Sunday, August 4, 2013

On talking too much and not enough

I know it sounds strange to say that I keep silent, when I talk so much. 26k+ tweets, pages of comments chez the G, this place, FFW. But most of that is football, or baking, or music, or pictures. I often stay silent on the tough stuff. Part of this is because sometimes I just don't know what to say, or how my voice could possibly help. Part because in some circumstances it is not for me to speak, but to listen to those who have relevant lived experience. Part, I rationalise as self-protection, but could also be characterised as fear, or cowardice. On some topics, sadly, silence is safest.

Silence can be a powerful tool. Some people are scared of silence and want to fill the void with words. I learned that in therapy, that's how they get you to tell your secrets, not just by asking questions, but by letting you answer, and then...waiting. The impulse was to continue, to fill the silence. But I soon learned to answer, and then stop. Several sessions involved me and them just sitting and looking at each other. At first, it was a bit confrontational; then, it became more comfortable. Then, we reached a silent agreement about it, and moved on.

So, I do not like to feel pressured into speaking, but neither do I like to feel pressured to be silent (that is not a dig at #twittersilence, by the way, but at the motives of the cons who caused this with their abuse of people speaking). Silence is also a powerful weapon. There is a lot of abuse on the internet, made easier by distance and (quasi)anonymity. But the nature of the abuse is qualitatively different for certain groups, whether microaggressions, mobbing or outright threat. That's not a technological problem, but a societal one. If people weren't con enough to say these things, Twitter's message options would be irrelevant. While people are con enough to say these things, the biggest 'report abuse' button in the world won't change it - and could make it worse, by being abused to further silence people.

It would probably end up with every message that was about anything at all being reported, and given the technical limitations of policing the message traffic through Twitter, being deleted, so the whole place was simply a constant stream of nothingness, and pictures of meerkats hugging. I'm all for pictures of meerkats hugging, but as light relief to the tough stuff. The tough stuff is important. I learn from the people I follow, and I want to continue to learn. I don't want them silenced. I may not say much about it, but I'm listening.