Sunday, 1 August 2010

A moan about moaning

The Internet is the ideal way for the moaners of the world to get together and have a good old girn about whatever takes their non-fancy, comfortable in the knowledge that they won’t have to justify their opinions or provide the evidence or context that they would in a ‘real world’ discussion. Simply log on to Shetlink, Facebook, or www.letshaveagoodwhinge.com (I made that up, before you go looking), spout your cathartic gripe and log off again feeling much better to have offloaded your cantankerousness on the world.

I’m not sure whether Shetlander’s are pre-programmed to lament – perhaps it’s the weather or dearly held nostalgia about our hardy ancestors’ hand to mouth existence – but given the idyllic landscapes and relatively high quality of life here, an onlooker would be forgiven for thinking we’d have a positive outlook.

As a moderator of the Shetlink forums, I have been required to develop the ability to deal with generalised moaning on a grand scale. In the “Forum Guidelines” section, one of the recommendations reads as follows - “Avoid sweeping statements and generalised moaning - These activities translate as blah, blah, blah, moan, moan, moan and do nothing to encourage constructive debate. If you have specific examples, please refer to them and keep them relevant to the topic's subject matter.”

So after dealing with Shetlinkers posting floods of unconstructive messages about “da cooncil” this and “yun shower at Hayfield”, my fellow moderators and I decided that we’d ask such complainers to explain their gripes. When the guff, grumbles and misinformation is challenged, there’s usually very little actual evidence left to discuss. SIC middle management, mumble grumble… Dave Clark, greet ‘n’ grump…

At the other end of the spectrum is the slagging town centre shops are currently receiving. People provide a specific example of an overpriced product or an unenthusiastic sales person, then extrapolate to conclude that Lerwick shops are dreadful. It distresses me to see the amount of “they had it coming” sentiments that people express when discussing Tesco’s extension and the resultant loss of trade to local businesses. In my experience, when I greet a local shopkeeper with a smile and exchange a couple of pleasantries, the favour is returned. It is possible that some customers who experience unfriendly customer service have compounded the situation through their own misanthropic attitude. Is the customer always right? Not when human nature has a say in things.

As a longstanding supporter of Mareel, I’ve become almost immune to the uninformed negativity expressed by many about what I consider to be a hugely positive and long awaited community project, and one that has attracted multi millions of pounds of external investment into the Shetland economy.

So it is was this background of head shaking forbearance that I came across a Facebook page entitled “’Mareel' could a building be more ugly?” [sic], whose apparent sole purpose is to encourage people to moan about the “monstrosity that is 'Mareel'” – no discussion on the relative merits or shortcomings of the design and aesthetics, no thoughts on how the finished building will look or debate on the pros and cons of future activities therein, just a page where people post pictures of a building site and have a good old moan about how ugly the building site is. I wonder what such a public grumping session is meant to achieve? Its group curmudgeonness at its finest and Shetland at its worst.

And now I’m complaining about folk complaining. This negativity is infectious….

Article for Shetland Life magazine - August 2010

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