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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Bloggers Blog: Part II

To Find Solace in Civility

The Latin word civitas means “community of citizens” and is the root word for city, civilize, civilization, civics, and civil (meaning “common” or “polite” or “legal,” e.g. “civil rights”). There is a related noun that describes the spirit of common courtesy that allows civitas to work: CIVILITY.

Civility is getting harder and harder to see these days. It hasn’t disappeared entirely, but never has INcivility been more marketed and modeled. From
T-shirts to bumper stickers; “talk radio” to cable TV; MSNBC to BET; comedy clubs to Capital Hill; things that once appalled
most people are
now applauded. (Depending, of course, on who says it and who takes offense.)

So Part II and III of “Why Bloggers Blog” are tributes to civility in blogging and in writing. It has been my experience that the blogosphere can be a civitas, a “community of citizens” who show remarkable civility and disarming patience toward one another.

I’m not naïve that there are vulgar, risqué blog circles out there spewing indecency and incivility, and we've all seen the rudeness of some “drive by” anonymous readers who like to throw stones as they pass rather than take time to sit on the front porch. Such things will happen wherever people are free to be themselves. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

For the most part, however, we've all met lots of folks in our corner of cyberspace that seem to understand the Civility Code of Wikipedia and the premise of an excellent book on this subject, Choosing Civility. (Read a sample chapter here.)

Exercising civility doesn’t mean we buy into every mandate of political correctness or that we don’t see the double standard of its selective enforcement. It doesn’t mean that we aren't frustrated when more “tolerance” is extended toward cross dressers than those who defend the cross. It doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions. It simply means we know the difference between respecting one’s right to hold an opinion and respecting all opinions equally. Some opinions are baseless and flawed, but most bloggers respect their readership enough to have learned how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. As I said back in June...

“Just neighbor visiting neighbor
in the kindness of the night
where differences are dimly lit
and love needs little light.”
Part II has been about the spirit of civility in blogging. Part III will look at samples of the skill of civility as seen in the lost art of letter writing—particularly 19th Century letters. Here’s the strangest use of today’s word… the letters were written during the Civil War era (including some Emily Dickinson letters). For now, I’ll close Part II with a line from her most familiar poem:

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality. We slowly drove—
He knew no haste And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility....
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .[emphasis added]

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15 Comments:

Blogger Josie said...

Tom, you make a very good point. I have often said the blogging community is a very real community, with very real people, and people become friends. I have experienced people who have "met" on my blog, and they become friends and "visit" each other but they no longer visit me. And I wonder, did I say something to offend them? It can feel as uncomfortable in the blogging world as it does in the "real" world when something like that happens. It makes me sad.

I believe my blog is civil and my comments on other folks' blogs are civil, and yet... it happens. And I am left to wonder what I did wrong. I continue to visit these particular folks a few times, but it becomes more and more pointed that they no longer wish to visit me. I think that must happen sometimes, and it's too bad. If people are just going to stop being friendly, perhaps there might be a "civil" way to let the person know why. There are a couple of bloggers in particular of whom I became quite fond. They were my friends and now they ignore me. Is that how they treat people in their "real" worlds? Or is it easier to do that in the blogging world? What are the rules of civility in that regard? I have never considered myself an offensive person, so it has puzzled me.

BTW, I love Emily Dickinson and I have a book of her poems. I have one of her poems on my blog.

Cheers,
Josie

17/4/07 8:50 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I really work at being kind and civil to fellow bloggers. My unwritten rule is to try to be a blessing to others, lift them up, and let them know that I am a better person for having visited their blog. I also visit all of those that come my way and continue to do so as long as they keep coming back. I try not to take the comments too seriously but I enjoy the feedback and honestly (as strange as it may sound to others) feel a connection with blogs that I visit. Interesting... I never would have thought it until I entered blogland and became one of "them". Interesting indeed!

17/4/07 9:41 PM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Without blogging, my Canadian friends wouldn't be able to pick on me. I know, I know, another not so profound statement from yours truly. Interestingly enough, a fellow blogger is trying to engage me in a writing contest with my former creative writing instructor. I know better. Civility indeed.

17/4/07 9:54 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Josie,
I wouldn't read into it. Part IV of this post touches on some of the vulnerabilities and pit falls of blogging and the inherent limitations of what can be talked about in "commentland" where all are free to read. Part III will have a link to 110 rules of civility written by George Washington at age 16. Believe it or not he addresses this sort of thing.

Nancy,
Your "Daily Blessings" are indeed a good source of encouragement as is your outreach through comments. How's the wedding coming?

JR,
I know the Canadian friends about whom you're joking. What I want to know is how we got that Alberta clipper last week while Josie was enjoying spring in Vancouver.

17/4/07 11:01 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

This is another good post, Tom.

I am worried about our society. Most people are what I would term nice, but we have too many people in our society who hate and are mean-spirited and itching for a fight.

Before blogs there were message boards. I cut my Internet teeth on the Seniornet message boards back in 1995 when I first got involved. At the time I was not prepared for the level of incivility that was present among people my age when it came to discussions about politics and religion. I was shocked. I have to be honest although I might offend someone here, but the worst ones tended to be educated liberals who were atheists. I'll never forget this 80 year old man (OlePap was his name) who regularly got pummeled by the liberals. He had experienced a religious conversion late in life and he was not afraid to tell people about it or state his political opinions for that matter. He didn't hide his light under a bush. But he tended to be polite. If he didn't show up in the Democrat message board where the liberals hung out though, they would go hunting for him so that they could beat up on him.

