Fellow book blogger JonBob is celebrating the first anniversary of his blog – by the way, Happy Blog-versary! 🎂 – and he was so kind to ask me for some help with the festivities by writing a guest post, which is both a delight and a privilege for me. And what better way to get into the spirit of things if not by talking about what makes this community one of the best and most welcoming in the whole Web?
The Internet is an amazing place for finding information and meeting with people who share our same interests, bridging vast distances and canceling borders, but it can be also a battle ground for conflicting points of view, the heat of those battles made even fiercer by the anonymity afforded by a remote connection and the possibility of letting the worst humanity has to offer out in the open, unchecked and unrestrained.
I have been lucky enough in my journeys as I pursued my “infatuations”, and never truly encountered mean-spirited people whose sole goal was to seed discord: for example, at the time I was following a few discussion groups on Usenet (ancient history, I know…), there were the so-called trolls, who liked to foment virtual skirmishes, or flame wars, by simply dropping a controversial opinion and then watching the ensuing mayhem from the sidelines. We learned quickly enough that as long as we ignored them, they would soon vanish.
Now the debate, when it occurs, is much more heated: people appear to enjoy taking sides – no matter the topic – in a vicious way that is the sad reflection of the “us vs. them” mentality that seems to have taken hold of the world in a form of collective madness. Those trolls of old have evolved, and probably it’s because some mad scientists altered their DNA to make them more aggressive…
But there are a few islands of peace in the Web, and the book blogging community is one of them – what’s more, my experience with it showed me that it’s one of the most welcoming, easy-going and above all relaxing you could find in cyberspace. Much depends, I believe, on the way book lovers are structured, the way our passion for reading shapes us: our favorite pastime is to sit comfortably with a book in our hands, and through those books (particularly if we enjoy speculative fiction) we visit and envision new worlds, new cultures, new ways of facing issues. It would not be an exaggeration to say that those stories broaden our minds, opening them to infinite possibilities: the end result is that we are more ready to accept a different view, or at the very least to take it into consideration without judgement or scorn.
And that’s the beauty of this community: the respect we have for the stories we read translates into the respect we hold for our fellows’ points of view, even when they differ from ours. Each time a controversial book is discussed, or an unpopular opinion voiced, there is no danger of… armed conflict: the worst that can happen is that we can agree to disagree, and move on. It’s a rare and precious gift, because we can approach this community with the certainty that it will offer us a pleasant, relaxed experience – and in these times you can’t certainly take that for granted.
So, as we celebrate the first anniversary for JonBob’s blog, I wish for it to be only the first of many more in this amazing and inspiring world of books.