Years ago, as I walked to work (which is one of my favorite activities), I scanned the scene from horizon to horizon and realized that we live in a bubble of locality. If anything occurs within that bubble, it's immediate to me and personally known. But outside of it, such as the doings in Washington, it's really conjured up in my head as best I can imagine it. I can't view it. I wasn't there.
Later, when I began my Internet ramblings, I realized that distance from others makes us less likely to feel a sense of, well, etiquette. If I meet you face-to-face, I'll be more polite. If I write you an email, I might be inclined to be less so. If I only comment on a web site of someone I don't know, etiquette could go right out the window.
In the corporation where I work, which spans several large cities, we often talk about getting together for a face-to-face with those on a project so that we can not only have a greater accountability, but also a greater comraderie and rapport. That personal sense of someone brings us closer and preserves a sense of etiquette.
I've been watching the dust-up between Jeff Goldstein and Debbie Frisch at Jeff's site. It's long and involved and that link is only part of the story. Suffice it to say that his conservatism and her liberalism didn't mix, and she was notoriously rude and even made comments about his child and he was insulting - so this was a rather nasty episode. But why? Here are two highly educated folks snarling at each other publicly, and the mob of Jeff's commenters joined in the fray and the rudeness. Blogs are just great, aren't they?
And then Jeff Jarvis, in his infamous "Dell Hell" series, noticed that Dell - the corporation - has started blogging, which he asked them to do long ago. And so they do, and what does Jeff do? He sneers.
Both of these incidents get a ton of traffic and notice. It's as though someone yells "Fight!" at school and then everyone runs to the window to see. And it's ridiculous. And I'm one of the ones at the window.
What is it with long-distance online relationships that reduces the need for civility? Remote invites the cold and is best left behind, I think. Life is best lived in the local bubble of our awareness.
I don't disagree with blogging at all - I have this site after all. I write here for many reasons. I am reminded of what Gandhi said:
Be the change that you want to see in the world.Indeed.