Timely vs. Thoughtful

As someone who has a blog – and who therefore aspires to the title of “blogger” – probably the greatest pressure I feel is the pressure to be timely. A news item relevant to my scope of interest pops up, I read it carefully and type up a brief (or not so brief) reaction-response, and click “Publish” – that is how blogging is supposed to work, right?

I don’t know, actually. First off, I am immediately suspicion of any inkling that an activity is supposed to be carried out in a certain manner. Not that I fancy myself a great non-conformist by any stretch, nor that I think we should question everything, mistrustful of any pretense of received wisdom or external authority. Far from it. But I do think we too often hamstring ourselves by locking into a convention of one sort or another, and then failing to notice that, when that convention limits us in some way, we just shrug and say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” But perhaps I digress.

Anyway, I have kept trying to work that way as a blogger, and it just has never worked for me. In a word, I think I am slow. I just do not process things quickly enough to pull off the turnaround necessary to push out a “current” post on a hot topic. Notice I say “do not” rather than “cannot” on this point. I don’t believe hat I am particularly broken or flawed in this regard. I just don’t do it. Could I? Maybe. But I am beginning to wonder if perhaps it is a mistake to keep trying. The world has plenty of speedy commentators, many of them very, very capable. I am not them.

Instead, I am me. I ponder things, usually for far too long. Sometimes, this pondering eventually crystallizes into some more-or-less cogent prose. When that happens, I post it. And when it does not, I post nothing. Rather that fight against that, I am inclined to embrace my ruminative process, and not try to hitch my words to any news cycle. Not that I won’t find inspiration in things I read about. But I just won’t feel bad that those things are no longer news in any sense by the time I write something about them. And who knows: maybe if I stop being disappointed in how slow I am writing, I’ll be more energetic and start thinking (and therefore writing) faster. It’s worth a try.

Judged by the links in my list

I am still absolutely small potatoes on Twitter — I’m nowhere close to even one hundred followers, and I don’t see that changing dramatically anytime soon — so when someone starts following me, I have time to take notice. This morning the notice caught my eye as soon as I opened my email inbox:

“ifollowHATE (@ifollowHATE) is now following you on Twitter!”

I was a tiny bit taken aback by this, and clicked to see the profile for this charmingly-named account: this consisted of a brief statement of opposition to the proposed marriage amendment to the state constitution in North Carolina (a state I have never come close to visiting). Not sure exactly what I had posted to put me in this individual’s social media crosshairs, I posted a wry comment, which was replied to in short order:

Ah, I see. So it wasn’t anything I had said, but rather some account among the three hundred nineteen that I follow that this person had branded with the lazy label of “hate group” for their stance on this matter. Well, as I observed in direct response, that is a system of sorts, so whatever works for him or her.

But really, it is tiresome, and tiring. Why label and name-call? Is this undertaken as a public service, to alert me and others (@ifollowHATE was following 2,368 accounts last I checked) that we might have inadvertently followed a “hate group” without knowing it? Or am I now I “hate group” myself? I’m still confused about the parameters, but any way I try to slice it for myself, what glares out at me is what a ridiculously narrow view of how social media works that this person is displaying by this single gimmicky endeavor. Frankly, I find it a little insulting that anyone would assume that I must agree with any and all views of everyone of the more than 300 very assorted Twitter users that I have found interesting for any of a score of reasons. 

One of the greatest drawbacks of most social media networks is that they can become vastly insulating for the user: the friends we interact with are from similar backgrounds, enjoy similar movies, music, and shows, hold similar socio-politco-economic views. And while many might see this as a great advantage, limiting ourselves to the company of the like-minded is always ultimately going to be exactly that: limiting. Speaking from my own approach to social media in general, and to Twitter in particular, if I want to be part of the conversation (and eventually I do), then I need to be listening to everyone else in the conversation, those I agree with, those I do not, and all the gradations in between. That’s how I do Twitter, and while am under no illusion that it is the only way to use this or any other network, I am disappointed that some feel so strongly that it should be used instead to reinforce the already tragic polarization of our societal discourse. Before we can talk to each other, we need to stop talking at each other and start listening to each other as if we actually cared.