Monday, April 07, 2008

Yes, You Can Ruin Your Life

Hello, Inquirer.

First, I would like to express my appreciation for Pam Pastor's article, "Yes, Blogs Can Ruin Your Life", released last April 1st. I felt that it provided a good summary on those pitfalls that bloggers often fail to expect. In addition, I felt that your corresponding examples of controversial bloggers ("Cautionary Tales") gave some excellent real-world support for Ms. Pastor's explanations.

However, I also felt that the article failed to capture the heart of the matter. I felt that it failed to cover one important point that affects not only bloggers but all people in general. That point is a simple one: Each of us is ultimately accountable for everything that we say or do. It does not matter if we are bloggers, or if we are journalists, or if we are politicians or businessmen or writers or merely pedestrians on the busy streets. Each of us has to realize that we are responsible for what we do, what we say, and how we act towards our fellow human beings.

In short, I felt that Ms. Pastor's title was misleading. Our blogs cannot ruin our lives any more than our books, newspapers, radios and television sets can. It is not the physical means of expression that does it; it's the opinions that we express through these forms of media. What we choose to express to the world at large eventually dictates how the world receives us. If there's anyone who can ultimately ruin our own lives, it's us.

In this way, building a blog is really no different from writing an article for a magazine, or hosting a TV show, or merely having a conversation with our friends. In each situation, we have to be responsible for what we say. We have to realize that our words will always have consequences, regardless of whether we're gossiping about a couple of celebrities' sexual orientations, complaining about the behavior of the people seated next to us on an airline flight, or demanding our money back from a friend who we once trusted. We can communicate those words in any medium we want... but when the controversy boils over and the hate comes pouring in, we must realize that it's us -- not our blogs, not our magazines, not our talk shows and certainly not our idle conversations -- who must be held accountable.

Sean Uy


Hailyn said...

Sean: I agree with your comments. Everyone SHOULD be accountable for our own actions... In this case, our own words. As a fellow blogger, I am indeed very careful of this responsibility, which is why I choose my topics very carefully.

However, Ms. Pastor's comment is valid as well - that blogs can ruin people's lives - at a much faster rate and a broader audience range than the traditional media.

I think we rely too much on people's individual sense of responsibility for their own blogs and corresponding consequences. But let's face it. Only mature bloggers happen to respect blogs the same way they respect books or any other published articles.

Most bloggers do not have a corresponding editor-in-chief who will do a check-and-balance on the validity and language ethics of the article. Blogs also do not require the same level of conscientiousness in citing reputable sources whenever they blog. As far as some people are concerned, they are just writing in their diaries. Whoever happens to read it will read it, with no regard for the consequences.

I am definitely 100% for personal accountability that each person must take for their own words. It just takes the rest of the mature and enlightened blogging community to report abuses and to take the discipline to a higher level. I am very hopeful that a few years from now, we would see the same level of discipline that other authors follow similar to writing a book or a magazine article.

Sean said...

This is true. This is very true.

But this does not change the fact that I felt the way the article was titled (and thus the way it was outwardly promoted) implied that it was the big bad blog that could ruin peoples' lives. At no point did I feel, just by glancing at the section itself, that the responsibility for my own actions was the true item at stake. It did not help that the Inquirer ran a supplementary article on the same page about bloggers who died younger than expected, ostensibly because of their writing habits.

Yes, only mature bloggers can look upon the medium in the same way that people look upon other more established forms of media. Yes, there is no system of checks and balances in place whenever a person writes an article for his blog. Yes, as far as most people are concerned, they're just writing in online diaries without much thought for their audience's reaction.

But then, people don't blame their diaries if the secrets written in them ever got out into the public consciousness. People don't blame the printing presses if they accidentally write something libelous, and people don't blame the TV shows if they accidentally say something offensive on the air.

Why should we imply that a similar blame be shifted towards our blogs? The site is not the issue, and the service is not the issue. I felt that the Inquirer failed to give a good immediate impression on readers who would not necessarily be looking at the entire article, that it implied that it was the blogging that was bad and nothing else. I felt that the message should not have been the possibility that blogging could ruin one's life -- I felt that the message should have been that one holds responsibility for their own expressions, regardless of whether blogging is involved or not. That, I think, would have given a far more effective lesson to both blogging advocates and non-advocates alike.