I love etiquette.
Fork in the left hand, knife in the right, never fork in the right hand (guilty? Me too), crook the pinky don’t point it, hold the champagne flute by the stem not the glass, never cut a dinner roll with a knife and only butter it as you go, deal the cards to yourself last, don’t double dip, shake hands with the right hand, always say please at the dinner table and thank you and excuse me, take your hat off indoors – all these little everyday rituals I just adore. I love the idea that there are codes of behaviour passed on from previous generations, and though some things do get lost in modern life, I believe it would be a shame if we abandoned good form altogether.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t judge other people on their own etiquette, I just like the rules for myself.
But the etiquette of blog – well I must admit I’m all in a muddle.
FIRST IT WAS EASY
When I first started this blog, I didn’t know whether it was bad form to just list the blogs you liked in your sidebar or not. Did you have to ask permission first? What if the blog owner didn’t want the likes of me linking to them? Even worse, did linking the glitterati make you a sycophant – the most pathetic of all creatures? I wasn’t sure, so I just linked away willy nilly, hoping that someone would ask to be removed if they really felt strongly about it.
Comments. Did you just take it upon yourself to comment on someone’s blog? Wasn’t that kind of ‘familiar’ for a stranger? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure.THEN IT GOT A BIT HARDER
After a while the question of how much of myself I was going to put out there on the blog arose. After all, there are only so many ‘here, look at my knitting’ posts you can do and keep yourself interested, unless of course your knitting is particularly outstanding, which mine definitely isn’t.
I decided to go with a walk in the shoes blog. Sometimes it’s dull, sometimes I’m cranky, sometimes muddled and sometimes emotional. I might be political one day and celebrity gaga the next. I may not really know what I’m talking about. It’s the real me you read about here.
I also had to think about the possibility that some people wouldn’t like me when I started this blog. And I’m glad I did, because otherwise it would have been an even bigger shock than it was when the first troll came along.
I’m nearly forty. I have a family and a job and a life independent of my hobbies, one of which is this blog. I can be outspoken, inappropriate, rash, glib and I often speak without thinking. And that’s me. Take it or leave it. If you take it, then you’ll also find I’m loyal, generous, supportive, sensitive and kind. If you leave it we’ll both still wake up in the morning unchanged.THEN IT GOT EVEN MORE HARDER (SIC)
I don’t often think about the blog in the context of it’s audience. Somehow that would seem kind of contrived to me, after all isn’t this just a rambling journal? Of course, if it is just a journal then why do I have to put it on the internet for all to see? I can’t fully answer this question myself, but what I can say is that I’m mature enough to know that if I put it out there, I should be prepared to wear any criticism it may get. My son has a saying ‘whoever smelt it dealt it’, but in this case if I deal it and you smell it, well then you’re of course welcome to say so in any forum you like. I guess…
Logically speaking, the converse should also be true. If you deal it and I smell it, then is it okay for me to say so on my blog?
But are there any unwritten lines which you cannot cross?
For example, if someone in the blogsphere named their newborn Ivana Humpalot (thanks Austin) then would it be okay to ridicule it on your blog?
I note that the catarinabonetdesigns website and mass email has had everyone in stitches, and it is possibly only a joke, but would it be okay to laugh if it was on a knit blog?
You knit what was closed down this year allegedly due to the difficulties the authors had with designers taking offence to their opinions and the possibility of related legal action against them. Maybe they just got sick of being mean. But didn’t we all love you knit what? Did they cross a line when they called a designers children the spawn of satan? Or do you think if it’s funny enough then there are no boundaries?
How about grammar? Is it okay to poke fun at someone’s poor education or lack of writing ability?
Banality? Is it okay to point out how boring someone else is?
There is a yahoo group called knitflame whose sole purpose is to ridicule the posts on the knitlist. Which can be amusing, but it seems that knitflame itself have kind of a ‘hazing’ and seems to be controlled by a select few who verbally crucify newcomers if they don’t conform to the secret rules. And they rarely actually find anything particularly worthy on the knitlist any more that hasn’t been ridiculed before.
How far can you go for a cheap laugh?SOMEONE SHOULD DO A PHD
If the blogsphere is like a real society, then does it have a social hierarchy? Are some blogs living in the manor whilst others are ploughing in the fields?
Blogs certainly pick and choose who they mingle with in the cyberworld. But can bogan blogs really sit cheek by jowl with the aristocratic blogs? And if they could, would either want to?
Is it like a sorority system in those American movies where the ‘it’ blogs belittle and humiliate the ‘loser’ blogs? Are some blogs untouchable, like the blog Mafia?
It is natural human behaviour to mix with those who we most enjoy, and that usually is those most like ourselves or whom we admire. The diversity of human nature dictates that we don’t admire everyone, so in the mix of it most everybody gets a friend or two, thank heaven. Is the blog world mirroring society in forming subgroups and hierarchies too?
I would suspect it is, even though we all like to think of ourselves as accepting and valuing of all others.BUT WHAT DO YOU DO?
I must admit there have been times when I’ve read blog posts that have stirred strong emotions, and not all of them touchy feely ones either. I’ve seen blatant racist remarks which have made my blood boil, anti-gay comments which have rankled against my sensibilities. I’ve read about overbearing mothers who have taken playground battles to ridiculous lengths, shaken my head at valetudinarians, the vain and preposterous, the judgemental, the holier than thou bloggers, the officious, and the downright elitist.
In these situations, I have often wanted to make my opinion known, particularly those involving race and gays - but mostly have just done the mature (cowardly?) thing and clicked away. I remember Billy Bragg (oh heart) being interviewed once about racism and to paraphrase he said ‘the racist is usually the person standing next to you at a party, saying outrageous things. But the insidious thing is that if you let them get away with it they think you agree with them. So, don’t let them get away with it, it’s your responsibility to say something’.
But in cyberspace everything is permitted. There is no censorship, and this is both a good and a bad thing. And, in the words of Voltaire “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Which, by the way, works better if it goes both ways.
I’m certainly not perfect, nor would I want to be.
But guess what? None of us are. And that’s what makes us all such a beautiful mess.