A Personal Schema for Meta, or Why You Say Po-tay-toe, and Sometimes I Hear Po-tah-to
an essay by cupidsbow
I had no idea until today that I had a personal schema for meta, let alone that it's quite sophisticated and complex.
To put this into context: there's been a lot of discussion during my time in fandom about the etiquette of responding to public posts. People have discussed "squee" posts versus "meta" posts, and the expectation of privacy on a low-traffic LJ, even if a post is public, and so on. ETA I meant to say: I've read a lot of this discussion, and so thought I knew my own opinions on this topic pretty clearly. /eta
Today, on my Why 'no' still means 'yes' post, I got a comment that made me so angry. This is a very rare thing for me. My life philosophy is: everyone has their own burden to bear, and I don't want to add to it. Forbearance is something I try very hard to live by when I interact with people.
So I was rather shocked at myself for feeling so angry. And I was also zombie-level tired, so instead of saying nothing, I actually replied. It's not pretty, but I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself. Fortunately, the poster has deleted her posts. I consider this a kindness -- it was clear that I found them a burden, so she did the tactful and respectful thing. (Thank you, poster; I'm sorry you got caught up in my issues.)
In any case, while I went off and had a sanity-restoring nap, I pondered what on earth had pinged me so hard. And lo, I now have the answer. It's that terrible, loaded word:
Tone. (ETA: ide_cyan corrects me quite rightly in comments, and says I really mean modes of discourse, rather than tone. I used the word 'tone' because of the connotations it now has in fan meta of being a way to shut down certain speakers; but 'modes of discourse' is actually more accurate, so please do a mental find and replace as you read if it helps clarify things. /eta)
It's not quite as simple as that, of course, because it's about the way I have included "tone" as an element of my previously unarticulated, but nonetheless expected schema for how people will reply to my meta-ish posts.
It turns out that I currently have three types of meta posts.
Formal, essay-style meta
This is by far the most common type of discussion post I make -- this post is one, in case you were wondering. I expect three main responses:
Agreement: on a scale from a simple 'yes', to more complex discussions of the points I make, to adding extra information that's relevant.
Disagreement: from concession, leading to a bone of contention, through to outright disagreement and/or proposing another idea or interpretation.
Position Statements: will happen a lot, in which my post is merely a springboard for more general discussion of the topic.
And I also have an expectation of the tone of the replies.
Tone: Anything from cheery casualness and slang, through to more formal and polite replies, and also rude and argumentative comments. Also lots of discussion between commenters, even if they haven't responded to my post directly. Mostly, the framework will be intellectual, and people will make a good will effort to see other points of view.
This is the second most common, in which I want to discuss my personal take on fandom or canon, but I'm open to other people's ideas on the topic and invite them to have their say (often within certain set limits). My Meta-thon is one of these, as I give speculative opinions of my own and I'm also inviting in 'tinhats' and so on, and it's limited to "characters in SGA". I expect:
Agreement: on a scale from a simple 'yes', to more complex discussions of the points I make, to adding extra information that's relevant, and wild extrapolations and tangents.
Disagreement: from concession and an alternative view put, to polite disagreement and an alternative point of view raised -- usually also squeeful.
Position statements: Will be limited to personal readings of the topic, and framed as such.
Tone: Mostly cheery casualness and slang, with a few more formal and polite replies from people who don't know me well. There will be lots of discussion between commenters, but many people will address me personally at some point, in a direct response to my post. People will mostly be careful not to squash someone else's squee.
The personal revelation
The most rare of all meta posts I make. In these, I offer an emotional response to an issue, and say that I'm not ready to hear counter-arguments; I'm putting it out there because I think the emotional response itself is interesting. An example is my post on Why 'no' still means 'yes'. I expect:
Agreement: on a scale from a simple 'yes', to more complex discussions of the points I make, and a general focus on personal experiences of the issues.
Disagreement: concessions to a point I make, and a statement of the poster's conflicting personal experience.
No position statements!
Tone: All comments to my original post will be directed to me, personally, and most posters will do so; tangents will be made, but will mostly stay within the framework of personal responses. People will not post polemics on why my emotions are invalid!
People will not post polemics on why my emotions are invalid!
And it's here that things went terribly wrong in the discussion that I mentioned above. The poster read my post as "Formal, essay-style meta" rather than "A personal revelation" and replied with a Position Statement, which wasn't addressed to me, but to the post's readers in general. I read it as being addressed to me, and that it was telling me that my emotions were invalid.
To be fair: the position statement the poster set out would not even have caused me to blink on a "Formal, essay-style meta" post! However, as that wasn't the post I made, I can also see now why I went ballistic.
Not my finest hour, but at least now I know what will press my buttons and why.
Also, to my shame, I suspect that I have made exactly this mistake on other people's posts in the past. *facepalm* I'm going to be more careful in future.
So do you guys have complex schemas like this, in which you have a set of assumptions guiding how you post and the responses you expect? What does your schema look like? And is this even a useful way to go about things, or is there something better, something less likely to lead to 'tonal mismatches'?
One final note: my brain has been in meta-overdrive this week, and I'm still getting a lot of traffic on previous posts. I'm happy for you all to take this topic and run with it if it interests you -- I'd really like to know what you think -- but I suspect I'm only going to be replying sporadically. I'm a bit meta-ed out! :)