Worse than doubt, I felt a measure of something like guilt by association, as this week I did something not entirely dissimilar, because I had a critical exchange with someone on LJ and related that (public, but I didn't know that at the time) exchange to others. I maintain that isn't quite the same thing, though, because my original comments were voiced directly to the person I was criticising; one's self esteem sometimes hangs on such delicate threads... The bitching journals bothered me, because it was so crassly, grossly spiteful, though probably no more so than I am on a regular basis. It bothered me because of the effort involved in making them, the construction of a clique (they are f-only and I have only seen the userinfo) in order to perpetuate it and the fact that, unlike normal gossip or bitching it is deliberate and permanent and might be well be seen by the target or someone close to them. Such journals were described to me as a means of exercising wit, but I am not convinced. Wit, surely, is spontaneous, casual and open; malice, however sophisticated, is of a different order (attentive readers will have observed the creeping note of self-justification). One sharpens one's wits on a whetstone, not warm butter. All that the bitching journals did was make me question the motives of those that constructed it. It seemed to be much better evidence of their insecurities and pettiness than of the loathsomeness of the person it attempts to portrays. In fact it inclined me to a sudden sense of protectiveness towards one of the victims - someone I usually have very little regard for - that is probably spurious, if not hypocritical.
I was shaken by this because it echoed the keen disquiet I felt last year when someone close (in both senses) at the time was very free with my personal business (her: 'But you are bitchy about everyone!' Me: 'I am bitchy about everyone except my friends'). The two situations are very different, but the people involved are part of the same social scene and presumably share the same norms and values. I am wary of it; it is way too incestuous, claustrophobic and self-referential, like a small town school sixth form or third rate campus university. It is completely inexplicable to me that educated, literate adults with proper jobs living in interesting cities would actively seek to create that kind of social scene.
Luckily I spent a significant chunk of my weekend mingling with an interesting group of very sound people at a beautifully simple and intimate wedding celebration, I went as steer's SO and so knew quite a few of the lovely York crowd, but minusbat was there and it involved finally connecting with friends of his whom I had been hearing about (and vice versa) for years - very fine people and very good fun.
And to balance my whingeing about the horrors of LJ, here is a community well worth adding: