Manners – too quaint for cyberspace?

Posted: June 19, 2010 in Musings, Writing
Tags: ,

When I started writing fiction I was asked if I intended to publish under a pseudonym.

I hadn’t considered the question before, but didn’t take long to decide that I wanted to publish under my own name.

I wanted to own what I wrote… I figured it would keep me honest and force me to be the best writer that I could be.

Then, and now, I wanted to be accountable for what I wrote.

That’s why I sign my name when I enter into internet discussions. It encourages me to think before voicing a knee-jerk reaction, or posting any cheap smart-arse responses.

That’s also why I found this week’s response to Karen Brooks’ intelligent and considered column, Masterchef simmers with bile, difficult to stomach.

For those who missed it, Karen had the temerity to question the nastiness of the tweets and facebook comments made during Masterchef episodes. It engendered a lively discussion on her Official Facebook Fan Page and triggered a variety of responses, some funny, some cringe-worthy and others, just plain ugly.

Now I don’t ascribe to Nana’s dictum ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,’ but public blood sports in cyberspace aren’t to my taste.

Savaging real people in a public forum is cowardly, particularly when the attackers hide behind anonymity. It gives rise to a pack mentality where no-one is accountable for the viciousness.

The entire debate makes me wonder whether the old-fashioned concept of manners has become an anachronism in cyberspace.

What do you think? Am I being a fuddy duddy and just showing my age?

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post

  1. I think anyone who has time for that crap has too much free time on their hands. I know that I stay far away from flame wars and controversy, unless the latter has something to do with writing or publishing, the main reason I network socially to being with. Who CAN’T think of something they’d rather be doing instead of talking smack to someone over teh interwebs?

  2. chrisbongers says:

    Lincoln, I think people vent on the internet because they can do so, anonymously. And if someone calls them on it, so what? The worst that can happen is that they get blocked, which probably wouldn’t concern them unduly when there’s another 1.8 billion internet users out there to offend.

  3. Elaine Ouston says:

    A friend asked me the other day if I thought using a pseudonym was a good idea. I told her much the same thing you said. If I write something, I want to own it. If you are ashamed to put your name on your writing, you shouldn’t publish it. Besides the media don’t leave you alone if you do that – they will out you the minute they find out who you are (and they will find out) so there is no point. I’m with you on the Karen Brooks debacle. The morons who publish vile remarks should be named and shamed. If that happened, they may think twice before they make such remarks again. At least the people on Masterchef are out there having a go at improving their lives not sitting back criticising others like a loser. It does seem that manners are a dying art.

    • chrisbongers says:

      I’m a big admirer of Karen, Elaine. Not only as a social commentator, but as a writer of fiction. I didn’t read her Courier Mail article until late Thursday, and it’s been much on my mind since. She has a talent for putting her finger on the public pulse. Hopefully the coverage given to the issue will encourage more people to think before they post.

  4. edwina shaw says:

    You’re not a fuddy Duddy Chris. I’m on Nana’s side. Get your own lives people. And “if you can’t say anything nice…”

  5. Elaine says:

    I think she is very brave to write on these issues. As a writer she risks losing some readers, but she will probably pick up new admirers so it may all balance out for her. I hope so. She is a great writer and deserves recognition.

    • chrisbongers says:

      Elaine, you might like this – “The chief commodity a writer has to sell is his courage. And if he has none, he is more than a coward. He is a sell-out and a fink and a heretic, because writing is a holy chore.” –Harlan Ellison

  6. Elaine says:

    That is an interesting quote Chris. And Karen certainly has courage. They do say that all publicity is good publicity so maybe the negative feedback from this type of person will make others look at what she is writing. I hope so.

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