Thursday, July 14, 2005

Heat

One of the interesting things about blogging is that, if you do it just right for long enough, you're likely to gain a certain amount of influence and respect in the online world. Readers will leave comments. Writers will devote new articles to your posted meanderings. Sites will link to you, regardless of whether or not you're using those vanity-inducing RSS feeds.

But exactly whether or not you're able to maintain this degree of influence is another matter altogether. People will certainly offer you their attention as long as you keep posting your intelligent attempts at articles, yes -- but I don't care to assume that they will immediately offer you their respect just for those.

Respect, after all, is not given very easily. Respect has to be earned.

An online presence is not purely about logging into the Net and writing whatever you feel like writing. There is an additional factor that has to be considered, and that factor involves knowing that, even though you're logged on by yourself, there are about five hundred thousand people in the world who are just about as logged on as you are. You are not writing for the benefit of reading your own works or pandering to your own tastes. You are writing for other people.

You see that Comments option down there? The one underneath each and every article on this blog and others? Comments are the major form of reader attention: They show a writer that his works are being read, and that those works had enough impact to get statements from a member of the audience.

That is not to say, however, that all incoming comments are bound to be good. Readers are free to say whatever they darn well like in their notes, just as the blogger is free to say whatever he darn well wants in his posts. It is exactly how the writer deals with these comments, good or bad, subtle or direct, that formulates exactly how much respect he deserves.

Did you get a compliment? Then don't take it lying down; thank the reader. Did you get a piece of honest criticism? Then don't snap at it; give it a closer look and see if you can improve on that aspect. Did you get a stinging insult? Then don't go into full-blown retaliatory mode; sit down and bring things back to a rational discussion.

Writers don't earn respect by merely posting articles. They gain respect from the way they deal with people, from the way they associate with their readers, and from the way they handle a wide range of comments.

Some writers will not bother responding to readers' comments. Some writers will leap screaming, claws outstretched, at their supposed "critics". Some writers will even misrepresent themselves in order to create their own private world of self-praise. And sometimes these sad, sad people still dare to ask themselves why their reader base is constantly being eroded.

If you think that we're limiting ourselves to bloggers and comments, then think again. Regardless of what you do, people will look up to you based on your general behavior. They won't look up to you based on what you happen to scribble on some silly little internet journal, what you draw in some dumb comic, or what you write in some stupid little story. It'll get you their attention, yes, but you're going to have to work for their respect.

If an observant reader sends you an e-mail saying that he doesn't think much of your work, what do you do? Do you rip into him, claiming that you don't give a damn about his opinion because of how successful you are? Or do you just answer his statement peacefully, and acknowledge that he's perfectly welcome to have his own opinion?

If a newbie introduces himself in your group's discussion forum with a woefully illegible post, what do you do? Do you kick him out for utterly wasting your time? Or do you quietly guide him towards more substantial writings in the future?

If you hold a particular amount of dislike for a person you know, what do you do? Do you spread malicious rumors about them, hoping to get everyone on your side? Or do you willfully meet up with that person and attempt to sort things out?

Do you close yourself from other peoples' words, or do you acknowledge their ideas?

Do you wallow in your egocentrism, or do you reach into self-humility?

Do you insult, or do you apologize?

If you're going to want to earn some respect, then you have to start by respecting other people. You are not talking to hear the sound of your own voice. You are not writing for the privilege of being able to read your own work.

There is a saying that admonishes us to be nice to people on the way up, because they're the same people we'll be meeting on the way down.

But what I say is this: If you don't bother being civil to the people you meet, then for you, there is no other direction but down.

7 comments:

Pat said...

Nice article.

jeff-reiji said...

It's very enlightening. Thank you so much...

Re:Heat

Sean said...

Meh... I think I can do better. I can live without the overuse of italics here, for one.

What I fear, however, is that this article won't get to the people who really deserve to read it. Much as there are a ton of people out there who blatantly lord it over everyone else, I would like to believe that some of them are still human enough to realize just what they're doing and stop.

jeff-reiji said...

That said, Oh well...

Reading your article made me think about the way I'd been handling my blog lately. I guess, it's something between an oxymoron and a paradox.

The way you use italics and with the way you write, you remind me so much of a colleague from the school paper.

Arashi-KIshu said...

I'm still uncomfortable with the fact that strangers/remote acquaintances read my blog. I'm afraid of being judged, for obvious reasons. It is fertile breeding ground for rumors.

It took me over a year before Jac and Jonas were finally able to convince me to blog.

Sean said...

Yes... that's true, I suppose. Everyone out there who reads us will inevitably judge us for who we are, and sometimes even for who we are not.

However, I think that blogging is also a matter of judging ourselves. We narrate our thoughts and actions here, but we also justify them for those people who cannot seem to understand. It is exactly how well we can justify them that determines whether or not we are rational people worthy of our own respect - much less anyone else's.

I think that rumors fall squarely into this area: If the rumor is false, it forces us to consider whether or not we are capable of performing such acts, as well as why that would be the case. If the rumor is true, it forces us to question the act itself, and look at answering the truth with defiance or contrition.

Either way, the question involves exactly how we acquit ourselves. It is precisely that kind of behavior that others will constantly observe.

Pat said...

I think it's more of an issue of how you'd view yourself as a public person, rather than thinking or worrying of how others would view you. If you are well satisfied with how you are presenting yourself, there should be no problem.

I had that stumbling block too, in the early days of our blogging. Since I write with my partner and he had set the tone of the entire thing, I had a hard time following it. Now, I can't imagine writing in any other way.

^ ^