Living online

It seems like there’s a whole lot of people blogging now days. Some do it for obvious reasons, wanting a journalistic outlet for their writing, wanting to share technical information, wanting to try and persuade others on political issues, wanting to share sites they find useful, or they just want to share their life in some way with other’s who may be out there reading. This blog, obviously falls into that category, I want to share the success and failures I have in overcoming depression and abuse in order to help others. You may find that to be a noble cause, or you may find it to be utterly ridiculous. You’re free to have an opinion about it, as I am in having an opinion about whatever you may write online, if you choose to.

Now the thing about your opinion of this, or my opinion of anything someone writes online is that webloggers tend to write in two realms. There’s the intellectual, and the emotional. Now most bloggers, and I’ve experienced this on my Life of a one-man IT department blog, have no problem expressing a differing opinion on matters of intellect, whether they be technical, political, social, legal, or statistical. For example, the blog-debate I had with Robert Scoble about real-time blogging at conferences. It was an intellectual debate, and a clean one at that. They don’t always stay that way. They can get personal, but I don’t think a good writer and thinker can afford to take those sorts of disagreements personally, there’s just nothing to be gained in it. I think it’s a fairly well accepted idea that you can disagree and debate any blogger about matters of intellect, in fact that’s part of what makes this as good as it is.

On the other hand, you have the emotional writing. By this I mean the folks who share the details of their lives in their blogs. This blog would be an example of it, because what you’re getting here is a glimpse of what goes on in my personal thoughts, above and beyond the techie stuff that I like to write about. This is my “deep thinking blog”. But even then, you only get a small piece of my life when compared to some other bloggers. I tend to believe that a large part of their motivation is social. They are reaching out and connecting with people, making “friends” through blogging. Is that a bad thing? No I don’t think so, although you have to allow for some limitations, obviously. It can be a very good thing. I’ve certainly met people through even the tech blog that I enjoy hearing from and sharing ideas with. Always a bonus, but how much are you free to disagree with someone in this realm?

The best friends I have ever had, and still do have, are the people who feel comfortable enough to tell me when I’m wrong. Doc Searls describes this as “calling bullshit” in the intellectual realm. It’s taking a look at what someone’s written and being able to say “No, you’ve got it wrong!”. There have been plenty of times in my life when I needed someone to call bullshit on me, because I was completely full of it. I didn’t always want to hear it, but it was important to me to have someone close to me who was willing to fight and argue with me about some things. Some times I heeded their advice, other times I didn’t. They supported me either way, but they wouldn’t have been a very good friend if they had sat by silently while I made horrid decision after horrid decision.

How does this apply to blogs? Or mail lists, or forums, or any online group? That’s a good question. Do we have a moral obligation as “friends” to call bullshit on another blogger when they seem to have gotten it wrong, or do we have any right at all to confront them with differing opinions? Frankly, I’m not sure. I know that other than my wife, I don’t know anyone in the blogosphere well enough to be able to call bullshit and be taken seriously. On the other hand, I hate to think that we’re allowing people to make horrible decisions because no one is willing to deal with the conflict that is sure to come their way, both from that person, and from the “community” surrounding that blog, who will surely accuse the writer of “negativity” and “judging”. (The apparent Mortal Sins of the blog world.) Where did this idea come from that friends never criticize or disagree with one another? That’s bullshit if there ever was bullshit!

I’d rather have one friend who is willing to argue with me than 100 friends who aren’t. Those 100 people will stand and watch you run off the end of the cliff and never bother to tell you it’s there, all the while congratulating themselves for their “open-mindedness”. Real friends don’t give a damn about being open-minded, they just want to do anything they can to keep you away from the cliff. I’d rather have and I’d rather be that kind of friend.

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