This is somewhat related to my Joining post above. These issues are on my mind a lot lately. The Internet makes it at once easy to participate in something and easy not to. One can watch a forum, blog, Facebook, Twitter, email thread go by and not say a thing. Or one can jump in and participate in ways both positive or negative. Too often, the participation leans to the negative. Because it’s easy to spout off your opinion or inveigh against the person posting. But increasingly, I think it’s important to find ways to jump in, and better yet, to do something about whatever issue is at hand. I’ve seen a couple of these kinds of things happen recently. Kathleen Fitzpatrick points to one, and Audrey Watters and I have discussed another. I know these events and postings only in passing via my Twitter stream.
Mostly I am guilty of simply letting something go by, even if I’m disturbed by it, even if I feel my opinion might shape the conversation in positive ways. And I think too many people do that. Neither Audrey nor Kathleen did. And I’m not talking about something super dramatic necessarily, just things in places where one might legitimately help things get better. And I don’t mean feeding the trolls either. I mean arguing with someone, or supporting someone, or even, in major cases, reporting someone. Because if we just let stuff happen, then we can’t be surprised when things turn out in ways we didn’t expect. Increasingly our discourse and discussions are happening primarily online, and I think the tendency sometimes is to think that if it’s just online then it doesn’t affect the “real world.” Well, online is the real world now and what happens there affects what happens in the real world. So, for example, how women do or don’t participate in the tech world is hugely shaped by how they’re discussed online or by what happens when they post in tech forums (I’m looking at you, Slashdot and Reddit). It’s not like Vegas. What happens there doesn’t stay there. It bleeds over into the real world.
I’ve started participating myself, more locally. There are issues that matter to me. And I really do believe in the saying that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Basically, I think I’m done with letting others speak for me. And I’m ready to do something about some of the issues I care about. I may be beating my head against the wall, but hey, if you don’t try, you’ve already failed.