“Imagine that you are a reader who has shelved your own books in your own personal, idiosyncratic way, with shelf tags that amuse you and help you remember where things are, your own personal organisation of the way you think and read …
And suddenly there is an author in your reading space complaining publicly about your filing system and where they fit in it.
That quote came from–where else?–Absolute Write, during a discussion of yet another tempest in the teapot that is Goodreads. Said tempest seems to be the result of a series of misunderstandings and mildly bad behavior that got blown way out of proportion, some of which revolved around a few unfortunate names some Goodreads user gave to her bookshelves, and a misinterpretation over what those names meant by an author. The usual charges of bullying were leveled, accusations were made, you know the drill.
I’m not on Goodreads, and I have no plans to be on Goodreads anytime soon. This post is not about Goodreads and its merits, it’s not about authors behaving badly, or about the fact that everyone is so eager to call everything the other guy does ‘bullying.’ No, this is another ‘What do you expect?’ post.
When I read that quote in the particular AW thread mentioned, that was my immediate reaction. I was derailed for the moment from the rest of the discussion. Wait, I thought. You set up a space on the internet, invite a bunch of people to come in and look around, and then get upset when someone actually, you know, stops in and has something to say? What did you expect? And why is it creepy?
Goodreads is not your living room. It is not a private place. It is a public space where anyone with a password (and maybe not even that, I don’t know, I don’t use Goodreads) can drop by and visit. And because people are people, and the internet affords both intimacy and anonymity (or, more correctly, the illusion of both), people feel quite comfortable sharing their opinions on your space and everything in it. Creepy? Maybe a bit, but if you don’t want people coming and commenting, why have a public space? Why invite the scrutiny?
Look, I get that it would be strange to have someone come to your house and immediately start telling you that your couch is too old, your drapes don’t match the carpet, and oh, what a shame, you’ve got that one mismatched chair in your dining room set, what a pity. No one wants to experience that. In person, most people wouldn’t do that (though you can always feel it, can’t you? You can see people looking around in that particular way, and you just know what they’re thinking), but the internet plays by different set of rules. The Golden Rule should apply, but it doesn’t (This, sadly, seems to be the standard rule for too many) it’s foolish at this point to assume that it does.
Well, hey, that was pretty downerific, wasn’t it? On a more positive note, Meghan Masterson recently conferred on (upon?) me a Liebster Award! Thank you, Meghan. Somehow, the Liebster has morphed quite a bit from when I first did it; the poor thing seems to have been absorbed by the Ten Things thing that went around a couple of years ago. I appreciate the award, though I’m not in the most participatory of moods just this minute.
And that’s it, we’re out of time here, folks. Thanks for dropping by and have a great weekend!