2005-09-10

Creeps and Voyeurs

Pool Guy lives on the sixth floor. Nice of Musie to tell us. Although it would have been nicer if she'd told us before we installed all that surveillance equipment on the floor below.

I'm kidding of course. We're not that creepy. But I'd likeAs long as you leave the lights off, no one will know you're watching to explore a bit how how creepy we really are. And also to explore a bit about the unwritten blogging codes we've broken here at the metablog.

A good place to start is with someone we haven't heard from for a while. When 6A came back from the Vatican, he decided to see what Evolver had been up to.

Evolver did not react well to our existence:

...on to what creeped me out. What really spooked me was to discover one of my read blogs is basically... well, I'd consider it that anyway - stalked

...I've always imagined that what I write is read by no more than three or four people in a circle of folks who all read each other's blogs. And I've further imagined that what I comment isn't in fact read by anyone (including frequently the blogger themselves.)...

He was particularly affected by our reaction to his comments, in particular that we found him to be "creepy".

...'creepy' is the worst reaction of all...

I suppose I've always feared that ...

And I've always been terrified by that specific variety of bullying that plays to this vulnerability...

I imagine I'm not the only one on the metablog who feels uncomfortable being cast in the position of a "bully" and therefore probably not the only one who was glad to see him feeling better enough to get some shots off at us a couple of days later :

I'm a little past my wounded "inner child" (so to speak) today. Getting called creepy by people involved in an enterprise as spine-chillingly disturbing as that metablog is really not something to take that seriously. I mean these folks photoshop fake magazine covers regarding the blog they until recently secretly lurked in. One post refered (perhaps facetiously) to an 'ethics committee' that their metablog has. Its pretty chilling to think that this is their reined-in behaviour...

I was the first to comment here on Evolver. It was in a comment following one of Coyote's more focussed postings, but not related to it:
...this Evilver guy. He's more obsessed with 5M than we are. Posting vaguely inappropriate comments within minutes of her posting. Focussed on her sexuality when isn't he supposed to be some kind of born again Christian?
[I nicknamed him for the same reason we nicknamed everyone when we were operating in stealth-mode. We didn't want the metablog turning up on vanity Google searches. (Who knew it would take months for Google to notice we exist?) The "evil" part? It was just too easy. ]

Going back through the 5M archives, I don't think my comment on the sexuality focus was fair. My take now on Evolver's comments is they were vague but encouraging remarks. His blog has a big focus on his Christianity. That's something that creeps me out. I have a kneejerk oppositional defiance reaction to evangelism. That E'ver is an active member of Father Joe's congregation doesn't help.

The thing is that any of us who follow Musie's blog are under suspicion for being voyeurs. Yes, we read her to connect with the human condition and all that, but we also want the sex and the gossip, to see just what intimate details she'll reveal. If it's about someone we know, all the better.

And she talks enough about wanting more and better sex and more and better love that any man who reads her blog and makes contact is automatically suspected of being a creepy predator. (Except Bob who comes off like a puppy who wants to play. He's got a deft touch, that lad.)

Evolver left a comment asking about Westfest when 5M said she'd be going to it. He may well have been only interested in learning about this community event and somehow not realized he'd get a faster response typing westfest ottawa into Google. To us, it was a clumsy attempt to make contact with Musie.

When we blog readers are finding each other creepy, a good part of our perception comes from our projection of our own thoughts and feelings onto each other. "If I only wanted to learn about Westfest, I'd just Google it, I'd not try to invite a dialogue with Musie and see if she'd suggest we meet up there."

As long as we follow an intimate details blog of a woman who lives in our city, goes places we go, and knows people we know, we are going to be perceived as creepy voyeurs.

On top of that, with our metablog, we are breaking unwritten Blog-o-sphere rules. Here are the ones I'm aware of:

  1. Don't ruin it for the rest of us readers by making the blogger self-conscious and aware of their lack of privacy so that they stop being so frank. (Oddly, we seem to have accomplished the opposite.)
  2. Don't spy on the blogger. (In our defence, there's not a lot we can do when she chooses the best downtown cafe as her perpetual hangout. At least she's safe drinking at the F&F. )
  3. Don't criticize the bloggers or the commenters. (We've been treating 5M as though we're literary critics or members of a book club and she's a writer or a character in a novel; not like we're fellow members of a big support group.)

Click to see Francis Heaney's other great t-shirt ideasI don't think any of us feel guilty about breaking these rules. When you create a public site on the web, it's open to any of us to read it and react to it as we choose. That doesn't give us permission to break any laws or presume there is a relationship between us that doesn't exist, but if bloggers don't want to feel like celebrities under a spotlight, they shouldn't step onto the stage.

17 comments:

4th Dwarf said...

While on the topic of creepy, do you suppose Lana knows about Dov Charney's harassment complaints?

