Monday, November 4, 2013

On Niceness, Kindness, & Other Things Deemed Unnecessary By The Masses

I struggled for and against writing this post. It has something to do with knitting, but it's a larger idea in general: how we comport ourselves online. Although knitting does tie in.

Internet people are abhorrently mean. Painfully, soul-suckingly mean. And by internet people, I am fully acknowledging the separation between a person on the internet and a person in real life. Because I think those are two very different things. There is a psychic split between who we are on the internet and who we are in real life, and the more we are aware of it, the better we will be as people. I really believe that.

In the world of knitting and knitwear design, it is very seldom that anything is new. In the world in general, this is true 99% of the time. The world of knitwear design is a fraction of the world at large. We are still a relatively small community, which is actually a beautiful thing. Here's just one reason why:

If you want to design something in the knitwear community, you can very easily go on Ravelry and do a search to see if your idea has been represented earlier by someone else. This has happened to me before. I meant to write about my own personal experience with it, but never really did—that link is simply hinting at what I experienced.

To sum it up, I thought I had a really great idea for a hat. I was a new knitter, and I thought: "OOH a hat knitted vertically, with short rows, instead of in the round or back and forth. GENIUS!" I had all sorts of grandiose delusions about submitting it to Knitty and it reaching Clapotis-like heights of popularity. I quite literally lay in bed one night thinking all these big thoughts, unable to sleep. I was designing! I knit the hat and wrote out crude instructions, and then realized I should probably do a Ravelry search to see if anything similar existed. And boy, did similar hats exist. Not only did they exist, but the first was actually published by KNITTY. Ok, so my stripes were different. Ok, so my hat was meant to use up scraps. Ok, so I had never even seen the Knitty version beforehand AND had actually taught myself short rows in order to figure out how to make the hat work. In my mind, it didn't matter. The pattern existed, and my 'novel idea' was simply a rehash of something other knitters had already explored. I'm still trying to rethink the hat, because it was my first really technical experience with designing, but I won't publish it as is because too many other similar knitted hats exist.
Oh, little hat. I really thought you were my ticket to the big top. Le sigh. 
Here's the next point, which is the crux of this blog post: I could have published my pattern, and I'm sure any of those designers could have contacted me about copyright. Further, I could have ignored those messages and kept my pattern up, because I know that the legalities of copyright in the knitting world are hazy. Super hazy. So hazy, in fact, that you can (if you want) pretty much get away with anything so long as the work you've duplicated does not belong to a lawyer-wielding knitwear designer (I say duplicated instead of copied since, if it is truly unintentional, then before being contacted you would have had no idea it was a duplicate pattern).

Here's the thing: we are still kind of in the wild, wild west when it comes to knitwear design. Copies and imitations abound. It's pretty easy to get away with, and very difficult to regulate, legally. I have read countless articles on copyright law in knitting and I still don't understand it. So I can understand being confused, truly. Being a smaller industry compared to, say, the music industry, means very few of us are being dragged into court over our designs. Which makes the industry difficult to navigate, but it also means something much bigger, which we sometimes forget:

We have reach. Being small, this industry still allows us, as individuals, to have influence and make change. We may rail against giant things like the government, in which we feel too small to effect change, but in the knitting industry, we can raise our voices and set a standard amongst ourselves over what to do when issues arise, and how those things should be handled. A great example would be Ripple by Wendy Bernard and Coincidence by Mandy Moore.

We are not yet such a giant landscape of people that we can't, to a certain extent, govern ourselves.

It is so very easy to do the right thing, in reality. You can pretty much feel, in your gut, what is morally and/or ethically right, and what is morally and/or ethically wrong. And in the knitwear community, the right and wrong things to do are laid pretty bare, based on gut feelings, previous examples, and several vocalized opinions. I know this to be true for myself, if not for others, because I did not publish my stupid hat. It didn't feel right. And I knew I could do better. There was no law stopping me—I was halted by the examples set by my community, and the rules by which I would hope others would abide, should I ever be in the position on the other side.

On that note, back to the title of this post.

In joining a recent discussion regarding the (somewhat) unwritten rules of decorum I've described above, I have laid myself open to confrontation with some nasty detractors. People who are less interested in making a point than in being mean. I've kept my commentary civil and refrained from attacking anyone, personally or otherwise, and still found myself the subject of attacks. It's been a disappointing and elucidating experience.

I know there are myriad opinions that differ from mine. I know there are people who will read this and think, "I do not agree with a single thing you are saying. I think you are wrong." I'm fine with that; in fact, I encourage it. I want to hear other people's opinions and know why others might disagree with me—maybe I'll learn something. I don't know everything—in fact, with copyright, I pretty much know nothing. But I have an opinion, and if the delivery is right, I'm more than open to hearing the opinions of others.

But in all of that, we should be nice to each other. We should be kind, and we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Sitting behind a computer, it is all too easy to devolve into nastiness and vitriol, and that accomplishes nothing. Again, the beauty of this industry is that it is still small enough that a single voice can effect change and have influence. But when that voice is debasing, when it is used to degrade and humiliate others, it accomplishes nothing. I was the target of some of these voices, and it felt terrible. I felt humiliated, and shamed, and my first reaction was to abandon my own opinion and leave the discussion, which I imagine was the intent: if you're mean enough to an individual that refuses to be mean back, the individual has no choice but to be bullied away, because the discussion is no longer productive or even tolerable.

I'll end with this: I believe we should be kinder to one another. I think it's better for us in the long run; I think it makes us better people; I think, because it is harder to be kind, it forces us to grow. Again, this is just what I think—I don't claim to represent anyone but myself. But I don't think you can make an argument against kindness and niceness. Or if you can, I'd like to hear it. In as nice a way as possible. Winky smiley face.

Pin It

6 comments:

  1. I love your post. :) Kindness makes such a huge difference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Romi! I loved yours as well. There seems to some meanness running through Ravelry right now, which makes me very sad. Hopefully we'll have enough Whos in Whoville to make it right!

      Delete
  2. Beautifully said and I completely agree! Kindness is the key. It puts you in the here and now, whereas anger stems from old baggage.

    You write wonderfully, Flossie. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Clare! Anger is also easy. The second you start striving for kindness, you realize how difficult it is, because it means removing your ego, which many people feel lost without.

      Delete
  3. Just found your blog: couldn't agree with you more on the subject of anger & unkindness. I equate it to the rudeness & anger one can encounter while driving a car. Folks in cars can exhibit appallingly rude behavior, but I think these are the same people who might, in a grocery story, gesture you ahead of them to a check-out line. There's something about cars, and the internet, the disengages us from our best selves - there's a distance created that doesn't exist in daily life (hopefully!). Just my 2 cents of course, but that's what came up for me in reading your excellent piece. Peace, dear. -Pixie Fadang

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! The second we have some sort of divide, or separation, it's so easy to divorce ourselves from the people we're dealing with. Thanks for reading!

      Delete