-Hannah Mead, MCPP intern, 2008
One awesome thing about the blogosphere is how courteous bloggers are. I’m not talking about posts or comments — these can of course get nasty. But the proliferation of such kind behavior as citing HTs, putting (pdf) after a link and giving spoiler warnings is pretty universal. And it’s pretty nice.
Do bloggers do this simply because they want more readers and so want to be as reader-friendly as possible? Maybe, but I doubt this is the sum of it. Because of peer pressure? Probably not, since that pressure would simply be in the form of losing readership. Do they include these courtesies because they consider readers to be part of their own community and so extend kindness to them? Perhaps — it’s either this or the last option: Because they themselves have suffered the intense frustrating of unknowingly clicking on a pdf link and waiting forever for Acrobat to open, and so want to spare everyone that pain?
I think the last two are the most plausible — which means bloggers are not acting in what some people would claim is their self-interest, since the poster does not stand to personally benefit from these courtesies. Though some consider this to be irrational action, I think it’s perfectly reasonable. After all, “It’s nice to be nice.”
This brings me to the ultimate point: The concept of self-interest is of limited usefulness — it either dismisses genuine altruism or inherently encompasses all human action. Nice people are either irrational, manipulative, guilty or simply caring. I reject the first two outright. And though many have insisted that my altruism is motivated by a sense of guilt, I know that it’s not. Which leaves the last option. Most people like to do some nice things for themselves and some things for others — this is, I am sometimes told, in their “self-interest” since they like to do so. Which would mean self-interest is completely tautological: Anything I do is by definition in my self-interest. So where does that get us?