Lana said...

I do. And I also know that I saw you hanging around the line for the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah concert.

lana said...

also re: stalking - there is a difference between writing about someone's blog and following them around town. You may not think you're borderline creepy, but you're certainly on the borderline of harassment.

4th Dwarf said...

Arr, sure it must have been my less-evil-but-just-as-creepy twin in that line, Third-and-a-half Dwarf.

Had it been me, I'd have been in the club, not standing outside a sold-out show with no ticket.

coyote said...

Good that you bring this topic up, Dwarf. From what I've been able to see, the blog world is similar to many other newly-discovered places in the past -- people seem to have urges to try to create unsullied utopias in them. In blogging, that urge seems to translate, often, into being ever-so-polite and giving nothing but attaboys to fellow bloggers. This is commendably idealistic, but not realistic. You can back all the social engineering you want, either by fiat or common agreement, but somebody always messes with the underlying contract. Flame wars take place all the time.

Now, we in this blog can be rather a tart-tongued lot, and perhaps our approach may be seen as controversial. But that does not mean we're unempathetic. Or evil. Or creepy.

Dwarf, you state in Clause 3 of today's screed that we don't deal with the Muse "like we're fellow members of a big support group". Depends how you define support group, I suppose. Good support groups are not about back-pats and attaboys exclusively. Sometimes they kick serious emotional ass, yet the impulse behind them is very far from unkind.

The Muse, for her part, edits herself fairly closely, past lack of clarity about the nature of the legal implications of publishing aside. Her work-in-progress focuses tightly upon relationships. We don't actually know a lot about what she thinks about when she does yoga, or what she feels when she teaches, where her mind goes when she runs, what her career ambitons may be. She has made editorial decisions to omit or downplay those aspects. And frankly, if we were interested in things like that, we'd be reading other blogs anyway.

We began reading the Muse's blog because it is about relationships. We find this topic fascinating, and well worthy of discussion. None of us here is ready for adult Depends by a long shot, but we've all been around the block once or twice. We've learned a few things. We have opinions. We discuss them v -- usually literately, usually respectfully. She obviously reads them. Sometimes she agrees with us, sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes we agree with her, sometimes we don't. We're all entitled. It is, as the Dwarf pointed out earlier today, a public space.

But I think the interraction and interplay of these ideas is rather richer, more creative, more interesting and likely more valuable than the sparse few comments that occur in her blog space. And if this happens to mess up a few putative shibboleths in the blogging community as we go about our merry, culture-jamming way, well, good... in fact, dammit, great!

Agents "A" and "O" said...

4th Dwarf: I don't believe we saw a Francis Heaney credit on that T-shirt. Do we need to refer you to C:4 of our guidelines? We also must remind you that talking about your own metablog falls under "self-referential wanking". And, Coyote - bragging about how groundbreaking your metablog also qualifies as self-referential wanking. I'm going to have to ask you both to get back to the task at hand.

4th Dwarf said...

Is that really both Agent A and Agent O? I'd expect Agent A to at least do a mouseover or a click on the t-shirt picture before accusing me of not crediting a picture.

coyote said...

Oh jeeez. You guys again... I believe that if you (re?)read the text of my comment, ya bozos, you will discover that I do not use the word 'groundbreaking'. Nor do I, in fact, imply it. If you're gonna parse my maunderings, it behooves you to pay attention.

Agatha said...

"The borderline of harassment"...strong language, indeed. Let me assure you that the ESIs adhere to a code of Ethics that prohibits the kind of behaviour you suggest. I don't think you or anyone else in blog-world need fear.
I would like to add that we are living in a small city in which it is possible for real-life chance encounters to occur.

5th Muse said...

Dear ESI's, I thought I should weigh in. I don't feel stalked. For the most part, I agree with Coyote, this is a fruitful dialogue. I don't always agree with what you ESI's say (take, for example, Dwarf's amateur diagnostics), but I do appreciate hearing it.

The one problem I have with the effect of the metablog on my blog is that the good people who used to leave comments, like Evolver, don't seem to feel comfortable enough to do that anymore. That saddens me.

I also like the idea of transparency. You are all interesting and talented people and I would love to know you better, but you don't seem interested in that. I understand that might change this interesting dynamic we have going, but I'm not sure it there would necessarily be negative consequences.

I'm still trying to do my own thing. Granted, I'm trying to be a bit more careful about what I say. I just wish that you all would do that too, especially wrt those who leave comments on my site.

I think we should all have a Blog/Metablog Off the Blog party this November, just to spice the dreary month up a little.

What do you think??

Conch Shell said...

