As some of you have been able to discern recently, I have struggled to understand what Newsvine is (or wants to be) and whether my contributions are consistent with the intents and goals of this service. Some Friends have privately sent me emails of encouragement for which I am appreciative, and humbled.
This weekend I realized that I have come to view Newsvine as a large cocktail party, spread across many rooms of a large house. This cocktail party is peopled with folks from many countries and walks of life; both sexes; all sexual preferences, and; every variety of religious belief, or none at all. Every educational and income level is also represented. Every calibre of person is present, the good, the bad and the ugly. Like at any cocktail party, people move throughout the house, spending time in several rooms greeting friends and meeting new ones; engaging in light banter and repartee as well as in-depth discussions. New people come and others leave. A constant swirl of movement and conversations.
In one of the largest rooms are the serious news hounds and those with a deep and abiding interest in all things political. On the east wall of this room is a TV set tuned to CBS. On the west wall is a TV tuned to Foxnews channel. The people in the room tend to cluster around one of the two TVs and their conversations tend to be geared to the content of the televised news. The two clusters have the occasional shouting matches as each of the news stations twist actual news events to fit their own corporate philosophy. Often the conversation is about wars, but most often US politics is center-stage. Between the polarized clusters are a few moderates who try to keep the two groups from physical contact. Occasionally, a small number of people gather in a corner and actually discuss important issues that divide them and sometimes they reach an understanding that embraces neither side's ideals completely but has components of each. They become Friends.
In another large room right next door are those that feel strongly about social issues and religion. Like the hard news/political room, this room has a polarized feel to it. There are quite a few small hard knots of people engaged in earnest conversations that range from abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriages and religious issues. Frequently, small knots engage each other in heated exchanges but nothing is ever resolved. Slights, real or imagined, cause a cessation of conversation and the knots move away from each other, each knot convinced of the validity of their beliefs. In this room too, are the folks between the knots, trying to act as peacemakers, stressing fair, honest and logical debate. Most often their efforts fail.
Down the hall, in a smaller room the din is overwhelming! Every wall is covered with TVs tuned to every sporting event one can imagine (and some you can't). Logo-emblazoned clothing adorns almost every person in the room. Amidst the belly-bumps and high-fives, movement is constant. As is the sudden outbursts of cheering and moans of disbelief. Conversations tend to be conducted in shouts simply because of the ambient noise level. Even then, the conversations are usually good natured, full of boasts and challenges resolved with drinking contests. Over all floats an aroma of beer and pizza. What a strange cocktail party!
Farther down the hall is another much smaller room. In this room conversations are more relaxed. Occasionally someone will stand and deliver a monologue in verse. Afterwards, there is appropriate applause regardless of the merit of the material. Then a hush falls as someone else tells of a personal challenge and struggle with life. Sometimes in the story there is hope and at other times the story is of a tragedy already played out. Then follows words of support and encouragement for the speaker, hugs and often tears. But always, there is civility in this room and attention and care for each person as they make their way through life. Even strangers meeting for the first time, feel close after only a short time.
Down another hall are a series of much smaller rooms, each with a small number of people in each. In these rooms, the conversations are usually very focused and strangers are not generally welcomed until their viewpoint on a specific topic is ascertained. If the visitor to one of these rooms has a divergent view from the room's regular occupants, they will be shunned, sometimes politely, sometimes not. These rooms tend to be colder than others in the house.
There are many other rooms in this large house. In some, scientific conversations take place and in others, art or entertainment is the mainstay. To reiterate, there are many rooms in the house and most visitors find several that they enjoy spending time in. Few have the stamina or desire to visit all the rooms.
Fortunately, this is a continuous cocktail party, you can stay as long as you like. And visit as many rooms as you like. Even now, someone at the party is trying to find the coat room to take the tipsy blonde wearing the Patriots jersey they found down in Sports. Someone else is trying to find the damn door so they can leave in a huff after being belittled in the hard news room. (To find the door all you have to do is find the steady stream of new folks joining the party.) There are some general rules that govern your conduct while at the party - no guns or knives, no slurs, no biting below the belt, etc.
It is a hell of a cocktail party and I'm glad I'm here! I figure that if I don't offend too many people, too often, make the homeowners angry or generally be a pest, I can stay as long as I want to. My greatest fear is to be thrown out for irrelevancy... But until that happens, as my good friend in NC would say, "Mix and mingle and for crying out loud, DRINK UP, it is a damn party after all!"