It’s rare these days that the thread of comments on a post isn’t two or three or five times as long as the post itself. This makes me happy. Happy that so many of you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts here. Happy that each post becomes a jumping off point for discussions that wind in all sorts of interesting directions. Happy that we can learn from each other.
I enjoy reading your comments–and I do read every single one of them. I especially enjoy the longer ones where a subject catches someone’s interest and they go off on an enthusiastic tangent. This happens a lot.
You know what else happens a lot? Apologizing. No sooner does someone finish writing their long detailed informative comment than they’re apologizing for it. A recent exchange with Ischemgeek made me realize how often we apologize for simply talking. I do it in the comments too and this is my blog!
And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started to write a comment on someone else’s blog, then deleted it for fear that it was too long or irrelevant. I bail on comments more often than I finish them. The ones I do leave, I often end up wishing I’d said less or came across sounding more chatty and less. . . . fact-y.
No one likes a smarty-pants right? I learned that lesson early and well.
Does Infodumping Have a Place?
We’re autistic–we have deep knowledge of certain subjects, we’re passionate about our knowledge and we want to share. This should be a good thing, but so often it’s something that we’re made to feel bad about and have been since childhood.
In that exchange I mentioned above, Ischemgeek said:
I like hearing others monologue at me (love learning & reading stuff), but I’m used to having to apologize for it when I do it, yeah. When I was a kid, I’d be told I was being domineering or rude and then made to apologize… which didn’t have the effect of teaching me not to monologue because I’m usually 5-10 minutes in before I realize I’ve been talking a while, it just taught me to apologize when I realize I’ve monologued.
Monologuing or infodumping is part of our nature. I understand why it’s discouraged in children. Monopolizing the conversation is rude. So is talking about a subject the other person isn’t interested in.
If you’re told enough times that talking about what interests you is rude, it’s easy to start thinking that talking itself is rude. Because what would we talk about, if not what interests us? We’re black and white thinkers–we come to conclusions like this as a matter of course, especially when we’re younger.
But like Ischemgeek points out, that doesn’t necessarily teach us not to infodump. It teaches us to reflexively apologize every time we say more than three sentences.
Is that necessary as adults? What if the other person expresses interest in the subject? Like Ischemgeek, I will happily listen to someone infodump on a wide range of subjects. Not only that, I’ll often prolong their monologuing by asking lots of questions. I love learning new things and am fascinated by details. When someone has an expert level of knowledge on a subject, their enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. At least I think it is.
I’ve learned about fascinating subjects I never would have pursued on my own thanks to someone else’s passion for them. Ancient Egypt. Aboriginal camp dogs. Unknown unknowns. Primate social behavior. Poaching in Africa. The epidemiology of cancer in Hispanic populations in the US. Given enough time to think about it, I could fill a page at least with topics of memorable conversations like those.
The Scientist and I are both monologuers at times. We indulge each others’ topics of interest. I know far more than the average person about a whole bunch of subjects thanks to his passionate interest in them and the same is true of him. That’s not to say all or even most of our conversations are one-sided monologues. Simply that we both enjoy learning new things and not every conversation we have has to be a typical back and forth, each person talking for equal amounts of time type of conversation.
Making Our Own Rules
I think, because we’re adults and because we can, we should put a moratorium on apologizing for sharing information that we find interesting. Starting here, in the comments. The asynchronous nature of blog comments makes this a low risk place to infodump. We can each choose to read or skip over comments as we see fit. No one has to read what you wrote (well, except probably me).
If you have something to say that you think is interesting and adds to the conversation, say it. Don’t apologize for being passionate about what interests you or for sharing it.