Monday, 16 July 2012

Two things I like about the internet

There are a couple of things that make the internet one of my favourite places to spend a bit of time.

The first is the cross section of people you encounter: Here. Be. Everyone.

Put any subject, any group, any strange question that just popped into your head into Google, and there will be at least one other person seeking out the same thing (although I have, thus far, been thwarted in my attempts to find out the name of those fuzzy sticker things with ribbon tails you used to get at the dentist. What are they called?).

Over the years since the internet came into my life (circa 1996, when my sister, my dad and I gathered around what I know now to be a chat room, conversing with a middle aged man called "Rhino"), I've found people online who converge with me on a variety of subjects that my offline friends didn't 'get'. It's brilliant, it's what keeps me coming back.

Which brings me to the second thing I like about the internet. Discussion.

Yes, it's all out there. Fans of music I've never listened to, pygmy goat videos, all manner of pornography, religious discussions, pro-anorexia support groups, bombs, cats - lots of cats - and a whole raft of bloggers reviewing everything from politics to Mac cosmetics to countries.

You like all that? You can go and sit with your fellow online friends and charm each other with thoughts 'til the cows come home. I, on the other hand, will sit here and look at YouTube videos of bouncing greyhounds; blissfully unaware of the terrorist groups plotting world destruction on the other side of the virtual garden fence.

Other than to sate curiosity or arrest criminals, there seems to be no need to seek out and engage with those who don't share your views online. But we're human, so occasionally morbid curiosity takes over and we do. Luckily, there are forums for that, too. Places where conflicting opinions are encouraged. News sites, opinionated blogs, the comment sections of online magazines.

But the key to discussing things on the internet is:

1) making sure you get the right end of the stick - is this an appropriate place to air my views?

2) accepting that, when all is said and done, those who don't share your opinions are not evil. They're just different.

Nor are they wenches, or hopeless individuals who will fritter their lives away "racking up" so many men that by the time they meet a husband (who will be disgusted by their previous behaviour), they will be too old to have children anyway, and men will never look at them in the same way as they do now.

Did that seem out of the blue? It did to me, too. Yet the above is something I came up against on Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. There are currently six comments still waiting in a moderation queue, repeating more of the same.

A group of people discussing their way of life on one side of the internet took issue with the way I'm living mine, and blogged about it. Two men arrived in the comments and told me exactly why I was Doing Life Wrong. The blog post that sent them here had a stream of condemning, religious, fanatical thoughts beneath it which I read, shook my head at, took no heed, and didn't look at again.

I didn't weigh-in on here. A lot of you did (thank you), and then came the inevitable, horrid trolls. Eventually I enlisted the comment moderation and then turned them off altogether (late on Friday, while I was out with my mates being a drunk, childless wench). Fatigue had set in. I was bored with an argument I didn't start and had no interest in, and it was a stale mate.

At which point I'd go back to rule 2 of discussing things on the internet: accepting that airing views is one thing, but repeatedly forcing them on others who don't share them - on their personal blog - is another.

It's a free internet. Say what you like. But at least have the common courtesy to do it in a forum where the subject is up for discussion, and respect the differing views you find there.

Because here's the thing, Simon, Mark et al: this blog is about my life. I invite people to read about it. But despite what the comment section might have you think, none of the choices I've made or am currently making are up for debate.

You want to exchange views, lecture and discuss the right age to have children? I'd start with The Sunday Times (£), Stylist Magazine, Vagenda and, as recommended by Kat in Friday's comments, XOJane.

They've got bigger circulations than here, and authors who probably have more cause for arguing online than I do.

Until then, you have a nice day on the internet. And please, leave me to have mine.


nuttycow said...

My word Jo. Just. Anyway.

It's a good thing I'm reading those comments now, after the event. I would have liable to a) sob into my tea over the thought of my withered 30 year old body which is never going to know the love of a real man or b) ranted. A lot.

Much love.

Helen said...

Completely missed this but just read those comments! Oh my! I may be in a relationship with a man that I love very much but I'm not planning on kids any time soon. Apparently this means I won't be able to anyway, being 30 and all. HA! x

Dominic said...

The only name I ever saw given to those things was "warm fuzzies", no idea if that was an "official" name tho..

I saw the 'debate' as it was happening, but didn't really have anything to add to it that hadn't already been said by others. So drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing. (Tho, FWIW, as a man in his 30s with a biochemistry degree, I disagree with just about all of the claims of your detractors)

Did you get anywhere with the racking-up plans over the weekend? :)

modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

Want me to drop a bomb on them? It's not a problem, we could rustle up some Fast Air, I've got the procedure down pat (it's called a 9-liner in case you're wondering), and I promise not to make too much of a mess. It'd be my pleasure.

Redbookish said...

Like nuttycow, I'm glad I didn't see these comments on your earlier post. Gosh! Such woman-hating -- or rather, woman-blaming. What is *wrong* with these men? Apart from zero self-knowledge ...

It's ironic/interesting, because my experience (and I'm a couple of decades older than most of you) is that it's the blokes who are reluctant to settle down etc etc etc. There's a generation of commitment-dodging blokes out there, who focus their disappointment that it's no longer the 1950s, ad gosh, women can vote, and work, and everything, and aren't falling over themselves to be grateful for being married.

But we all know that the rot set in when they let women learn to read and write, really.

Blonde said...

Christ on a bike. There are some real fucktards out there.

Frankly, I'd rather go through my entire life single than go anywhere near any man with such ludicrously Neanderthal, cretinous attitudes. I pity their wives.

Keep doing what you're doing, Jo. I, for one, think you're pretty bloody awesome to be around.

Anonymous said...

I have come late to the party, but I've just been compelled to send that "mark" a mildly abusive email. Cock.

London-Lass said...


Remember, in my wet-behind-the-ears days of the Net (which actually was pretty recent!), getting reluctantly drawn into a weird on-line difference of opinion with an ex-Wordpress blog-keeper. Who shall remain nameless.

The whole thing was surreal (not something I will get involved in again) and am still bemused why people end up indulging in on-line battles - particularly (as you rightly point out) on your effin' blog.

The standard rule with stupid people/trolls seems to work - ignore, ignore, ignore and they will soon go away and bother someone else.

Simon in London said...

I thought I was quite polite really, and kept well within normal blog etiquette. As I've said, you shouldn't approve trolling, just don't approve those comments when moderating. What you consider trolling is up to you, though I thought there were a couple of obvious examples in that comments thread.

You can set your blog to only be readable by invite, if you don't want it to be public. You can also not allow comments; some people just put up a public contact link to an email address, then post comments within the actual blog posts if they think they're interesting.

Ellie said...


You're cool.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Thank you everyone, you're all stars, as always.

Simon, I'm aware of the ways I can restrict comments. In five years, I've never had to.

How polite you judge the comments to be probably depends on whether you're on the receiving or giving end of them, in my opinion. However, at least you seem more personable than others who chimed in with their thoughts.

However, this is the way I live my life. If it offends you or you disagree, it's not my job to stop everyone else who agrees from commenting, but for the one offended to stay away and save themselves the bother of getting riled by what I say. I've done it with blogs that I disagreed with in the past, it's surprisingly effective.

Comments off on this, it's the last of it. My space, my rules.


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