Seems to me that Lana's post broke our content rule D.2., provided Dwarf was in fact at that concert last night. As far as harassment allegations, nah, way off the mark. But I can understand such misunderstandings taking place when 4D suggests in his post we "spy on the blogger." We do not, although some of us grab coffee from BH on occasion, given that it's convenient and good and fair-trade. Besides that, any meetings that may occur with anyone blogland, which as far as I know are limited to one Spins' and Needles' regretful outing, are by chance.

On another note, I liked your summation 4D.

Conch Shell said...

P.S. As I post, I see 5M has responded. I'm glad she came to our defense. Regarding the folks who used to comment, but don't now, that is a pity, but couldn't they comment anonymously (at least until we have our next ESI meeting and discuss the relative merits/drawbacks of us not commenting about the commentators)?

mintyfresh said...

I'd say you're more than just voyeurs. They're just looking to observe.....on the hunt for the sordid and scandalous. You've taken it to a whole new creepy exteme, deliberately calling attention to yourselves to say "look! here is me watching you intently, looking for something sordid and scandalous". Are we supposed to be excited that you didn't have something better to do? Or perhaps thankful that you've decided to grace us all (5th and commentors alike) with your judgemental smugness?

The fact that you sit here and smugly try to analyze people you don't really have the faintest clue about is a little bit repulsive and disturbing, at least to me, though I must admit that it's amusing to see just how far off the mark you are on your analysis of most of us.

Heard the old adage 'don't judge a book by its cover'? perhaps one would be wise to not judge a person by his or her blog. just because you read it on the internet doesn't necessarily mean that it's fact, not fiction.

evolver said...

I unsubscribed 5M, sadly, when the announcement came. Being part of the Truman Show did not appeal to me, even as an extra (an apparently vaguely villainous one at that.) But I have kept an eye on this place. You'll forgive me, I hope, but I had reasons. Were your actions limited to watching the fishbowl, or were those of us being peripherally watched vulnerable in some way? Those fears seem less warranted to me now; I still find this unsettling, but certainly not disturbing anymore. (Why unsettling? The Borg speak - there are a lot of first person plural pronouns at the head of your collective sentences. And am I responding in plural second person? Oh dear!)

I'll leave aside the strangely formed concerns regarding my religious beliefs, other than to note that "born again" is not a particularly significant part of the religious language of Roman Catholics, and also that I have never, as far as I know, proselytized in anybody's comments.

As to the way we interpret one another's reactions to things, I do remember how I reacted to knowing of the existence of this place, and especially how, well, limbic-system that reaction was.

As for me? How can I react so quickly to posts, one might ask? Well, RSS Readers are like email. Anything I subscribe to, I see right away - atom.xml is a wonderful thing! And for me, asking a question about Westfest is a no brainer (which I never did get to, though I hear the Cowboy Junkies played.) I'd usually follow up rather than Google, as it means getting a more human answer. I'd do it for the same reason I often press the operator key on a call to Fed-Ex, rather than punch through the keypad tones. And if I wished to meet someone, I'd simply email that person and suggest the idea. I'm too simple really for even awkward slyness.

I don't do IRL meetings with Internet people anymore. Went to a few with FreeNet, having participated very vigorously. But I'm a painfully shy person, in person. I found these meetups quite difficult until I knew people for a few years (actually painful in the way shy people will describe such things.) But even if it were not so, and even if my motives ought not be trusted on their own merits, I'm surprised you'd think so little of 5M. She's seen pictures of my wife and daughter standing outside my daughter's graduation. Do you think she'd still defend me even now if I were genuinely so transparently slimy?

4th Dwarf said...

Hi Evolver, when you ask "were those of us being peripherally watched vulnerable in some way?"

I'm not sure how to answer. Your reaction to us showed that you were vulnerable to us in a way we hadn't expected.

I can assure you that none of us are looking to cause harm to anyone in any way.

We've not tried to go behind your veil of anonymity if that is what you're asking.

I do believe we misjudged you, but I don't know why you'd be surprised we'd "think so little of 5M" that we'd not trust her judgment of you. We like her and all, but she's fallen head over heels for men who were disasters for her and done things that we think are appalling.

One thing I've learned as a male who reads 5M: other people assume that if I'm reading a blog in which a woman writes about not getting enough sex, I must have a secret desire to help her get what she wants. That assumption was made about you on a completely flimsy basis.

Conch Shell said...

You know what I find personally kind of funny? We all have a lot better things to be doing. All in all, we're a very busy group. But, this gives us a stress-breaking diversion -- much better than a smokebreak, although there's something addictive to this too.
I wonder when we'll get bored and move on? Collectively or independently?

Conch Shell said...

Evolver, why don't you join our group?, the Independent Evolver?
4D bristles at religious speak, but that's his cross to bear. Others of us understand that we may not be random particles that formed into life with no greater purpose other than to exist for a short while.
You don't have to comment about 5M, our I.O. hardly ever does.