By Tom Ehrich
I just read an interesting article about tablet computers, arguing that they aren't fit for business travel.
I wanted to disagree and state my own opinion. But within the first two hours of being published in a leading tech blog, the article had already drawn 65 comments. As often happens, feelings were ratcheting toward heated and fussy.
The world can live without my comment, of course. But two things immediately struck me: We live in a crowded world, and people get hot fast on the Internet.
Well, duh, you say. Welcome to 2014.
Yes, nothing new here in crowd or heat. Even so, I noticed that I felt stifled on both counts. I don't yearn to go viral in commenting about something as small as a tablet-usage opinion. I'm just interested in exchanging views with a few people.
Nor do I have any interest in overheated web talk. Who wants to expose himself to abuse from people whom anonymity has empowered to be nasty?
Is it the medium or the message? Maybe the blog commenting function is inherently disputatious, because nothing provokes my opinion more than you stating your opinion. Maybe the crowded nature of the web means more exposure than most of us can handle. Maybe nastiness always lurks just below the surface, waiting for an excuse to erupt.
The net effect is that, instead of joining the comment string on someone else's opinion, I use this venue to state my own opinion. You, in turn, can comment on it, or you can start your own opinion in motion.
Should we all be sitting in circles of, say, a dozen, where we could speak, listen, comment, share, disagree, and then break for cake? I often wish for such a circle. But maybe -- spoiler alert -- the greater delight lies in voicing the opinion.