March 3rd, 2011

clarelondon

THE OVERLAPPERS

A couple of times this week I've come across discussions about readers finding a "safe place" to discuss books.

This post isn't aimed at anyone in particular, and my thoughts are nothing to do with specific examples of authors - or readers for that matter - behaving badly, or not. Seriously, it's not. Bullying, aggression and/or abusive behaviour of any kind is always going to be shocking and unpleasant. I hate it and am intimidated and saddened by it, if you don't mind me going public with my upset and timidity.

*Everyone* deserves safe places.

No, what I want to ask is, who's looking after the interests of The Overlappers i.e. those who are authors as well as readers?

Does this mean we have to choose definitively one or other "status" in parts of our online life? Will we have to check a box somewhere to say, if we join these communities, we have never - or will never - write a book? Or drop out when we do? Who are we meant to discuss books we've read with, where can we chat with fellow fans? Aren't we given any credit for being able to talk about other people's books as objectively and on as level a playing field as other readers?

Logistically, I can't see how any online community can keep its eligibility that narrow yet still gather enough members, as I assume it needs and wants to, so that good discussions can be had. Otherwise it's a group of close(r) friends - which is great, and how many of us chat at the moment, but I can't see how that can be offered out to a wider population without getting tangled in these Overlapping issues.

If the need for safety is prompted by some people's inability to discuss or give/accept opinion civilly and with respect, isn't that something that's dealt with by moderation, not by restricting the membership in the first place? If the need for exclusivity is prompted by a desire to gossip and the option to give/take opinion UNcivilly, isn't that best handled in a private friends' group?

Am I missing a valid and valuable point?

These are only my initial thoughts, but it's starting to nag at me. I don't often express strong, personal opinion here (see note re upset and timid above) but I'm genuinely interested - in a totally civil and respectful way :) - to know if anyone else sees dichotomy in all this.