3 December, 2012  |   12 Comments

Metrics of agreement


My dad was a contrary, well, jerk to me.

At the end of his life, if he wasn’t fighting with me, he was fighting with the world, picking arguments and enforcing grudges. It made his day, fighting. If he’d been alive when the internet was around, he would probably be my worst troll.

I’m guessing, but you probably know a few people like my Dad. People who just like picking fights. Sometimes, just with you.

There’s a certain number of them in the world. And as the digital space broadens to include everyone, these people just might be up in your space, trying to pick fights, or debate.

If that’s your thing, (like it is Ian’s, bless him) engage!
Enjoy your lusty debate!  
Defend, attack, and draw your lines in the sand!

Thanks to a controversy-hating personality and the fatherly reasons listed above, online debate, PUBLIC debate really isn’t my thing.

Disagreement makes me fundamentally uncomfortable.
Public disagreement makes my stomach hurt, my neck tighten and my mouth all dry.
(I hate it.)

I have no interest in defending my point of view to those looking to poke holes in it.

The internet has changed with this huge influx of people.
(That’s a good thing! But it’s a different thing.)

Five or six years ago, we were invested in supporting each other — this tiny online space wouldn’t thrive without support. But that’s changed. People who love to disagree and debate have entered the online space too, to point out what’s missing, what needs to change.
This is only natural.
But it’s pretty uncomfortable.

Even worse, we’re not accounting for regional differences. New Yorkers being New Yorkers might come off as abrasive to a publisher used to dealing in less straightforward terms. And online publishers might feel they have 2 choices – to either toughen up and deal with the contrarians or shut down comments.

Another way of thinking of it — let’s pretend you have 100,000 unique visitors per month.
(I work in a world where we say, only 100,000 unique visitors. Goodness internet people, when did that happen?)

I come from Green Bay, Wisconsin, which has roughly 100,000 residents.
I don’t imagine that those 100,000 people would all agree with me about anything.
I do imagine that if I was putting my stuff in their faces, all those people might have an opinion about me either way.

But I don’t want to hear it.
And until this internet thing, I never had to.

Even though I’ve had a blog since the millenium, the number of people who might disagree with me (quite naturally) are growing. Because more people are online, more people who are into fighting are online.

I’m making my words, picturing my pictures and I’m putting them here, in this public space, that you must seek out, and quite frankly, I don’t want your negative feedback. I can’t imagine who would.

For artists, this open feedback, this destructive feedback, can destroy their output.
“What? You can’t take constructive criticism?” the critics ask, “Toughen up.”
“You shouldn’t put your work in public if you can’t handle the criticism.”

And to them I say,
Constructive criticism is given in private.
Destructive criticism is given in public.

And I don’t think The Internet knows the difference.

This is a huge change, this feedback loop of destructive criticism.

It was rare for an artist to hear, “Well, you should have done it better.” or “I wish it was in brown.” or “You think you’re so great but you’re not.” Artists just painted their paintings and wrote their songs and submitted their novels, and save for a few critics (who probably had training in their fields), they could create in peace. They could grow in peace, not having artwork posted and mocked and shamed.

Like I keep saying, we’re evolving this space online, we’re changing what the norms are — it’s becoming both more general and more specific. Language and meaning and norms are changing. Feedback has changed. The numbers have changed.

Just tell me you disagree in private.
I like it better that way.

12 thoughts on “Metrics of agreement

  1. 1
    Christy says:

    I feel the same way! I have never understood why a person would seek out someone else’s website and not just criticize her work but mock her and call her names. I don’t like it and I agree that constructive criticism is private.

    In related news…I think you are awesome!

  2. 2
    Lisa says:

    “Constructive criticism is given in private.
    Destructive criticism is given in public.”

    BRILLIANT. Helen Jane, you are a gift. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights.

  3. 3

    I AGREE WITH YOU. IN PUBLIC!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. 4

    +1 to Lisa of Comment #2. I may be repeating that all day long.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Heather says:

    You’re so smart. Did you know you are so smart? Because you are.

  7. 7

    I’ve only recently stumbled across your site – and might I say, this is a fantastic post. Well written, well said. Thank you.

  8. 8
    sarafoley says:

    So true, very true. I don’t want to defend or justify myself either. I am who I am – I don’t want to change anyone’s mind about anything, I am just expressing myself. So are you, no doubt 🙂

  9. 9
    a kelso says:

    Life shouldn’t have to be a battleground. Aren’t we centuries beyond that? I say…people have forgotten manners and have no filters. Anything goes, and that’s wrong. To facilitate change, you don’t corner a person whose ideas you disagree with and blast them. Like a cornered animal, they will strike out, and so it goes…on and on. It’s endless. Don’t they get that? Manners! More people should try them.

  10. 10
    Heather says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have just recently come upon your blog too and I think you are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. 11
    Kim says:

    So well put- great thoughts…boy ,don’t we all have upbringings that affect how we function now? I’d love to read about how your mom and the rest of the fam coped. Plus I agree with Heather.

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