May 17, 2015

Book Blogging and Speech Freedom || A Collab Post

So,you guys are probably wondering why I am suddenly using big words like "Speech Freedom". And connecting it to book blogging. I mean, we can say anything we want in our blog,right? So of course, we have Speech Freedom!

That's where I have second doubts.

Let me break this into some simple examples.

Have you ever hesitated to post a negative review for a well loved book by a well loved author in fear of offending fans?

Have you ever stayed silent during a drama in the blogosphere just because you think you side with the wrong person and that may cause controversy?

Or have you ever hesitated to comment on a popular bloggers' post, disagreeing with what they said, in fear that you might not get into their good books?

If you have, then,that's exactly what I am talking about.

As much as I love book blogging and love how much freedom we have to say whatever we feel, sometimes I can't help but notice that there a few limitations when it comes to expressing our views and opinions.

I firmly believe that everyone has the right to say whatever they want. But sometimes,we do need to be careful with our words. 

Because if you ask me, Speech freedom is like punching. As long as you stay a bit vague, and punch the air, it is completely alright. The moment you hit someone's face directly, you are violating the freedom.

So since this post is about speech freedom, I wanted to know what some other bloggers think as well.

Without further hesitation, let me hand over the blog to a few fellow book bloggers, who shares their own views about the subject.

First of all,let's ask the opinion of the mighty world dominator in training Cait:) ( @ The Paper Fury )

I think, sometimes, the amount of "freedom" we have as book bloggers depends on the amount we CARE what everyone thinks of us. Are they tied together? Well...I think so. I hate offending people and causing arguments, buuuut, at the same time I'm pretty comfy in my own views. Everyone thinks differently. (I can't force everyone to be right like me...okay! I kid! I kid!) 

I've never felt like I couldn't say something because everyone would glare. As book bloggers, do we have to do what everyone else is doing? NOPE. A big reason I love blogging is that it's essentially MY space and I can decorate how I like. I've had opinions that are vastly different to the popular vote. If I think the opinion is important, I'll go ahead and post about it. If I think it'll just create arguments and it isn't really a big deal? I'll skip. If you have a well thought-out opinion and you've considered more than one angle: I totally think you have the right to voice it. 

Hazel (@ Stay Bookish) says that it's our choice!

Having freedom is having the power to act the way we want to. I do believe that we have freedom of speech as bloggers. We can talk about books endlessly and no one’s here to stop us. I know it may not seem like it because we tend to filter ourselves when we write negative reviews or sometimes we hold back sharing an unpopular opinion because we're scared of backlash. 

The thing is, to do so is our choice. That’s what matters- we can choose to curse as much as we want to on our blog or we can choose to skip rants and be more constructive. It’s completely up to us. So by all means, do what you want and say what you want on your blog. 
But take note: always do it wisely.

Nara ( @ Looking for the Panacea) thinks that we book bloggers have enough speech freedom!

Personally, I feel like we do have freedom of speech. Whether it’s a negative review, or a  discussion post disagreeing with popular opinion, the blogging community tends to be pretty accepting of any opinion one has to offer. To give an example, last year, I wrote a post confessing how I don’t really mind if there isn’t diversity in YA. Clearly, this is pretty contrary to what most people think, and when I published the post, I was expecting a lot of “wtf, mate” sort of comments. Surprisingly, at least half of the comments I received were actually ones that agreed with me to some degree. (I should probably clarify here that it’s not that I don’t want diversity, it’s just that I don’t really care if it isn’t present.)

I have to admit that book bloggers can be very touchy in general, overreacting at the slightest comment on Twitter, and blowing things out of proportion…but we can also be the kindest, most supportive people out there, and I feel like you should never be afraid to express any opinion, be it unpopular or not: unless it’s an opinion that attacks a person. We see these messages all the time: don’t attack the author, criticise the book. Don’t attack the blogger, dissect the review. Seems obvious, I guess.

So yes, other than that, go ahead and write whatever the hell you want to write.

Rachel (@ A Perfection Called Books) tells us her views on whether we have to agree with popular opinion.

I think it's a tentative balance. We are all entitled to our own opinions, yet for some issues I feel if you go against the crowd you'll be shunned or fought with. For example: ARC envy. People recently complained that bloggers shouldn't "brag" and post so many pictures of ARCs. While I firmly opposed this, I love seeing pictures of ARCs, I know some who felt otherwise and voiced their opinion on Twitter. I saw lots of discussions turn nasty and people incredulously wondering how these readers could hate ARC pictures. We must be careful what we say for some things are frowned upon in our community. We tend to pick a side on some controversy/debate and the outliers, the ones who feel otherwise, might be hesitant to speak up for fear of backlash. I know that's happened to me before! 

There are definitely some faux pas to avoid and acts of blogger decorum in blogging that must be upheld. 

I think bloggers are fine with people who disagree with them on certain bookish tastes/reviews, TV shows, bookish-related discussions etc. If it's a drama problem that's plagued the bookish community though, it's best to play the appeaser or just have no comment. Examples: Stacey Jay controversy (I tried to stay out), ARC envy (turn, tail, and RUN from the discussion!) 

I know you probably won't agree with me, but I'm Amity through and through. Peaceful and easygoing. I just don't see the point in arguing over something when we'll all have unswayable opinions. What will arguing do about it?!