I finally emailed OlePap to let him know how disgusted I was with the way he was being treated. He wrote back. He was a tough old man. He assured me he could handle whatever they had to dish out.

I think there are a few reasons why people who have blogs and visit blogs tend to be more civil than what I found in the message boards. The message boards were like a public square or a common area where people gathered. But a blog is like your home where people come to visit. This calls for a different code of conduct. We are courteous to our house guests generally. Our house guests are courteous to us generally. I know there are blogs that are exceptions to this though. But by and large, bloggers are well-mannered.

There is another reason that bloggers tend to be more civil with each other than what I saw in the message boards. Average people are establishing blogs in record numbers now. The masses have arrived in Blogland and they have brought civility with them. There is hope. At least this is how I see it.

17/4/07 11:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

SQ,
I didn't have internet back in the mid 90's so my first exposure to blogs is pretty recent, but I think you've hit the nail on the head. Sounds like those message boards were sort of a free-for-all with no "ownership." You will like Part III (it may prompt your "letter" post about that old letter you found), but one of the points is that people used to have a sense that they would have to live with the words they wrote--what we say today matters tomorrow--that makes a huge difference in how we interact.

17/4/07 11:14 PM  
Anonymous islandgroveress said...

I have asked my website's lady correspondents, who now call themselves The Quarks--inseparble particles--to make JR and honorary Quark.

No way.

Ivan's Quarks won't go! :)

17/4/07 11:46 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

I have to confess Tom, I haven't always been civil while visiting other blogs. I used to let liberals get my Irish up. I figured I could keep things fairly civil on my own blog but it was fair game to be a jerk and give it my worse on the liberal blogs because after all they are liberals and I've always considered them to be THE problem.

Then I met this very nice lady on the liberal blogs and I began to notice that she was making her point of disagreement much better than I was without being obnoxious, crude or condecending as I was acting as were the liberal commenters. This lady I speak of stands heads above those people and they are afraid to disagree with her common sense approach most of the time because she always gives a well thought out repsonse. I see that the lady of whom I speak has found your blog Tom. We need many more people like you and Susie to bring more civility and thoughtfullness to blogging. I am a warrior trying to become civilized and an acceptable member of society. It's a slow work in progress. Thank you both!

18/4/07 2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't even hear this word anymore. My neighbor lady used to say when people were rude "you could at least be civil about it." I'm coming back to read the links tonight

18/4/07 7:19 AM  
Blogger Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

18/4/07 8:34 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

J_G,
Do you realize how unusual it is for an adult to recognize an area of "self improvement" and to be open to input from other adults? Kudos to SQ for modeling effective dialogue.
When we remember that the goal of communication is not "speaking our mind" rather prompting people to think and possibly change theirs, it's easier to choose our words with more civility.
Your candor is refreshing, and what you've said here is so important that I've decided to split Part III into an "A" and a "B". I'll follow up on this in Part III-A.

Anon,
I've heard people say that before, too, but not for a long time. I'm glad to hear that you read a post first and then go back to the links. The links in this series are especially helpful.

BC,
Welcome to commentland in North America. We are mostly Americans and Canadians here, but we do have some notable cosmopolitans among us.


All,
I have some thoughts mulling over in my head Wednesday night about SQ and J_G's comments, and I'm going to add those as a post before moving on to the 19th century letters. I think you'll see my purpose as you read.

18/4/07 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't blog, but in reading the handful that I do I wish I did!!!!
Don't know how to set one up however since I'm technically challenged as my family will attest.
What you write about here brings me (memories of the past) to when I was in grade school my teachers still imparted "The Golden Rule"~~"Do Unto Others As YOU Would Have THEM Do Unto YOU!" I think that that thought process is long gone with the "new" entitlement mentality of our society! It should say "SELF-entitlement"!!!
It gets my ire up when I read the negative comments in blogs! But I think the people that are the perps of negativity want that...to strike the ire of people!!

19/4/07 4:18 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Anon,
If someone could walk you through setting up a blog, you could then leave comments with a chosen identity. Every now and then you could simply write a post about what you've read elsewhere. Before you know it, you'll be blogging on your own.
I agree with you. Attack-mode comments are meant to stir reactions not responses.

19/4/07 9:39 PM  
Blogger Tracie said...

Ok...I am definitely learning about civitas. Very interesting word. I really want to be a positive influence for readers but I have a tendency to overanalyze things so some stuff that comes out of my mouth may just be a splatter of words. I will definitely stay aware of what I say. I haven't been blogging long but it DOES make sense that we are in a 'community of citizens' and that we SHOULD be aware of what we say. Thanks for the reminder!

And I agree Anon... Find someone to walk you thru it and create a blog. You'll really enjoy it! :O)

11/5/07 10:03 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

"a splatter of words" what a powerful way to put it--especially as opposed to "patterns of ink," but I'm afraid we're all capable of "a splatter of words" if we're not careful. I dare say it's more likely to happen with the ones we love (as in "you always hurt the ones you love") or when we feel we are anonymous or authoritative and don't have to live with or answer for what we say.

26/5/07 9:48 AM  

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