Monday, December 10, 2012
What is the point of engaging with social media? Why blog, why tweet? I cannot think of anything duller than repeatedly standing up and preaching to the converted. Love you all as I do, obviously, and my giant ego always appreciates being flattered, such an exchange becomes blunted by familiarity over time.
The underlying essence of the blog was always to inform, provoke and entertain. Over the past years I hope that, in some measure, I have at least occasionally delivered on this ambition. It was, in a real sense, never intended to be about me – but I was the peg on which issues could be hung and debated. If your postman wrote a prison blog I suspect you’d not be reading it; the author is important, but never intending to be central.
By intruding into the public space I knew that there was some chance that I would be a lightening-rod for people's views on crime and justice. And in a way I hoped for that and write the occasional piece that is deliberately provocative.
The only way to change opinions is to engage with people, and that means the people whose views are most divergent from what I hold to be positive and useful. Hangers and floggers, in the broadest terms, are the people to engage with if change is to be provoked. Or even just to prompt a pause while they think.
And this is why I tend to go against advice that says to “ignore the trolls”. Well, maybe they are not trolls. Maybe they hold genuine, if barmy, ideas. And like anyone else, if you don’t engage then it is impossible to make them think. It doesn’t for a minute imply that engaging leads to thinking, but one is a necessary condition for the other.
There are limits to this, obviously. Time. Interest. And those who slyly try to dig away at me or the blog without actually considering the issues, they really don’t catch my interest. But as a general proposition, I will talk to anyone.
Ideas are formed and altered through the clash of differing constructs. Hurling abuse may be entertaining but actually grows weary very quickly. It can be a fine line, which is why I often engage.
Daft though it may be, only by talking to an idiot can he be informed.