Everybody, or seemingly everybody, is doing it, but I’m still getting the hang of it. Having just started a web log a couple months ago, I am new to learning what online conversations are all about. To further Internet discourse, I’d like to offer a few tips for would-be bloggers, or for those who are just starting out.
Blogging and message boards are something like existence in your typical grade school classroom. Depending upon the class, or depending upon the web site your viewing or on which you are commenting, you may have a sound educational experience. Or you might just as well have a tough time with the hecklers.
The online hecklers may snigger and snark and attack you, for the purpose of argument or out of sheer meanness. And just like in the classroom, if you let these fools distract you, you’ll miss making new friends. But most importantly, you’ll miss what the other folks are saying. Some of these folks are making sound points, not just talking trash.
You can’t let the fools take you to school.
So it would be best not to sound too naïve, too irrational, too violent or confrontational. And Lord knows, do not sound revolutionary, since Big Brother truly is watching what you write. Try to be meek as a kitten. That way no one will call you out for being ill informed, lazy, or for simply being a jerk.
Tone is everything on the Internet. Still, off the cuff comments happen on blogs, and that’s part of where the fun is. The immediate surprises of the conversation, such as something as small as a reader’s comment—“Nice stuff here”—can be invigorating. Strangely, even insulting comments can get the discussion going sometimes. Embrace the talk, but don’t let your guard down.
Folks who get into the online conversation, be they Phds or punks, are all looking for some sort of validation. The fools receive the stamp of approval when their peers join them in the sniping. But others get their approval when they make small connections over the e-waves.
A comment on your blog could lift your spirits on a drudge-filled day.
“I just started a blog and saw yours on another site. I’ll link to yours as soon as I figure out how,” reader Sam wrote in an email to me. “I noticed that you mention the Drug War quite a bit. It’s a particular bugaboo of mine.”
No, I’m not crazy, I say to myself. Others, like Sam, agree with me.
Or your comment on someone else’s blog might elicit a kind email from that blogger.
“Thank you for responding to my blog. I appreciate your comments,” reader Brad emailed. “I also liked your post, ‘To live and die in Pittsburgh, PA.’ It seems that your thinking is in some ways akin to my own.”
Yes, I am right in my thinking after all, I tell myself.
Though it’s distant, in the online conversation there’s still a chance for honest interaction. You might find the sort of give and take that you have when you chat with a neighbor who you don’t know, because you both happened to be working in the yard. The fact that the average online meeting can be somewhat accidental doesn’t diminish the connections that can occur when you blog.
Web log ought to be short for “we belong,” because all bloggers, to some degree, are looking for the approval of others. And that need is entirely human, compelled by flesh and blood, even on the Internet.