Windmills On The Web

The Internet is really, really great. There’s tons of interesting stuff out there. I love to read what people have to say. I even (very) occasionally say some things of my own. But I’m primarily a lurker. I like to see what people have to say, and the conversations, both civil and otherwise, those comments can elicit. Besides, I hate arguing on the Internet.

And yet…

And yet, every once in a while I just can’t help myself and have to chime in. Now, I will admit that there are certain advantages to debating (if we’re being generous) and arguing (if we’re being cynical) online versus in person. The biggest one for me is that I can generally take my time, formulating points and supporting evidence with a thoroughness that can’t be matched when put on the spot. Plus, the interconnectedness of things online lets one easily cite sources and provide further reading.

Of course, one tends to lose some of the subtleties of face-to-face communication in a text-based medium. So I try to compensate by using what advantages writing gives to my fullest. I’ll think my words through carefully, finding links and references to support my points. I try to be clear, calm, and logical as much as I can.

The problem comes when the other side doesn’t feel like doing the same.

But I try. I try to stay civil. I try to frame my responses in ways that respond to the points the other person makes, not them personally. I try to look at their sources and references objectively, on their own merits. I ask for clarification, giving them a chance to elaborate on their point in case I’ve misconstrued something that was merely poorly stated. I really do try…

But sometimes, the stupid just burns too much.

Part of that seems to be people’s tendency towards brevity when it comes to online communication when it comes to commenting. It can be really hard to make a carefully worded, nuanced point in a paragraph or two, especially on something as ephemeral as Facebook. Generally, I avoid such attempts at conversation for just that reason. But like I said, every once in a while I wade in, some small part of me convinced that this time it’d be different. That this time I’ll be able to have a good debate, or make my point in such a way that they come to see the error of their ways.

But of course, I am inevitably disappointed.

I don’t know why I bother. I know I should just let it go, but once I put my two cents in I feel obligated to defend my point. Thus begins a cycle of research, writing, revision, and posting. But that can only go on for so long before I start to feel myself being dragged down to my opponent’s level. In theory I know that no one is going to convince someone to change truly deep-seated beliefs with logic and supporting evidence.

But I keep trying.

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