Why do blog debates tend to deliver such vitriol?  And no, I don’t mean people should be nice or charitable or welcoming of all viewpoints.  Writers have always spoken harshly to each other (Luther and Erasmus come to mind) and there’s certainly nothing wrong with telling people in print that they’re just being stupid.

But there is something different happening in blogs debates and far from it having to do with virtual reality as the problem (such that someone can hide behind a computer screen, or the ability to remain utterly anonymous, or technology itself is the issue, etc.), it has to do with the rapidity and the inability of reflecting on a post.  That is, the haste that one feels in getting to a post before you’re argument becomes obsolete.
Luther and Erasmus had a great debate – but it was slow, thoughtful and most all, limited by time and space.  The image below from Johannes Vermeer’s, “Woman reading a Letter” highlights perfectly what we’ve lost.  This is hardly an original thought, as I found this painting on Andrew Keen’s blog.  He notes “the intense concentration on the face of Vermeer’s woman in blue as her eyes, lips and hands cling to the letter. She is submerged in the text, gazing at it with undivided attention. This is reading as religion; her faith is her letter…my real awe is reserved for Vermeer’s woman reading a letter. She is the best argument against the fragmented and distracted public facing self of the always-on digital age. This anonymous 17th century Dutch woman represents the sad, lonely beauty of the isolated private reader.”
Where is the long pause and absorption of a text today?  Can we imagine a contemporary Vermeer painting of a woman reading a PC and still feel the silence and occurrence of reflective thought while she waits for her comment approval?