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The fine art of patronising

dudler > dudler Blog > The fine art of patronising
06/05/2013 - 7:47 PM



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It happens from time to time, anywhere on the web. It’s just happened to me here on EPZ, so I’m going to blog about it. Can you tell it’s got under my skin?

Part of the problem is that it can be caused by people trying hard to be helpful. It’s just that they haven’t got the turn of phrase, or else they are rushing. Perhaps they misunderstood something, such as how much experience I have of taking pictures, or the caption explaining what I did, and why it’s MEANT to look like that.

Or, just maybe, they believe that their view is more important than anyone else’s, and my own view of my own picture cannot possibly be valid.

The web makes it easy to do. You post something, and your victim reads it, with no chance of redress – not until a hundred other people have seen it, and decided what they think of you.

It’s different, face to face. The conversation develops, the comments are refined. That’s why noting the action points from a meeting works so well – it leaves behind all the contention and debate, and distils the essential way forward…
And most people treat the web the same way they treat texts. They are far less formal than something handwritten… Except that they’re out there, and may stay out there for as long as people compute!

I’ve found it at work, where colleagues have often sent me excessive and confidential details about an investigation or disciplinary – here, at least, things have improved markedly over the years. Most people get it thoroughly these days!

But it lurks in some forums, particularly. Sometimes, an individual considers a particular part of the forum to be theirs alone – posting ill-advisedly leads to allegations of trolling (whatever that is – I thought it involved threatening behaviours, definitely, and probably lurking under bridges…)

Once (a long time ago, and in a distant galaxy), a comment on a picture led initially to a snappy “what right do you have to say that?” – and when I dared to respond that posting on a photographic website with comments enabled is to invite comment, a rather personal and vituperative attack followed. In the end, deletion of all the comments was a wise solution by the moderators.

And here, patronising overlaps the other common communications complaint – oversharing. There’s stuff I really don’t want to know. There’s a lot I don’t need to know. And there is a category which makes me think “do you realise that you’ve written that in public?” – some thoughts are best left unspoken!

And just occasionally, where I have actually got something wrong, it might be best to tell me quietly, so I can delete a post. Instead, it can happen that a moderator may decide to lecture the offender in public (I hasten to say that I have seen no instance of this on EPZ, involving me or anyone else – EPZ folk are nice people!)
This is wrong on two counts. First, it’s more about a power struggle than a fact: and second, it can obscure the “right answer” beneath a heap of emotion and upsetment. Never good.

To come full circle, and back to EPZ, I don’t want to suggest, for a moment, that I think my own view is always right. I am always open to being proved wrong by the evidence. However, I’m reluctant to be shouted down.

And, if you feel I’ve ever beaten you into submission, or been unfairly harsh in a comment, please just send me a private message. I want to know if I’ve got it wrong. And I want to put it right, if I have trampled on your dreams, aspirations or beliefs.

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