Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stockholm Blogging

No, alas, I'm not blogging from Sweden, nor am I learning Swedish, even.

In reading blogs, I've noticed a pattern in some blog responses, and even in blogs themselves. Here's what happens: someone with some level of authority says something about people s/he deals with that reveals that those people are less than stunningly wonderful or brilliant in some way. (Imagine, for a moment, if I were to blog about students and how they do X that I consider less than wonderful. That's a pretty common blog topic, and I, for one, would have considerably less to blog about if I didn't at least occasionally mention someone else's foibles.)

What interests me are the responses, sometimes in the comments section and sometimes in other blogs. These responses tend to say things about how, yes, those OTHER people are stupid idiots, but the responder (who might be broadly in the grouping of other people) doesn't, and needs to tell the world (or the original blogger) about his/her own experiences to demonstrate how very different s/he is. And sometimes the original blogger was trying to be funny, but the responder takes it all seriously; humor's difficult in written discourse.

(Imagine, if a student were to read my blog and think, well, yes, Bardiac's right, students sometimes DO turn in papers late, but I never do, and I need to make sure Bardiac knows that I'm a good student and not like those other students, and by golly, I hate those other students who give students a bad name.)

In other words, the responder (R) goes through some contortions to identify him/herself with the original blogger (OB), and to distance him/herself from the people OB has pointed out as flawed in some way. In that distancing, R may go far beyond OB's original commentary, and get downright aggressive about those other people.

It sounds like my vague notion of Stockholm Syndrome. By identifying with those in power (or abusers), the R tries to protect him/herself in some way, even in cyberspace, where the stakes are usually about self-representation and such. But, in making that identification, R is also losing the potential power of working with "those people" and changing things for the better (yes, even students sometimes have valid complaints about the academic system and the people with power in that system).

Here's the thing, people. YOU may not be one of "those people" and you may think those people are totally less than wonderful. But I am those people. Yes, you heard me. If there's someone who did idiotic things as a student, yes, I probably did, or would have if I'd thought of it. Similarly, if you read a blogger talking about the stupidity of other people, be sure that they're either talking about me, or could be.

Here's a recent example from Dean Dad, who wrote about an imagined beginning of spring semester address. If you read the comments, you'll see that some people take umbrage (and shouldn't we all get some umbrage?) at the Dean's internal comment about faculty members who have a month off with pay, which he doesn't get. Some people argue that they work really hard, unlike some folks; others argue that all faculty members work hard all the time.

Here's what I'd like to say. Yes, Dean, I did take some time away from the productive work I usually do. But with the semester opening just around the corner, I'm now back full time to my professional goal of making life a living hell for all administrators. Yes, you're welcome.

Makes you wish I'd get some more time off to relax, doesn't it?

Well, busy now, gotta email a couple deans about some... stuff. Maybe some traces of crushed road salt will stick to the envelop I just sent to the Head Master...

What's that you asked, Pinky? We're going to do the same thing we do every night. Try to take over the world!


  1. Hi Bardiac,
    You identify a very annoying phenomenon. There is worse though. I discussed a more extreme set of examples some time ago. The post is here. I had not thought of this as being like Stockholm Syndrome, but I guess there are parallels.

    The CP

  2. Nicely done.

    I see it more as thinness of skin than over-identification, though. For example, I took a number of feminist theory seminars in which it would have been very, very easy to start in with "but I don't do that!" But I realized, at some level, that I would have sidetracked the discussion and made it About Me. It wasn't about me, though, and piping up that way wouldn't have helped.

    I suspect that most of us are closet narcissists; maturity consists in keeping it to ourselves. Blogging can allow for an outlet for some of it, but I'm frequently surprised at just how personally jokey asides can be taken.

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed your break. My argument isn't with breaks. It's that I need one, too.