Hyper-InterActive Backlash

Hey all you, People Of The Year; you are upsetting some mainstream journalists.

Internet users are getting pretty used to reading an article and then speaking their mind about said article. They leave comments; or are inspired to write a blog entry about the article adding their commentary and opinions.

They are quick to spot an email address, or “Contact” link and quickly send in their two cents worth.

And after leaving a comment at a blog, or an article, or dashing off an email; they may log back onto the same page a dozen times or more waiting for a response; a reply; or a rebuttal. Blog owners may check their blog visit stats on the hour; laughing with glee as the counter clicks up and up and up.

Well, listen up all you Internet users who think the Mainstream media is also at your beck and call; Joel Stein DOESN’T CARE!

“Here’s what my Internet-fearing editors have failed to understand: I don’t want to talk to you; I want to talk at you. A column is not my attempt to engage in a conversation with you. I have more than enough people to converse with. And I don’t listen to them either. That sound on the phone, Mom, is me typing….

“…Not everything should be interactive. A piece of work that stands on its own, without explanation or defense, takes on its own power. If Martin Luther put his 95 Theses on the wall and then all the townsfolk sent him their comments, and he had to write back to all of them and clarify what he meant, some of the theses would have gotten all watered down and there never would have been a Diet of Worms. And then, for the rest of history, elementary school students learning about the Reformation would have nothing to make fun of. You can see how dangerous this all is.

I get that you have opinions you want to share. That’s great. You’re the Person of the Year. I just don’t have any interest in them. First of all, I did a tiny bit of research for my column, so I’m already familiar with your brilliant argument. Second, I’ve already written my column, so I can’t even steal your ideas and get paid for them.”

In Joel’s defense, he tries to explain:

“A lot of e-mail screeds argue that, in return for the privilege of broadcasting my opinion, I have the responsibility to listen to you. I don’t. No more than you have a responsibility to read me. I’m not an elected servant. I’m an arrogant, solipsistic, attention-needy freak who pretends to have an opinion about everything. I don’t have time to listen to you. I barely have time to listen to me.

Part of the problem is that no etiquette has yet been established for the hyper-interactive world. And I, born before MySpace and e-mail, don’t feel comfortable getting a letter and not answering it. And then, if I do, suddenly, we’re pen pals, with all those pen pal responsibilities.

And I don’t want a pen pal who already has strong opinions about me. What fun is that? I want a pen pal named Simone who lives in Grenoble and is trying to learn English while I learn French, and teases me with vague promises to come visit over summer break even though she never does.”

And while Joel doesn’t want to hear from you, his bosses certainly do, and so Joel has suggested (and his bosses have complied) your very own section of the LA Times website to spout off about what you think of Joel.

And don’t think that all the comments have been brutal towards Joel for his opinion.

He has a few fans:

“As a journalist I agree with Joel, our job is not to appreciate or reiterate the opinions of the undereducated American populous who thinks because they watch their local FOX affiliate as they put on their Carhart shirt and Timberland boots every morning they are an expert. Our job is to tell you the story from our point of view, and your job is to know we are smarter than you, and we are right.

Kudos for speaking your mind.

Posted by: Ryan Fishman | January 02, 2007 at 12:43 PM”

OUCH! You can feel free to email Mr. Fishman your comments, as well.

But, don’t rush off just yet to leave Joel a comment that he is not going to read. The ever-lovely PR Strumpette(of whom I learned of Joel’s rant) has even more to say directed at the blogging community that may have spawned this hyper-interactivity.

Strumpette feels that the cyber-relationships we are building with readers and clients may be at a breaking point.

“Now apply that to the virtual world. On the frenetic Web, the make-believe land of porn, podcasters, petty thieves and pedophiles, where “friendship is a stranger who thanks you for the MySpace add,” “relationships” seem to be at a breaking point.

The evangelists of this whole social-networking fad forgot one essential thing: people, i.e the dirty masses… the uncouth-drunken-my-Name-is Earl-trailerpark-meth-crazed-idiots struggling with the decision of whether to pee or puke.

Stein’s solution is actually quite polite in its directness. His conclusions are fundamental. Simply, Joel has relationships; he doesn’t have the extra time; and incorporating sporadic uninvited external input compromises his creative product.

Simple enough. Joel’s right on the money.

See…whether we want to admit it or not, all relationships are about cost/benefit. It’s becoming more apparent that this blogging thing just isn’t worth it. And the long tail grows more weary of all the bullshit with every day. The lying, the pretense, leaving the seat up, the constant flatulence, blogging just isn’t working out.”

I don’t think it’s time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Joel Stein has put a limitation on the “relationship” he wants with his readers. We all do that everyday with no pretense. We have “working relationships”, close personal friendships, acquaintances, and lovers and family.

You can write a content-driven blog aim AT your readers like Mr. Stein’s columns and you can have a close personal friendship blog open to all your readers’ comments and your exchanges with them like Wil Wheaton.

Or you can have a “hack” blog filled with advertising and pitches that does little more than collect key words that attract search engines.

The choice is yours, and the relationships you build are yours to direct.

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About Dave Robison

Now Appearing in an Extended Engagement! Join Dave Robison as he takes you into his world and his daily life of reviving a stand-up comedy career. Prepare for side trips exploring Public Relations, marketing and business ethics. Enjoy some frequent detours describing his observations on life. Read the exploits of this self-proclaimed Renaissance-man and blooming blogger as you go On The Road With Dave. From Mobile, Alabama comes Dave Robison, a confessed Internet-aholic, middle-aged-married-man, who's generally a nice guy--he just has one or two issues. Stand-Up Comedy by Dave Robison is available for corporate events, college campuses, and nightclubs.
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