Social scientists, socio-economists, Dba Press, and social psychologists are increasingly pointing to the fact that the social mood in the United States and across the world’s culture and civilization is turning bad and that overall social mood is going to get a lot worse before improving. Research graphs and diagrams, such as the Elliot Wave Principle, underscore the finding that there is a natural ebb and flow of social mood (positive vs. negative) and that.
Darker times, socially and politically, lie ahead of us, creating increased tension and negativity. Nowhere is this negative mood more evident than in the blogosphere, where incivility, disrespect, meanness, bullying, and demeaning behavior rule the day and the posts. What accounts for this negativity among bloggers, and what can be done to soothe perhaps and diminish their high degree of vitriol, rancor, meanness, incivility, and disrespect?
I’ve followed the negativity of blog discussions mainly from the perspective of being curious about the nature of the interactions where the behaviors are as interesting, if not more so, than the content. There’s no question passion drives many a blogger’s interactions. Unfortunately, passion is often used as an “excuse” (it’s never a “reason”) to treat another blogger disrespectfully or in an uncivil manner. Curiously enough, research also points to increases in the number of heart attacks, cancer incidents, obesity rates, diabetes, suicides, spousal abuse incidents, etc. What’s the connection?
Whether it’s an increase in incivility or life-threatening illness and disease, these statistics do not mean that I have to engage in anti-social or self-destructive behavior. One can choose what behaviors support one to live a healthy lifestyle and which don’t. The same reasoning is true for whether one chooses to be civil or uncivil, respectful or disrespectful, hurtful and harmful or compassionate and understanding in my relationships and interactions, on blogs, that is, in how one chooses to show up in the world.
Shakespeare said, “An event is neither good nor bad, only thinking makes it so.” So, why is one’s “thinking” so negative? What belief systems, mental models of the world and people in the world, assumptions, misconceptions, misperceptions does one have hard-wired into their brain that brings one to reactivity, to negativity in the face of just, well, “words”?
So, concerning how I show up in the blogosphere, the bottom line is the degree to which I am “conscious” – whether I am consciously aware of “how I am” and “who I am” while blogging and relating to others in a blog community, or am I “unconscious,” being reactive, with no conscious thought of how I am behaving.
In our current culture in the U.S., where most folks are obsessed with ego needs for control, recognition, and security, it’s no wonder that most folks’ thoughts are “killing thoughts” instead of “healing thoughts.” The mantra underlying most of our interactions and interrelationships is: “It’s all about me! Out of my way!”
Moreover, in a culture where many folks gain their sense of identity (“who I am”) from a direct association with their “knowledge and information” (the database in their brain), it’s no surprise that much of the incivility and reactivity on blogs come from the perspective that: “When you disagree with my information, well, you disagree with me,” and because such disagreement is just too much of a hit to many folks’ egos, they react (fight, as opposed to flee or freeze). Agreeing to disagree and engaging in constructive dialogue is fast becoming a lost art form in Western culture.
When folks are “unconscious” of “how they are” and “who they are,” when folks are unable or unwilling to engage in self-reflection, they tend to associate and behave with a herd mentality – witness the vitriol, the high-pitch ever-escalating level of disrespect, sarcasm (in the guise of “humor”), mocking, bullying, that is taking place on blogs.
Much of the negative and disrespectful exchanges in blogs related to how one relates to another human being. Life is a relationship – how one chooses to, consciously or unconsciously, relate to, “meet,” “see,” and accept another person. What’s happening in the blogosphere is a manifestation of a blogger’s internal conflict that manifests as a failure to relate to another individual in an accepting, compassionate, respectful manner that transcends simple “exchange of knowledge and information.”
So, while the research is what it is, that does not mean one cannot consciously choose how one wants to be in a relationship, is dialogue, in conversation when blogging. So, how does one become more conscious of one’s blogging behaviors? How does one become conscious of what’s driving one’s negative blogging behavior?
By consciously considering what’s underneath, one’s needs to be uncivil, mean, disrespectful, and demeaning. There are two underlying drivers for much of the negative interactions on blogs. These two drivers are characterized as: (1) “It’s not about the information or content,” and (2) “It’s all about the information or content.
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