Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poor Online Representation

I run a few blogs, loosely, lazily. I update them whenever. It was easier to do when I was unemployed because I could undertake larger writing projects, but it was also harder because I was locked up in my apartment and not subject to new experiences.

One of my blogs is all about writing, stationery, the postal system, stuff like that. Three years ago I wrote a little post about some odd stamps I found in my childhood. We'd just moved to a new house in Canton, MI, and in one of the cupboards was a small wax envelope from the post office with a collection of several international stamps. The stamps I'd chosen to write about were (ostensibly) from the South Moluccas.

I know nothing about the South Moluccas. My public education system never mentioned them once. I didn't have any Dutch friends so they never came up in conversation ("So, what indigenous tribes did your ancestors attempt to wipe out in their pursuit of wealth?" "Funny story..."). When I wrote that blog post, I had to do some cursory online research—my favorite kind—to have anything to talk about. I summed up their history from both a philatelic and a governmental perspective, so I thought.
In the last two years this post has attracted some unpleasant people, ranging from mildly to overtly. Here's my original post, and you can scroll down and read Justin's response. His response is familiar in that it's a pretty typical fanboy reaction: greet the author with condescension, then show off your specialized interest in a topic. Given that he doesn't have much of a Blogger profile or any blogs, I suspect he only started an account to comment on my blog. I specifically block anonymous posts because I believe anonymity is an open invitation to jackassery.

This belief is borne out by the next comment, that of someone calling himself malukucollection. He has a blog with exactly one post: I suspect he lost interest immediately. The templated layout is in Dutch, you'll note, so for some reason he still has a vested interest in these islands, and apparently I'd touched a nerve. (He deleted his response but I got an e-mail alert when it came in.)

malukucollection has left a new comment on your post "Republik Maluku Selatan":
Christian go back school asshole 

My contact with these individuals began and ended with those posts. I didn't respond to them: there's no point. I don't believe in responding to hostility (in contrast with every celebrity on Twitter). But they introduced themselves to me and, in as many words as they chose to employ, gave me as much as I needed to know about them. Justin's a little snotty and kind of a know-it-all. Malukucollection's grasp of English is better than my grasp of Dutch, but he still comes off as an asshole. And that is all I know about them.

Incidents like this make me keenly self-conscious when I comment on other people's posts, respond to their tweets, write up customer responses, etc. Someone generally does read these things and they react to what I write. Only a few times have I been embarrassed to have one of my rants responded to with a thoughtful and much more diplomatic approach than I'd used, by a manager or an owner or a writer. I didn't like being called out only because I didn't like having represented myself poorly, so now I try to avoid that.

Obviously, not everyone shares this philosophy.

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