Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The "Safe Space" Conumdrum

Efforts are underway at Shakesville to improve upon the "safe space" and the list of requirements is starting to make airport security look like a trip to the supermarket.

While it may be a noble effort, I suspect it will meet the same end as previous attempts. That's unfortunate. But so is reality. As I mentioned on my Facebook page recently, you can't have a blog addressing controversial topics with a full-frontal headbutt, with 12,000 daily visitors no less, and expect everyone to be on the same wavelength, minding their manners and their "fuck yous" or occasional slip-ups in how wording is phrased, or whether the imagery of those words might cause someone discomfort.

Good luck with that effort. Let me put it in perspective. I've been seeking my own personal "safe space" since high school. What worked best for me there was simply being a loner, and even that wasn't terribly effective since I was subjected to frequent ridicule from one or two students because I was perceived as weird.

In college, I joined a Green Party group on campus which was comprised of about 12-15 students. Sounds like an ideal safe-space, right? I was out of there after about two weeks when I realized even a dozen like-minded people still can't agree on a damn thing. The bickering was just too much and I felt I had to leave. So pardon me if I'm a pessimist in refusing to believe it's even worth the effort to create such a space in a group of thousands. Although 95% of them might be intelligent and conscientious, and respectful in general, it doesn't take much in a crowded utopia to tip a glass over and that group is in no mood for a carpet clean-up.

Perhaps this is why I enjoy blogging about politics now because I'm not physically in the room with people listening to them argue and disagree. It's bad enough in a comment thread! And I'm not the least bit concerned that I am preaching to the choir, nor am I concerned that the choir might number about 4o or 50 as opposed to thousands. I blog to get things out of my system. I blog to vent. And I like putting it out there. I don't really give a shit about accolades, awards, or how many thumbs up I get. If I put out a bowl of food on the patio, something is going to eat it and enjoy it, even though I might never see it.

If that were my blog, and if I were in the same mental place as Melissa, I'd probably shut down blog comments on all posts except the most benign general interest humor pieces. I would link my posts to my Facebook page and my friends and like-minded acquaintances could comment. It might even work better that way as people, I believe, tend to think about the impact of what they are going to say when dealing with real names, and faces, as opposed to the anonymity of a blog thread with fake names.

But that's just me and how I would approach it. However, that would destroy the "community" feel. And ironically that takes us right back to square one.

Shakesville, or more accurately it was the precursor, Shakespeare's Sister, was one of two blogs I visited on a regular basis when I first started blogging in 2006. That blog spawned many virtual friendships (not to mention an education) which live on to this day on Facebook, and I am eternally grateful for having that wonderful experience and introduction back then to the people I know now. However virtual they may be (I've met a couple), I still consider them friends.

I wish nothing but the best for those Facebook friends of mine who also weather the storm over at Shakesville, moderating what is sometimes irrational madness. I admire their efforts and their determination. I feel that if Melissa shuts down the blog, and doesn't write another word, that would be a sad loss for the planet as she is one of the best, most articulate and interesting writers I've run across in the blogosphere. I would hope she would choose to continue writing somewhere.

As for Shakesville, the blog, even the tension which is evident in the comment thread today makes me uncomfortable to read. As with air travel, I'd have to say I'm "All Out" when it comes to mingling in the community. I'd prefer to watch from afar, in my own "safe space." I already have been for six months.