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The Memphis Belle

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Bloggers are people too [Jun. 24th, 2009|09:23 am]
The Memphis Belle
When I started writing a blog I knew I was opening myself up to public scrutiny. With self-esteem intact, I thought I could handle criticism with a smile and polite nod. Perhaps I would even receive some good advice? However, when I faced my first opponents, I was completely disgusted.

It would happen to me that my first set of critics was not harmless bored people reading my writing or social pariahs but a formidable group: the British army. And it was not just one soldier. It was a group of them, using their own blogging forum (Army Rumour Service) to pick apart my entries and exchange banter about my background and personality. You can read the fun here, but in case you are frightened of the website (which should be rated XXX), I will share my favourites:

"As for your blog about RMA Sandhurst, dearie..... you really should get out more amongst the Peasants of the UK. A good nights Knees up down the local Pub, especially around Slough will give a taste of Real Life in he UK....Then a Kebab... and a good puke up in the gutter before wending your way home....."

"I'd bet that, like many other girls back home that have their heads completely up their own a$$es about being Southern, she imagines herself to be more worthy of an officer's company than the standard brand hoo-rah types we generally have back home - and certainly not the British variety."

"I can't get my head round this. She's cute to the point of being sickening. Is she 12?"

Charming gentlemen.

Perhaps I should have been excited that strangers were reading my blog and giving it enough attention to sustain a three day stream of banter. But I was angry. I wrote positively about my visit to Sandhurst, (the military academy where officers in the British army are trained) and these men should be inviting me to a ball rather than encouraging me to be sick in a gutter. And even if they didn’t agree with what I wrote, they should treat me like a lady. Men in the British army are trained to act as gentleman, and I know that chivalry is not dead. Surely social standards should be sustained even on the internet?

I fought back with a posting of my own, and to my great satisfaction, attained two apologies. But more importantly, I received valuable insight into internet behaviour. One man wrote, "Well done for having the balls (if I may continue the genital theme) to stick your head over the parapet.... As a middle aged man your blog is irrelevant to me, but you've obviously found a market and are pitching to it so well done again. I'm...sorry that I insulted you. It wasn't personal, let’s face it I didn't expect that you'd see it." And he is not the only one that has that mentality.

When boasting about my victory to the office, one of my colleagues told me about a time he wrote a nasty comment on a journalist’s blog and was shocked when the writer mentioned it in a later post. His thoughts: "When posting anonymously on the internet, it is very easy to forget that you are talking to real people with feelings. I felt horrified by what I had done when I realized that that the journalist actually read it. I know this sounds stupid, but I didn't realize that the blogger was a person also."

It goes without saying that blogging is an incredibly powerful tool. It has turned civilian writers into published authors and internet users into formal critics. And it is all too easy for readers and writers to get carried away with that power, especially when writing anonymously, and post statements that would never be said face to face. It will be interesting to see how libel laws are applied to the internet, but it will take time to establish acceptable practice. Until then we must regulate ourselves.

So let’s make a deal. As a blogger I promise to accept feedback from all parties and be open to all sorts of crazy comments and suggestions. And in turn, all I ask is that my readers remember one simple truth, “I am a person too.” With a little bit of responsibility (wasn't it Spiderman who learned that great power comes with great responsibility?) we can ensure that blogging does not just become a forum for anonymous degradation. Because we all know blogs have much more valuable uses.

With that being said, bring it on army gentlemen - I am ready for you!
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Comments:
From: bobbellinhell
2009-06-24 11:16 am (UTC)

Independent blogs

The Independent site is particularly bad because there's no indication of where one's comments are going to appear. You can comment on a story and then find your post appended to the journalist's blog, instead of displayed below the story where it makes sense.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: jleach
2009-06-24 05:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Independent blogs

Your comment goes on both the original story and the story in the Independent Minds section.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)