Hiding Under a Rock

I do seem to have disappeared from the internets, don’t I? For a while, it was the fact that I couldn’t find the footing to deal with the basics of my schedule, let alone add in anything that might require additional thought. After that, it was probably just that I hadn’t noticed how long it had been since I’d had anything to say, despite my intention to start using this space to think through things again. For once, though, my absence from writing has not been due to a period of either overwhelming busy-ness or general malaise that leaves me unmotivated for anything at all.

I’m still reading bits and pieces of what’s in my feedreader, and during the occasional bout of insomnia I’ve actually managed to read a significant portion of the writing on this latest episode of bullshit in the blogosphere. Or these multiple, separate but the same episodes, really. And reading that stuff, I start to realize that actually, it’s the blogosphere that’s been keeping me from blogging. I’ve never been a regular participant in long discussions on blogs, because I find it extraordinarily time consuming, but occasionally, I would use this quiet little space here to work through my own thoughts about where I’m at and what I’m learning, and air them for the passers by who happened to wander in. There are appealing aspects to the spherical elements of the various subsegments of the blogworld.

At the same time, there’s a particular kind of blog-based toxicity that doesn’t seem to have any healthy, redeeming qualities. It goes beyond the basic “anonymity creates a greater quotient of assholery” equation, but it’s another way the context seems to amplify certain social dynamics. Or maybe it doesn’t amplify them at all – like the force of the special white woman tears, or the apologies that have absolutely nothing to do with amends, or whatever else – but I don’t tend to see them elsewhere because I don’t have to deal with racism, homophobia, transphobia etc on a daily basis. I’m really grateful for what my (infrequent, inconsistent, and always half-assed) participation in the feminist blog world has taught me, because there is a hell of a lot of really beautiful, intense, brilliantly angry, passionately personal shit out there, and reading it has helped to change the way I see the world.

About five years ago now, I was surfing the net at my friends’ house and saw some headline linked on MSN or yahoo or something that clearly telegraphed an article chock full of banal sexism and gender role reinforcement disguised as dating advice. When describing the article to my friend later, I said that my thought when I read the headline was “This is going to be offensive – I’d better read it!” The statement came to really point to this quintessential feature of Purtek. At the time, I would seek out the most painfully ridiculous right-wing discussion boards on the ‘net and read through the most blatantly hateful, malinformed and gleefully vicious threads I could find for hours at a time, every day. I enjoyed being outraged. I can’t quite place why, since in those cases there weren’t any countering voices that helped me to actually learn something while also subjecting myself to these screeds, but I continued to explicitly seek the spectacle of vitriol even if I knew it wasn’t exactly healthy.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been anywhere near that bad. In recent years I’ve become vaguely familiar with what calm feels like, and whatever I feel when I’m reading that stuff, it’s not calm. In bouts of insomnia, when I find myself going through those long threads full of conflict and mostly obtuse responses from people who are behaving hurtfully, well, it doesn’t really get me to sleep, which should probably tell me something. I usually figure that if I’m going to have anything to comment about in blog-world, I should know these threads, because that’s where the emotional weight of the arguments is at.  But by the time I get through them, of course, most of what I might say has been said, and more particularly, I’m feeling decidedly uncalm, and uncalm is not a place I like anymore. I want to balance that against the fact that a lot of these emotions are really important and point to so many deeper issues about the nature of oppression and silencing and abuse, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot from standing on the sidelines watching other people’s mistakes. I don’t think it’s healthy to go too far under that rock, but I don’t know if it’s healthy to climb up on top of it and use it as a diving board into molten lava either.

I have to get to class now, but I wanted to make some sort of post as a way to push myself to start saying something.  I’m in the process of making some decisions right now that have me thinking about a lot of things in my life, and I’d like to post some things about that. We’ll see if that works out, but for now, I guess I’m just trying to have a new relationship with the rock.

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6 thoughts on “Hiding Under a Rock

  1. Paradox says:

    I really relate to what you’re saying here. I definitely read the blog rows, but I don’t usually like to get involved. There are so many hurtful things that people say, all of which strike me as totally unnecessary.

    Yes, we can disagree and even be ignorant, but the anger and attacks with which those things are met astonishes me. Ignorance simply calls for education. Disagreement can be respectful.

    It’s gotten pretty painful to read all of what gets thrown back and forth. At the same time, though, it is a great education on where people are and how they relate. A real catch 22.

  2. Amber Rhea says:

    At the same time, there’s a particular kind of blog-based toxicity that doesn’t seem to have any healthy, redeeming qualities.

    So, so true.

  3. purtek says:

    I think I should actually qualify that statement, because if I really believed there was no potential for anything healthy here, I would sign off and be done with it. Sometimes I think the fact that writing takes so much more effort than conversation makes the feeling that real communication is just not happening so much more frustrating as the problems repeat themselves.

    I was not in the best of mindsets this morning when I wrote that, and the more I look at it, the more inaccurate it seems. Being a believer in the general redeemability of human beings, and being as that toxicity is the product of the all-too-human failings of self-centeredness, unwillingness to listen or admit fault, and aggressive defensiveness, it would really be unfair to give up on the possibility for change.

    So I’d actually kind of like to take back that I said that, there.

  4. Amber Rhea says:

    Well, okay. I mean, I don;t really understand why you need to take it back, bc I didn’t read it as talking about *all blog based communication.* I certainly don’t agree that blogs are ineffective vehicles for communication and collaboration – quite the opposite! However there *is* a type of toxicity in the blogosphere that doesn’t have anything healthy in it… but that is not *the whole blogosphere*.

  5. belledame222 says:

    You know, it occurs to me I used to spend a lot more time trawling for right wing idiocy before–well, before fucking Dubya, for one thing, then it was like, you don’t have to go LOOKING for it, it’s right here…

    and then, well, there were all the other forms of idiocy, and, yeah, there’s really only so much one can take after a while.

  6. purtek says:

    belle – I think for me it’s had more to do with age and maturity than what’s out there in the world. My phase of trawling for idiocy was mid-Dubya. I particularly remember the Kerry campaign being a high point in my negativity-swimming career. General memories of that time in my life are not fond ones, really.

    Amber – I felt like I should take it back because seeing it highlighted in your quote made me realize that, in choosing my phrases hastily and early in the morning when I was pretty damn grumpy, I wrote some things that aren’t quite accurate to how I feel. You’re welcome to take something from what I said anyway, if it’s what you believe, but I’m not really comfortable with having declared something “irredeemable”.

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