I'm going to suggest it's the same with blog posts. I've seen my own positions wildly misrepresented by other bloggers, the most recent instances occurring about a week ago. I ended up closing down the comments on two of my posts because a bunch of angry people were sent here from some bloggers who first insisted that I was insulting foreigners and then moved on to accuse me of despising every reader and writer of an entire subgenre of romance novels.
Let's try an experiment. Read the following sentence out loud, in a normal tone of voice:
What do you mean?
Sounds like a polite request for information, doesn't it? Now read it again, this time in a playful, teasing tone.
Completely different, right? Now read it once more, this time in a snippy, irritated tone.
See the problem? When we read e-mail messages, the only voices we can hear are the ones in our own heads. And fifty percent of the time, we're assigning the wrong tones to the words we read.
For the second part of this experiment we're going to play a practical joke on my friend Chris Mikesell. (Don't worry--he deserves it.) Just now I read the current post on his blog, about the movie Curious George. Chris enjoyed the film and is encouraging his readers to go see it. Take a look at a couple of the lines he wrote, and then watch how I pick them apart:
Go see the movie. Even if you don't have kids or a date. Even if you've missed the matinee pricing.
I get so sick of his bossy tone. He knows everything, doesn't he? "Go see the movie," he says, assuming that we haven't seen it yet because we're nowhere near as cool as he is. Pompous jerk. But even more insulting was that part where he said, "Even if you don't have kids or a date." Oh, nice little digs there, Chris. So people who aren't parents are incapable of appreciating a good movie, huh? And like we couldn't get dates if we wanted them?
What really ticked me off was his snide remark about the matinee pricing. He doesn't know anything about us, but he's calling us tightwads. He assumes we'd never dream of seeing a movie that wasn't dirt-cheap or free. Honestly, I've had it up to here with his sarcasm. Real nice guy, aren't you, Mikesell? And you call yourself a Christian. Hah! Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Bible say something about not judging others?
Do you see what happened there? Maybe Chris had ticked me off in the past, so I was on the lookout for insults embedded in his post. Is it any surprise that I found some? It was then a simple matter of repeating his words and twisting them (whether intentionally or not), showing you how I read them, giving you no opportunity to draw your own conclusions. If you like most of what I write here on the blog and especially if you seldom read or have never read Chris' blog, you're going to lean hard in my direction, whether consciously or not. That does not make you stupid. It's merely proof that you're human. And now that I've pointed out what a jerk Chris is, maybe you'll troop over to his blog and tell him off. And we'll have started our own nasty little blog war.
From the Wired article:
...those reading messages unconsciously interpret them based on their current mood, stereotypes and expectations. Despite this, the research subjects thought they accurately interpreted the messages nine out of 10 times.
The reason for this is egocentrism, or the difficulty some people have detaching themselves from their own perspective, says [University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas] Epley. In other words, people aren't that good at imagining how a message might be understood from another person's perspective.
This, my friends, is why I don't engage in arguments when other bloggers send people here to see my latest "outrageous" post. Because those visitors, who generally are not regular readers of this blog, are coming over here primed for a fight. And since anything I say to them is likely to stir up even more resentment, it's pointless to answer their accusations. Of course, my refusal to respond makes the commenters just as mad, and they accuse me of arrogance. How can I possibly win?
I'd just like to add that if anything I've written here rubs you the wrong way, you have misinterpreted my tone and completely missed the point of this post. Also, I'd like to apologize to Chris Mikesell for using him as a guinea pig in this little experimen--
Nah, forget it. You deserved it, Chris, you know you did.