During last weekend’s shenaningans, I noticed a curious and distressing idea pop up a few times. Because there’s nothing I love more than a drastic oversimplification, I’ll refer to it as the “Online Loyalty Oath”. Briefly, there were a number of posts that basically boiled down to:
“If you were a real friend and not a total coward, you’d join in and yell a those people over there that were mean to me.”
or (alternate formulation)
“Didn’t you see the completely insulting thing that person wrote? Why didn’t you join in and publicly condemn it?”
If there’s one thing the Slashdot trolls did get right, it’s the idea that the degree of self-absorbption on display in blogs is something to be pitied, embarassed by, and, yes, ridiculed.
Look, if the empty boilerplate people always recite about the true deep meaning (hic) of blogging (the old “unfiltered voice of an individual” hogwash that even I might have been a big enough, class A1 sucka to believe at one point) means anything, any damn thing at all, it’s that, really, we (aw, sheesh), we aren’t obligated to say anything. If my text editor’s open and I see you taking a hit from an asshole, hey, I might throw you a virtual heavy-metal-goat-head sign of support. I may solemnly clasp my hand over my heart and wish you well. Maybe I’ll just open another window and download some cat pictures.
I read about half of the weekend’s ugliest posts while sitting in front of my keyboard with a pretty seven-month old girl cooing in the crook of my arm. Do you know how little I cared about giving anyone an ego stroke at that moment?
As for the women, though we scorn and flout ‘em,
We may live with, but cannot live without ‘em.
— Frederic Reynolds