Here’s a really important piece to come out of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It’s the author Patrick Ness talking about the effect Twitter and web comments have on our ability to speak our minds.
Let me quote…
Instead of bringing us all together in an omnipresent, multi-faceted discussion, the internet instead has made sectarianism an almost default position… hough no one really wants to say so out loud, most of us seem to accept these days that the comments on Guardian articles … while occasionally containing interesting replies, are far more often the domain of outraged point-missers, incandescently furious pedants, and trolls who don’t bother reading past the sub-headline
Dead right. I posted comments on the Guardian a couple of times and gave up because all I got back was a stream of personal abuse. Given this is the UK’s ‘liberal’ paper it’s amazing how vituperative the ‘debate’ is here.
But actually I self-censor on this blog too because I can’t be bothered with the hassle and occasional upset you get from expressing a simple opinion. I rarely write about Apple any more because even the most anodyne of pieces produce a stack of off-topic comments from fanboys who clearly have nothing better to do than berate anyone who isn’t part of the cult.
I’m also not minded to write a couple of articles about self-publishing I’d been considering because I know that whatever you write in that area you will get stacks of people coming on and saying ‘What have you got against self-publishers’ (nothing at all) and then carefully planting the url for their latest book in the ‘comment’.
The internet is consolidating opinion into set streams. Genres if you like, just as it’s doing with ebooks. More and more the way these opinion streams move resembles the mindless, unquestioning protocols of competing cults than the questions raised by curious individuals.
That’s a generalisation, of course. But Patrick Ness has a great point. If we’re going to get our heads cut off every time we express an opinion we will, sooner rather than later, think… why bother? What’s the point?