy. I still consider myself a blogging virgin. Only been at this for a little over a year now and still haven't truly found my "voice". But that parallels my life in general, or more specifically, my ability to write or speak or debate with expertise and conviction. I stay away from anything controversial or "hot" because, well, I take criticism or anyone "calling me out" as a personal attack. In a nutshell, I long to be liked. I'm scared too. Scared that if I take a stand on something, I won't be able to properly defend myself in the event of an attack.

I have come to admire those bloggers who are smarter than me. Or at least far more skilled at conveying their thoughts and opinions clearly, succinctly and often times, with humour than I am. There are some uber talented writers out there. I love reading thought-provoking posts that turn into discussions and debates. But what I love more, is how the blogger justifies him/herself and their convictions. I'm a star-struck fan at times.

One of these blogs is "A Swedish American in Sweden". This guy can really write and he's only in his early twenties I think. He has amassed quite a following of expats and locals alike. He talks about the cultural differences, his struggles with them and his opinions. His posts are candid, humourous and enlightening. He recently wrote an amazing post on his love/hate relationship with Sweden and it sparked a firestorm. Most were comments of support, "I hear ya. Well done on the blog. Thanks for helping me through the transition, etc." but along came two detractors, harsh critics, whom I assume are rather "schooled". They bit back HARD on a post where I saw no controversy. And the discussion quickly degenerated into mud-slinging and some name calling.

It's riveting to read..I think he's up to over 50 comments now. As much as I felt sorry for HairySwede, I was extremely impressed with his ability to defend his post. I'm sure I sound like I'm gushing. Anyhow, I only jumped into the fray a few times and as per the above description of myself, rather carefully. I was in over my head.

It truly amazes me how blogging allows us to break away from conventional social graces and say exactly what's on our mind, speak to others the way we wouldn't speak face-to-face and sometimes say some hurtful things without thought or feeling for others. It doesn't amaze me as much as it saddens me.

I will try, and subconsciously have tried, to govern myself the way I would if I were indeed speaking to the person. If I don't like what someone has to say, I am careful with the way I voice my dissent and if I feel that strongly against someone's blog, well I can always hit the "Next" button. That person has the right to post whatever he/she wants and if I'm clearly a "hater", then why am I continuing to lurk?

That said, as a blogger you are opening yourself up to the world. And you need to take what comes with it, the good and the bad. And people have every right to question you and/or disagree. For me, it's the way in which this is all handled sometimes that frustrates me. I would like to think, regardless of culture, there is a base moral standard we all (should) try to uphold, that should apply equally to the anonymity of cyberspace. Anonymity should not give us permission to disavow common courtesy, respect, integrity.

"Why can't we all just along?"


Maelle said...

I totally agree...

Because I don't like seeing hateful and unrespectful comments on blogs. I've read the comments on Hairy's post and I agree with him, these naysayers did not even take time to really read his blog. Maybe are they jealous of the audience this blog has got ? They could well disagree in another way. And their comments are way too long...

And also because I have a blog (in french ;o)) about Sweden, in which I wouldn't dare speaking about too controversial issues.

And also... because I love Hairy's blog !

Mon said...

Thing is, the moment you put yourself 'out there' and speak, you invite criticism. Of course, the amount of controversy decides the amount of heckling...

But people hear through their personal psychological lenses, and what they hear isn't always what we just said.

I speak bluntly, so I know I'll offend... regularly probably... but that's me and if someone gets to know me they know I'm really a compassionate and caring person. I just speak my mind, doesn't mean I think I'm right.

But readers rarely have that time, and being public means you could get a reader who has only just popped in... right in the middle of a rant. One which regular readers will 'get'....but to the new reader you sound like a whiner, or sadist, or superior, or rude, or rascist...

Anyway... just rambling... :)

Hyacynth said...

