Pardon Me, I Have Opinions


As lethargic as I’ve been lately, at least I’m up on my Goodreads drama.

Sticker advocating dissent: "dissent deve...

Sticker advocating dissent: “dissent develops democracy”, accompanied by a peace symbol. Photo taken in Portland, Oregon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For anyone who may not know, Goodreads is a social website that’s primarily about books. Now, aside from reading books, there’s nothing I like better than talking about them, so while I’m doing little else, I’m on this site all the time.

There’s been a great deal of upheaval and unhappiness  as GR staff try to balance their responsibilities to their users—primarily readers— and, well, call them the producers—authors, publishers, etc. Unfortunately this trend has been sliding to the conservative side and limiting the social side. For example, some readers really don’t like some books. They write reviews that make it clear how much they dislike those books. Authors and publishers and fans disagree with the idea that someone may not like this book. Review either disappears or is ‘hidden’ from the book page.

So far that extreme is fairly uncommon, but the change in attitude towards these reviewers brings me back to my point:  dissenting opinions are not welcome, and neither is discussion.


Have you noticed? Putting forth an opinion, anywhere, leaves you open to attack. There are some great reviews —thoughtful, passionate, clever, well-written, negative reviews—on GR. Many are written about bestsellers. Most have comments running into the hundreds because of comments like:

Why did you read the book if you didn’t like it?

Do you think this is a college class? Your reviews are too long. You’re just showing off how many words you know.

Have you written a better book? Then why should I listen to you?

I can’t believe how much effort you’re putting into hate. It’s just a book!

Etcetera, etcetera.

Though I thought about using actually comments, the content posted in this type of content hardly varies, so it didn’t seem fair to name names.  Just be glad I can’t help but use decent grammar and spelling. Though some trolls are fairly articulate, especially on GR, most don’t bother.

Trolls, you ask? If they can write coherently, why are they trolls?

Because they aren’t interested in starting a discussion. Because the only reason for including a comments area on a review is to foster discussion, a format even most online news sources support.

What these commentators have in common is the intent to take offense at someone’s opinion merely because it’s in opposition to their own.

But when I’m writing reviews, I’m writing because, good or bad, no one else shares exactly my opinion. And I want to share what I thought with others who actually know what I’m talking about. Think of it like a discussion group, but in a slow motion IM chat. Sometimes everyone’s talking at once, and sometimes no one says anything.

At any rate, I find myself extremely bothered by someone telling me to shut up and go home, because they’re threatened by opinion.

And that’s the fundamental problem. Dissenting opinions aren’t a chance for discussion; they are threats. Threats to what I don’t know. Frankly I don’t care. I’m not going to listen if someone tells me to stop talking, I’m going to wait for someone capable of holding a conversation.

"Writing on the wood is prohibited."...

“Writing on the wood is prohibited.” DSC07600 (Photo credit: Nicolas Karim)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s