The internet is a wonderful and awful place, as we both know.
Wonderful because it empowers us to learn, discover, connect, and share the world around us.
Awful because too often it empowers people to hide behind their hate, their anger, and their pettiness and creates these pockets where some feel they need to hide.
In many ways the internet is what we make it but the thing is, we’re making it pretty stupid. For some reason the advent of video and audio easily added into the mix of microblogging has brought forth a flurry of experts in fields far and wide and with them have come the ‘citizen journalists’ who report the news from the front lines of day to day life.
As someone who has blogged for almost twenty years now I get it. The need to get your words out there, to feel as if you have something to say and say it. It’s vain, yes, but it’s also a part of the human experience. We are a story telling race and we evolve and grow by living and sharing our stories. We connect with one another that way. And while this comes from a place of vanity, to say that blogging or posting things is pure vanity is wrong. I am sure that some things out there are just for attention but much of the content is to share something and whether people care is up to them.
That’s one of the really amazing things about the internet – people, whomever you may be, have the opportunity to be heard. Even if it’s just a review or a comment on a status, you can be heard. The problem comes in when people start portraying themselves as experts and not people with opinions. See, me, I love movies. Have watched movies since I am a kid. I know a lot about movies and he ins and outs and all of that and I like to review them when it strikes me. I am no expert. I am just a fan with an opinion. I don’t have any real ‘training’ or any really deep education to tell you anything more than a couple layers deep. Now, I am darn good at analysis and such but I still would never present myself as an expert. Just like writing. I love to write. Have been writing seriously since I was probably fifteen. I read what I want to read though and write what I want to write and I know what I know, which isn’t a lot. I am a writer that wanders and is lead and driven by the fires of my passion and ideas. Those used to burn brighter but once you get to a place where you have more and more in your life it takes more and more to make time to write and I just don’t. Whatever. So, I am a writer, but I am no expert on writing. I offer stuff that I see or feel, and that’s it. Same with conventions. I have run a convention and shows since 2011 and have been going since well before that, so I know a few things and see a few more. I am no expert. I don’t put big pants on about anything. I am proud of what we did and have some things to say about convention life, but again, I know what I know.
I am no expert.
Which doesn’t nullify my opinions or insights, it just means that I understand that if I present myself as an expert it means that I have a much deeper knowledge and understanding of things, so much so that I feel comfortable with giving my opinion in such a way as to inherently influence people’s views. That’s pretty strong stuff there. With an opinion, I am just another person having their say, I just happen to know a thing or two about a thing or two. The expert has broader knowledge and insight and feels comfortable espousing things that are much more informed and that’s a big difference. I can say, tell you how we went about booking guests for our conventions but I can’t tell you how a large show does it. There’s a difference, a BIG difference between what we did and say, San Diego Comic Con. Now, I can tell you my thoughts and give you my knowledge but, again, there’s a point where it’s conjecture. Not expertise.
Things have changed though, oddly.
Anyone with a way to create a video, or a podcast, or the aforementioned mircroblog, can present themselves as an expert. They can talk louder, faster, and with more confidence than I will ever have, and can tell you how things are. That movie you like? It’s crap. It’s not my opinion, it’s fact. It’s crap. That team you like? They’re no good. Oh, their record has more wins than losses? Bums. What, you like politics, well I know more. I know it all. I see behind the façade, sheeple! These are people with ‘hot takes’ and ‘burns’ and they seem to trend toward a cocksure attitude that belies the fact that they are not really experts but just well versed in a topic and loud. And that’s fine. We all have that opportunity to shout it out but it’s that faux expertise that is the problem. The presentation that they know better and more than everyone else despite not having any sort of formal training or education so that they are a self-made expert. And ya know, they prolly exist, I guess, but it feels wrong to call yourself an expert if you just aren’t.
Like calling yourself a journalist if you have never had that training and education.
You can go out and ‘get news’ and you can post about it, but it doesn’t make you a journalist. You don’t have the full understanding what you and cannot legally say or do. You don’t appreciate the ramifications of posting a certain photo or story. There is a lot more to it than just writing something and calling it news.
Or calling yourself a medical professional, or even presenting yourself as one because you learned to do yoga and like to eat healthy. You can have a strong opinion, and can even back it up with some anecdotal facts but once you present yourself as an expert you are creating a situation that could become dangerous or troubling. Don’t like mass produced foods? Cool. Tell people that mass produced foods will give them cancer? That’s a problem. But people do that without a thought, a care, or worry, because darn it, they want to help. And they know. They know the truth that others won’t see. Because they’ve become an expert.
But we’ve run into the era where people feel they are self-made experts and that they know best and people need to listen to them because they have the loudest voice of all. And it’s strange because if we’re all experts then who are we shouting at? And why shout at all? Sure, it conveys excitement but it’s a false excitement and outrage. But that’s what the people want. They want us yelling about politics, and sports, and the arts and on and on because it means you are passionate and MUST be knowledgeable or you wouldn’t be so vocal. Right?
But what of the real experts? The people that put in the time and effort and get the experience to be able to give a fuller view of a topic? There’s a reason they are in their fields and are hired to give their views. Because they know something and they know how to convey that something. Sure, some of them shout, and some scream, and some act like fools, but the good ones don’t. The good ones just lay it all out and you make it of it what you do. That’s how you know someone knows something. They may want to convert you to their view but they don’t have to because what you doubt doesn’t infect what they know. Don’t believe the world is round? OK. Go on with your bad self. Don’t believe in this or that? OK, cool. And not every topic garners expertise but it does lend itself to knowledge and intellectual discourse. Bullying people with your opinion to convert them to your thinking doesn’t further knowledge it just creates a follower, and while too many of us want that, it doesn’t advance the species or the cause. If you’re not invested in it then why are you spending time on it?
Screw the experts though.
We’re the experts.
We’re street level experts.
We watched the Youtubes, and listened to some podcasts, and watched some streams, and followed the social media, and man, we’re experts.
We can’t just be educated fans.
We can’t be opinionated pundits.
If only at being bullies.