I agree with what Mon was saying. Once you say something and hit publish, you're out there and open for judgement. And most of us writers are sensitive to attacks on our work. I feel like what I write is kind of like my baby sometimes. I have to step back when I get negative comments, and remember that other opinions are just opinions. They do not define me -- good or bad.

SwedishJenn said...

@Mon and Hyacynth. That's my problem: Negative comments do, but shouldn't, affect me the way they do. This blog has been a great exercise for me in overcoming some insecurities. I would like to tackle heavier subjects but don't feel, at this point, I have the stamina, eloquence or not sure if "knowledge" is the right word, to do so.

David said...

Jenn, if you believe, like I do, that our common ancestors walked out of the heart Africa some very, very, very long time ago, all they, and us, have done since is become very, very different people and cultures, moral standards and all.

There have been many attempts to bring everyone back into the fold and impose a single culture etc etc. My dear Britain tried to conquer the whole lot (the sun eventually "sat" on that idea) and the Americans continue to spread their cultural influence with bombs, Mcdonalds, and Lady Gaga. But, you see, difference is very resistant.

Debate, discussions, arguments... are merely bridges between our differences (said with a cheeky grin). Sometimes it can become nasty, but you know what... when diplomacy fails, so is war, and loads of people find reason in that.

Don't be afraid to share your opinions because you are afraid that someone might jump on your back. You're not always going to be right, or fair but you (especially you) won't always be wrong and unjust either. Really, the worst that could happen is that you learn something new and different.

septembermom said...

Jenn, your voice is valid and genuine. Don't worry about the feedback you may receive. We love coming here because it's all about "Jenn", and we enjoy reading your opinions and engaging in debate.

SwedishJenn said...

@David: The INFAMOUS David! Be still my beating heart. Well uhmmmm...welcome David (said in my most hospitable Canadian voice).

I agree with you and like your analogy, Debate and discussion are merely bridges between our differences. It's when things turn ugly and nasty that I get sad. I'm all for healthy debate but not when what I perceive to be personal attacks become involved.

I am one of those: "War, what is it good for? Absolutly nothing!" kinda gals and often shyed away from conflict or confrontation of any kind. I blame my mother for that...ha!

Bringing me to the "afraid to share my opinions" part. I find it easier to take the easier, well travelled, popular concensus road. Scratch that. I don't write "deep" because, well, I'm not.

You won't find me extolling the virtues of attachment parenting or trying to convince my blog readers there is a God and they can find salvation in Jesus or explaining my take on Israel vs. Palestine. Why? Because I am not knowledgeable enough to do any of these subjects the justice they deserve. And because of that, I'd get tons of very knowledgeable people bashing me. And that would suck, for me.

The Hairy Swede debate quickly had me lost, reading and re-reading entries to try and keep up with the logic. It was a brain twister. But the one thing that I did "get" was the mean-spirited nature it devolved into. And the one thing I didn't get was how a seemingly innocent (to me) post could get so twisted. But to quote Wise Mon above, "But people hear through their personal psychological lenses, and what they hear isn't always what we just said."

So I will stick to the sweet stuff (which btw, I have recently found out even what I perceive to be sweet can come across as sour to others), because well I am a BLONDE in Sweden ;-).

As for you David, I will anxiously await some more shit disturbing and I will, in all sincerity, try to learn from it :-).

SwedishJenn said...

Ps. I have been inspired by recent events to come clean with some of my most horrendous cultural missteps. Like the time I hosted a Christmas dinner at our home in small town Montenegro wearing a Statue of David inspired apron. Where I'm from, that's funny. Where I was living, the older women in attendance weren't laughing.

David said...

I think sometimes it is more important to do what is right even if it is not popular. It gets easier if you remember that nobody has the right to not be offended. I know that not everybody can compartmentalise emotion this way but it is a useful skill.

And I wouldn't fret over the odd awkward misstep. The important thing is not to make the same one twice, that would just be rude really.

SwedishJenn said...

@SeptemberMom: Thanks so much :-)