Since the advent of blogging as we have come to know it today, the world has become smaller still. When blogs were first pioneered as a formal sidebar to mainstream commercial websites nearly twenty years ago, thousands of people have been empowered to have their say on a range of issues which they have a vested interest in or affect their daily lives and those of their communities. Go to any popular news website or your favorite fashion retailer and you will find that a blog posting menu is embedded prominently on the company’s home page.

Today, you know that it costs nothing to have your say. Blog posting sites are an extension of popular social media chat rooms where you can say a little more about what you think of a particular product or event. But the cynical side of me asks whether we are not doing ourselves a disservice and if the things that we end up saying on our preferred retailers’ sites turn out to be counter to our original intentions. For instance, multinational companies save billions in advertising revenue on the basis of hundreds of visitors visiting their websites every day, saying nice things about their services and the products that they are selling.

You could be one of those who are more than happy to post rave reviews on behalf of companies and their employees, effectively doing their job for free. I draw the line with this because it also happens that companies (and their staff) do their customers a gross disservice more often than they are willing to admit. And when irate customers post on corporate blogs to voice their dissatisfaction it sometimes happens that those who are responsible for managing corporate sites are instructed to remove or delete the unsavory comment. Newspaper websites are a lot more flexible and open-minded.

They generally sell the notion of freedom of expression and comment that is fair. Newspapers are happy to do this because invariably, particularly when negative remarks are made, it is usually not about them and aligned to something or another that politicians, businessmen and public personages have said or done (or not). But if you scrutinize their pages a little more closely you often find that the newspaper staff responsible for monitoring their blogging forums are often not doing their jobs either. For instance, count the number of times prejudicial or harmful and derogatory comments are made. And when one citizen blogger reports this by way of issuing a complaint in the field provided, the complaint is invariably ignored and the offending post remains.

Companies and newspapers only seem to act swiftly when citizen bloggers or concerned consumers alert an independent body designated to police related misdemeanors because they mainly do not want to be blindsided and receive negative publicity which could potentially affect their purse strings. Having said all that, folks with much to say but without providing readers with a coherent and sensible list of suggestions to address a particular problem, are having a field day.

Basically, there is little or no control over what people say or do via blogging forums. And where people set up their own websites, the attitude of “well, it’s my site, so I can say and do what I please” prevails.  Those who are vehemently in favor of freedom of speech and expression will agree. I also agree that everybody has the right to express themselves freely. But I also ask this question on a regular basis – at what cost – particularly when people get hurt, or worse, die as a consequence of these liberating actions. It has been a while, perhaps a couple of years, since I checked my own behavior. You can do this too.

For one thing, always respect your reader, even those you are speaking against. Yes, it could very well happen that if you’ve made a valid point against someone or body that you feel is harming your community or the environment in which you live, the offender (alleged for now) may well read your post and take kindly to what you have said (and proposed) and take the remedial action required. It also comes down to presentation. Think of it this way. Think of it as though you are writing a formally drafted letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

There are certain rules and conventions that you have to abide by in order to state your case and win the editor’s heart and mind over to the point that he decides to publish your letter. If you have written and presented your note very well, you will be rewarded with your written comment’s publication, unedited and uncensored. Conversely, if your tone and expression is inflammatory or incendiary, even if you have made a mental note to desist from using offensive language which is prejudicial, derogatory, discriminatory or even racist, the danger is always there that not only will your letter not be published, it may be reported.

But noble citizen bloggers (or journalists) want to be heard. But at the same time, noble citizen bloggers will remain respectful of their readers, even those that they are actively opposing. And because they care about their own presentation and reputation they will also take additional care to ensure that their post is coherently composed and free of as many grammatical, factual and other errors as possible. Those of you who use the internet on a regular basis should know by now that checking things out, facts, grammar, syntax and spelling, is quite easy when you are typing on the run, if you will. Also, hone your skills as a writer to have your say by keeping to the word count rules advertised by the newspaper.

If you are publishing posts from your own website, observe the standard word count of around eight hundred. You’ll likely retain your readers’ interest once they’ve seen that the volume of your content is manageable. I am vociferous on most things in life. But at the same time, I do not want see people get hurt, not even my perceived enemies.

 

No Comments