Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Semantics War - AKA - Why I Stopped Participating in Forum Discussions

Heads up: This is a rant. I read a forum post and it made me cry. And because I'm a writer, I'm writing about it. You can skip this if you don't care.

When you talk to someone, you're never really sure how your words are going to come across.

As a writer, I understand this better than anyone. When I write something, I am never sure how someone will interpret what is on the page (or screen!), and I accept that. I like to leave things a little open, to give the reader a chance to use their imagination. Because trying to write what's in my head word-for-word would be too many pages of minute detail, and I don't have the patience for it and I don't think the reader does, either. (My point--someone could take that and say, "You're making assumptions based on your readers. You can't make a broad declarative statement like that because you'll alienate a good majority of the population.")

So when I go to a forum to read a post, I interpret what the author is saying with my own unique experiences and background. Maybe I like what they have to say, and maybe I don't. But I will read it through my eyes, and I understand that they have written it through theirs. The same is true when I talk with someone. I hear them in my way, and know they are speaking to me in theirs.

I was hanging out on Goodreads, and I stumbled upon this forum post that summed up everything I hate about forum participation: semantics wars, people's unending cruelty, insistence to show off and be "better" and "smarter" than everyone else, and condescending nature:
Qualms with YA Adult Authors from an Avid Reader

I cried while reading this post.

Now that the internet has opened the doors of communication, people find it easier to be opinionated and feel everyone has the right to their opinions--and must listen to them and deal with them, whether they like it or not. You can no longer make declarative statements and have people assume it ends with, "in my opinion." Making a declarative statement means you are stating something for the general public--and how dare you? We must be politically correct. Never mind that the more politically correct we are, the more we perpetuate the idea there's something wrong with the topic we're all clearly avoiding.

The underlying argument in the semantics war is that everyone should be using the same terminology to say the same thing. But imagine, dear reader, how "interesting" a book would be if everyone spoke the same way. If everyone used the same wording to write. You could argue people need to clarify themselves in speaking or writing--but why? Are we not intelligent enough creatures to understand a person's statement is simply their own? What drives the need to correct each other's way of speaking, of writing, of meaning when communicating? So we're, "all on the same page"? We will never be on the same page. We can't possibly be.

What we can do is be polite. Be courteous. Be understanding. And if we disagree, do it kindly, respectfully, and with decency. No one likes to be put down or insulted.

And you can rip that to shreds all you want.


deezeeamanda said...

That woman is a bitch. I see people like her all day long on my mommy boards. People take offense by what you DONT say more than what you DO say. Ugh.
That "child" had more tact than the snarky adult.

Vivian Marie said...

Seriously!! You summed that up beautifully, btw... "People take offense by what you DON'T say more than what you DO say." Love that. It's perfect.

That kid was definitely way, way more mature and polite than that woman deserved. I just don't understand people sometimes. I really don't...