Nuzaifa ( @ Say It With Books) share her thoughts on the few instances when blogging turns ugly.

Recently one of my reader and fellow blogger messaged me to share her views about one of my discussion posts. She mentioned that she did not feel comfortable expressing her thoughts on the blog's comments section for fear of causing a controversy. Her stance on my post was opposite to how the majority (including myself) felt. This honestly shocked me. But really, it shouldn't have. 

How many times have we woken up  to mob style attacks, Mean Girl-esque attacks, cyber-bullying and straight up stalking on our Twitter feeds? 

Is it any surprise that blog readers hesitate to openly share their personal views for fear of sparking controversy? And God forbid, a witch hunt. 

The ugliness isn't always this direct. Sometimes, it a couple of mean-spirited passive aggressive tweet from an established blogger in response to a post you just published. All because I dared write a post sharing my views.

Joey ( @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts) ended up ranting about the whole issue.
(Not that I complain:))

Let’s begin with a story.

A while back, I left a comment on a meme post and was put on blast by its author, their friends (emphasis on plural), and was sub-tweeted that I was:  “putting down another blogger” and it was “wrong of me to judge how they choose to blog” (among other comments). Now was that really my intent? I didn’t think so. I even asked other bloggers to review the comment and they thought my choice of words could have been misconstrued. (Of course, they could have been biased.) Either way, I replied back and apologized for not wording my thoughts “correctly” (?) with no reply to follow. I left it alone after that.

I’m sure this issue has seen another day in the blogosphere but it calls for attention the ease of misinterpretation; how even a slight nuance in wording can change the tone or message. More importantly, however, is how quick the wildfire of judgment can spread in determining the degree of defence needed to counter the feeling of being attacked. Fact: it is much easier for extremes to be amplified if it holds a negative connotation as opposed to one that gives praise. Why? Because no one enjoys shit being disturbed when it’s happening to them.

This raises an important question: should you ever feel afraid to comment with opinions that [willingly or unwillingly] go against the grain of the message?

I would hope that regular readers to my blog know that I encourage criticizing and being criticized as to inspire debate. Yet as much as I put myself into the content, I maintain my thoughts at an arms-length distance which I feel some bloggers don’t. This isn’t to say that the essence of personality is lost but that it acts like a barrier giving me the opportunity to step-back and transparently ask “Okay, this individual agrees/disagrees with me. Why is that?” Note that it isn’t wrong to feel emotionally attached to your thoughts—it is by and large an extension of you—but realize that there’s a difference in your person being attacked and having your opinions criticized.

When you sign up to be part of any publicized social community, you’re opening the possibility to be put under the microscope of scrutiny. What you do with these opinions is completely up to you but I find it disingenuous to be a blogger who acts on freedom of speech through book reviewing, discussions, memes, and what-have-you only to dismiss interpretations of that other than your own. To reiterate: you do not have to agree with alternative ways of thinking but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to give them thought. I just don’t think you can have it both ways.

But what if you can’t even get to the point of opening that voice?

There may be times when you have something to say but fear the dissonance of your voice in a collective channel of unfamiliar noise. I hear you. It’s tough to throw your opinion out there especially when it’s of the unpopular variety. It’s even tougher to digest that there are those who will police your thoughts, often dismissing it as a lesser voice for reasons of “credibility”.

And that to me is completely bananas.

This manifestation of blogger egoism begins when you receive your very first statistical up-vote; be it a follow or a view, and inflates into something toxic. It’s inescapable and something all bloggers face: a self-fulfilling quantifiable truth of popularity equating to credibility (and otherwise, authority). However, it can be extremely counter-intuitive when this balance of power governs the need to “do-right” onto others to inform or suggest corrective ways to think or proceed in the blogging community (without the openness for interpretation). Know that I am not short-selling bloggers helping other bloggers as less than what it is because tips are always appreciated but it becomes an issue when popularity justifies the standard to which readers ought toperceive a thought.

That to belong means you should follow the hype.

That to enjoy blogging means you should model yourself after other successes.

That to have a voice means you should rarely think for yourself.

Bloggers seem to have this almost-invincibility complex where they rarely see themselves at fault under the veil of a “critical opinion (and I say that with the utmost use of air quotes). With conflicting interests in perception, it often derails from being about the substance and can be considered more an attack on the individual making that opinion. This isn’t a pessimist’s view in saying that the community is laden with toxicity but rather in the face of polarizing thoughts, equanimity doesn’t seem like the go-to trait. I will say that there is no feeling similar to the satisfaction of being right or affirmed. However, there is rarely anything discrete in this community. We are students and teachers, and we are on this wildly interpretive journey together—me on this side of the screen, you on the other.

So take everything you read here and anywhere else with a grain of saltIt does not matter if you are a newbie, a seasoned pro, or are just a passing thinker, you should trust in your voice—in “you doing you”—and take every positive and negative in stride and own the experience in a way that best helps you sleep at night. There is no cookie-cutter way to be yourself and you should never feel marginalized into thinking otherwise.

Be a blogger, be you, and be true; the rest [I hope] will surely follow.

Now, I invit you guys to say what you think about this whole subject?
Do you think that we don't have enough speech freedom, or that what we have is enough?
Feel free to let me know, because after all, this post is about saying what you want:)

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