Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much time I spend online for the sole purpose of discovering stuff. I insatiably devour news sites and blogs and return over and over again to the ones that speak to me. I alternately love and despise how people react to provocative ideas or beautiful images or shocking news developments. We’ve got the borderline inhuman Yahoo threads laced with profanity, cruelty and worse, and then the moderated threads in which people articulate and further their ideas and opinions in a respectful and open way that is encouraged and supported by the moderator and those engaged in the conversation. The Yahoo brand of comments chips away at any hope I have for a future peaceful world, while the other kind, the one where people understand that there are humans attached to the fingers hitting the keyboard, does the opposite. It’s these kind of comment threads that keep me coming back for more, which is obviously is why I am sitting here writing about comments instead of finishing my sewing project or grading essays for my online writing class.
One conversation I’m following is happening in one of the groups I belong to on facebook, Mama Friends. MF was started by a friend here in town who wanted a place to share her frustrations, joys and everything in between about parenting – the things we often get tired of seeing on people’s main facebook pages. Mama Friends has grown exponentially over the last few years, from a few dozen locals to well over 200 around the country. It’s where we ask about the appropriateness of a certain movie (“Brave” came up the other day) or to invite thoughts on how to handle freakouts (ours and our kids’) or to share articles related to being a parent, partner or professional.
Last week I discovered Penelope Trunk’s blog, and the thing I’ve learned from reading her extensive catalogue of posts is that she unabashedly writes her pieces with a provocative, my-way-or-the-highway, black and white pen. No middle ground exists in the areas she feels most passionately about. I posted a link to her site on Mama Friends because she has a lot of really interesting and in-your-face things to say about homeschooling and the public schools. A few MFs posted how much they love her blog, then one MF honestly and thoughtfully shared how PT’s writing made her feel pretty irritated and uncomfortable, especially the way she eviscerates public schools and her post titled “3 Ways to Rectify the Miseducation of Girls.” A few MFs agreed, a few didn’t, and a few more viewpoints were shared from both sides of coin. I was so gripped by the conversation that I did something I never do: check fb on my phone in the middle of a my walk! I think the discussion is close to running its course, but I would love to see it keep going because I LOVE the dialogue and questions it has generated!
This is why healthy online discussions draw me in so powerfully. Those who make the effort to process what they read and take the time to formulate and clarify their ideas, disagreements and reactions are okay by me.