A Change To This Blog (Or, Rather, A Reversion)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Jokes do not go over well on the Internet.
“What do you mean, Ferrett?” you cry. “The Internet is full of LOLcats and Doges and rage comics!  Of course jokes go over well on the Internet!”
And my reply to that is that silliness thrives on the Internet – and while that’s lovely, to my mind that’s not quite the same as a joke.  (Not that it’ll stop me from muttering “Much Vaticans” when I’m planning a trip to Italy and read about the Doge Palace.)  Simple jokes thrive as well, silly stories without much of a point.  To me, a joke has a bit of a bite to it, a little context that requires the reader to understand that a joke is being made.
And quite often, a joke’s context-free failure mode is pure outrage.
Take Kim Stafford, who made a costume lampooning Tea Party members, and then got taken seriously.  100,000 comments later and the shunning of her friends’ group, she has learned that context is very very important.  And I’m pretty sure that Justine “Hope I don’t get AIDS!” Sacco was actually trying to make a subtle point about how we’re perfectly happy to ignore black tragedy because, as white people, we don’t really think that shit can ever happen to us, and stepped on her pantyhose something fierce.  (An interpretation her long-time friend believes as well.)
Now, you can make an argument that those were bad jokes that went over poorly, which I’d totes agree with.  The problem is that, as any comedian can tell you, you’re never quite sure how a joke will go over until you fling it out into the world.  What you see as a funny joke about a Frobozzian carpenter turns out to be offensive to Frobozzians.  What you see as a funny joke highlighting the plight of Frobozzian carpenters can be offensive to Frobozzians. And as Scalzi has pointed out on several occasions, the failure mode of “sarcasm” is “asshole.”
Jokes are explosives.  Done the right way, they can knock down dusty institutions.  Done poorly, they blow off your hand.
That’s why I haven’t made a lot of ’em here lately.
Which isn’t to say I’ve been humorless, but treatises on politics and polyamory and other sober stuff can be wrapped up tight.  I can figure out where people are gonna get offended and head that off at the pass.  Whereas if you overexplain a joke, it’s no longer a joke.
So my blog-me has become a little bloated, lately, and I don’t think it reflects the real me.  Which is a habit you see bloggers tending towards in this modern era, I think.  You squee, “OH MY GOD, I LOVE MOVIE X!” and then someone tells you that Movie X sucks, and other people point out all the problematic feminist overtones in Movie X, and by the time it’s over you’re not rejoicing in the good bits of Movie X but are watching while other people dismantle it.  So you don’t squee as much, unless it’s something you know can’t be argued with.  (This is why things like the Muppets are universally loved on the Internets, I think – they’re so childish and harmless that you’re kind of an asshole if you pick on Jim Henson, who conveniently died before he could say something stupid.)
And then you make a silly joke, and someone misunderstands the joke or is hurt by it, and suddenly the joke isn’t funny, and you feel bad.
And then you make a blustering, entertaining rant on something you hate, only to find out your friend really loves that thing, and then you realize you’re that asshole hating on Movie X.
So what’s left?  Sober meditations on politics.  Discussions that if people get offended by, well, you’re happy to offend them.  And your blog withers to this small thing where you only talk on certain topics.  Topics where you know what the response will be.
And you become someone who’s not you.  The you you giggles and tells bad puns and delights in animated GIF fails.  The blog-you is a politician, expounding only when things are sufficiently troublesome to take them to task, and to people who don’t know the you you, you sound like this crabby old blustery doof.
I think that’s why Twitter is so popular among authors. The inability to form a whole thought is a feature, not a bug.  It’s freeing to have people just assume that wasn’t all you meant to say, and so authors often appear so much happier on Twitter, saying “ZOMG I LOVED MOVIE X!” and getting a response mostly of “ME TOO!” because people realize that you might have more to say but can’t fit it in.
The default context on Twitter is “incomplete.”  Which means it’s far easier to make jokes and gush about the things you love.
So I think if you’ve followed me on Twitter – and why not? – you’ve been seeing something closer to the real me, where I make goofy jokes and observations in a freer space.  But that’s left my journal feeling a bit moribund.  I feel statesmanly on here, and that’s not a good feeling – and I’ve quietly vowed to tell more tales of things like The Boob Tree and yesterday’s Ask Culture debacle.
I vow to be funnier in 2014.  I’ll still discuss serious issues, natch, but I want to leaven that with a little more of who I am – and take the time to not just dash off the 140-character version of things but commit it to Ye Blogge.  Because of all the spaces on the Internet, this is uniquely mine, and I want to decorate it a bit.
Jokes are dangerous.  Sarcasm especially so.
I should take a few more risks.

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