Learning When to Shut Up


One of the principal advantages of the web as a medium of expression, for the introvert, is that it allows one to cut through the crap and get straight to the point.  No need to socialize, no need to chit-chat, no need to finesse.  All the interesting parts of communication without all the ephemera.

The weblog, in particular, is ideal for the introverted.  It allows one to shout one's opinions into the ether.  If anyone's interested, fine, but there's no need to direct your thoughts at anyone in particular and no need for sustained human contact.  When you're done with a conversation, you just let it end; no need for a graceful egress.  If you're interested in something, you can comment.  If you're not, you're under no obligation to contribute. 

It has, however, been my misfortune to discover that skins are as thin on the internet as they are in person, but on-line you lack the subtle visual cues and the softening effect of personal contact that allow you to get away with more abrasive thoughts.  All that bullshit tends to soften the blow, and it's a lot harder to say something stupid or spiteful or otherwise ill-considered in person than it is on a blog.

All of this is to say that blogging for the last six months has taught me that it is important to think hard about what you're posting/emailing/whatever before you post/send/whatever.  Don't post things/email things when you're feeling emotional, because you'll likely regret it in the morning.  Don't comment if you don't have anything interesting/constructive/relevant to say.  And for the love of Pete, don't say nasty things about specific people, because they will end up reading it.  Moreover, no matter how clever you think you are in avoiding naming names and using circumlocutions to keep the person's identity hidden, they will figure it out and will hold you responsible. 

None of this is to say I'm giving up blogging.  I do consider my (many) mistakes of the past few months to have been learning experiences.  I'm getting better, I hope, at keeping careful control of what I say, which has always been a problem in the past.  However, thanks to certain recent events, I shall be a bit more taciturn from now on.  As I do in real life, my plan is to err on the side of caution and speak only when absolutely sure that what I'm saying will be interesting and well-taken (which means, most of the time, not speaking at all).  Blogging will be on topics that are much more safe and much less personal.


You and I seem to be thinking along very similar lines today. But are you suggesting that face-to-face speech makes for clearer communication, or simply that it's more difficult and therefore less likely to tempt the unwary into mistakes? Given what I know of you I'm inclined to suspect the latter.

A little of both, actually. Because it's easier (for me at least) to type something and hit post/send than it is to talk to someone, the threshold for communicating is lower, and therefore less consideration goes into it. Simultaneously, I think with in-person communication it's easier to read how others are reacting to what you're saying as you say it and adjust your tone, or otherwise mitigate things.

But as I think about it, yeah, I think it's more the latter. I don't say anything in person unless I'm almost certain it won't offend anyone around, but it's a lot easier to vent on the internet without properly considering the consequences.

Heh, yeah. I used to poke around this one forum every once in a while, but it seemed to me like every time I went this one user was always posting silly/annoying things. I don't even remember what they said, but they said...something, and it made me really angry so I posted a ranty reply that involved the phrase "drama queen". It turned out that she was the darling of the forum, though, and for the next week-and-a-half I got approximately 32 hate-mails.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on March 17, 2006 4:03 AM.

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