The Dark Side of the Blogosphere

Tom Barnett ruminates:

The blogosphere demands you defend against all comers, no matter the credentials. Whoever gets the pack moving that minute is the top dog, which is both good and bad. It's good in that ideas alone can drive the process and it's bad in that it encourages a mob mentality.

The mob mentality is accentuated by the web's incredible speed and sense of impatience. Everyone wants everything decided so fast. Long-term discussion in the blogosphere extends typically hours or days, and some of that speed is good, reflecting the democracy of the debate, but a lot of it is just plain bad--the instinctive rush to judgment. ...

But that is just what the blogosphere is best at: jumping through its collective asshole over every data point--the second it appears ("Did you just see that...!"). ...

To me, it's just a big party with lotsa conversations about three beers in. Fun as hell. Often very profound. But the vast majority of it leaves your brain by the next morning.

I will confess: I didn't like high school. I thought it was all really artificial and fake and queer as the day was long. It was this warped universe of unreality, where "So-and-so said you're a real two-face" is the sort of social dynamic that ruled your day.

The blogosphere is frighteningly like high school: some cool people who are always nice to you, a few that seem strangely intent on persecuting you, and an undifferentiated mass that seems to move from fight to fight (always so happy to chant, "fight! fight! fight!").

Heh. Indeed. And so on.

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I wonder if we're not all a

I wonder if we're not all a bit spoiled here? Discussions at Catallarchy are remarkably intelligent and amicable, even where we disagree pretty significantly. I don't typically even bother reading comments at, say, Drum's site and I really think that I lost a significant portion of my IQ the couple of times that I looked at comments at Atrios and Powerline. I'm not sure that it's actually possible to have a higher degree of irrationality and mob mentality than one finds there.

Interesting stuff, certainly

Interesting stuff, certainly the Blogosphere lacks the etiquette of face to face conversations, although I wonder if it is not beginning to develop it's own etiquette to deal with the new medium.

"...most of whom won't use their real names and I ask you, Would you accept that from someone you engaged in conversation over beers at a party?"

Get me a beer and I'll tell you my real name. :grin:

Well I can drink (legally)

Well I can drink (legally) and blog, I sit at home and don't have to generally worry about physical assault. This is like High School how? Crap analogy that is for sure.

While the mob mentality

While the mob mentality certainly exists in the blogosphere, I submit that nearly every other form of media (television, office water cooler, usenet, presidential TV debates, etc) has a higher degree of irrationality and mob mentality.

That's true, the comment

That's true, the comment sections at most places are absolutely nuts. But, I think the blogosphere's strength is filtering. The comments stay hidden; only those who want to read them do. It's much easier to weed out the bad stuff from the good. There is actually conversation between bloggers who have opposing views, like say between Megan McArdle and Kevin Drum, or between Will Wilkinson and the Timberites. You can't get this stuff on the Usenet or at the office. (Though maybe in academic circles, it's different.)

Joe made the same point I

Joe made the same point I was going to make in response to Jonathan. If you filter out all but the top quality bloggers and commentors, the blogosphere beats other media hands down. But doing that requires ignoring the other 95%.

cuthhyra, I think a lot of it can be explained by the simple fact that F2F gives constant realtime feedback that can prevent us from getting carried away. When you're just typing away without a person in front of you it's a lot easier to go off on a rant, take things the wrong way, or just say things that you wouldn't normally say. This can be good in that it allows you to better compose your thoughts without interruption, but also bad in that it can allow amplification of foolishness (especially when large groups are involved).

You used to get this on

You used to get this on usenet before it got taken over by spam and then vacated by 80% of the contributors.

And I've yet to see blog software that is anywhere near as good for long conversations as usenet with a real (threaded) newsreader.

The time frame of internet conversation has always been relatively short, but it's much shorter in the blogosphere than in usenet, because usenet is not nearly as root-post centric.

I really miss having political discussions on usenet. The S/N ratio has to be very high for me to put up with a web forum.

There's got to be a business opportunity here. Some way to provide the advantages of usenet without the disadvantages.

cuthhyra, Etiquette


Etiquette schmetiquette.