Tag Archives: online arguments

Battles Not To Fight

There are some battles you shouldn’t fight because you have no hope of winning them. Others you shouldn’t fight because you have no chance of losing them. And there are some you shouldn’t fight because hey, who cares who wins them anyway?

I’ve recently become aware of a practice called “Sealioning.” (No, I don’t know how it got that name.) Evidently, it’s used by online trolls when they see a meme they don’t like. They challenge the poster to prove it – every statistic, every quote, every comma. One meme I passed along recently said, “If the free market works so well…why do corporations need $93 billion in annual government subsidies?”

Apparently, that provoked a friend of mine. “IF the statement is true, it may be a decent question,” he replied. “Without the meme providing a citing as its source, it’s difficult to evaluate the actual accuracy of what this meme is saying.”

When I replied that memes aren’t news articles and he could go look up the statistics if he wanted to, he informed me, “The burden of proof resides with the one originating the post, who’s attempting to assert or deny something.”

We went a few more rounds and then I went to bed. It wasn’t a fight I could win. There would always be another “if” or “prove it” or other quibble. The argument is futile, unwinnable. No use wasting brain cells on it.

The thing is, I probably shouldn’t respond. But I don’t block him because he is a friend who loves to debate. I love to debate too and don’t mind spending a few minutes engaging in it with a friend. After I’ve reached my limit for the day, I retreat to bed, neither of us having swayed the other.

(I still post political and social memes occasionally. I don’t post them to try to convert the sealions, but to let other people know where I stand.)

However, there are battles that I almost always win, because I’m on solid ground. Battles to do with language, usually. Back in the day, I was known as the “Punctuation Czar” (this was during the time when the government had a czar for every department). I cringed at split infinitives, corrected those who mispronounced words, and generally acted snobbish toward anyone who broke the rules. I would even offer to bet paychecks on points of grammar. No one ever took me up on it.

Those were fights I shouldn’t have gotten into, because as an English major, editor, writer, and proofreader, I would likely always win them. Winning them, however, was rude and unworthy. I found myself liking my role as the “Grammar Police” less and less. And there were some rules, such as the one about split infinitives, that I’ve given up because they make no logical sense. These days I only correct people when they ask (or pay) me to. (Except for my husband. I feel he’s fair game and I will not rest until I can get him to stop saying “foilage” when he reads his seed catalogs.)

Most of the time, though, disagreements with my husband fall into the category of arguments that aren’t worth starting, much less winning. Little things annoy everyone, but there’s just no percentage in pursuing them.

Dan, for example, when he needs to wash a single dish or pan, routinely squirts it with enough soap to wash a whole sinkful or two of dishes, plates, glasses, pans, and silverware. It wastes soap, of course, but is it really worth picking a fight over? I can avoid bad feelings simply by buying more dish soap.

(Another time we avoided a fight simply by postponing it until it was no longer an issue. You can read about it here, if you want: https://wp.me/p4e9wS-ct. But I digress.)

The world is full of arguments just waiting to happen. But I don’t have to be part of them if I don’t want to. I’ll save my energy for just the right battle, and when it comes along, I’ll fight to win!

Weeding Followers, Friends, and Fans

Name-calling. Shaming. Trolls. Hate speech. Threats. Doxxing. These are increasingly common on the internet.

They are also problems I don’t have, given the relatively few Facebook friends I have, the relative civility of most of them, and the relatively slow growth of my blogs.

Personally, I have only ever blocked a couple of people on Facebook, one for use of the “n-word.” I don’t often post about controversial topics on my timeline, though I’m sure people can figure out my general leanings from the things I do post and the comments I make on others’ posts. I accept friend requests from people I know, who are on all points of the political and social continuum. Some of my friends and I disagree totally on, and stay away from discussing, sensitive issues.

But I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how other people handle such problems.

First, let’s look at someone whose situation is similar to mine: a private citizen, Georgianna, who has unfriended and been unfriended. She says that what has pushed her over the edge at times is situations like this:

On posts I made about shootings of unarmed blacks by cops, [the person in question] kept commenting things like why do they riot and why do they run if they’re not guilty. I ignored those. The final straw was when I posted about Cecil the Lion and he commented what about all the babies murdered by abortion. His posts were off topic, annoying, and displayed stupidity. I was done.

I guess I just got tired of folks highjacking my posts for their own purposes and not adding substance.

Fair enough. I think that sums up most people’s experiences. But what about more public figures who regularly discuss – indeed, argue about, promote, or decry – volatile topics?

Tom Smith is a professional singer/songwriter with a modest-by-national-standards but impressive-in-certain-circles following. His songs and his Facebook posts clearly show a progressive/liberal bent. Among his friends and followers are a rather large number of highly opinionated people (I am one of them), and the comments on his posts can run into the hundreds.

Because he began fearing for his blood pressure, Tom established Rules covering comments and what would get a person blocked.

1: BE POLITE DAMMIT. You don’t have to be polite to whatever person or persons are the subject(s) of the original post, although I will not tolerate name-calling or crude sexual insults or fat-shaming or anything like that. But, by damn, you WILL be polite to your fellow commenters. You are all guests at a party at my place, and I don’t like it when my friends fight, especially IN MY FRONT ROOM.
2. Facts. Back up any assertions with facts — to credible sources, please. Breitbart.com, anything associated with Fox “News”, The Weekly Standard, anything by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Pam Geller, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly are ESPECIALLY right out. They are known, proven liars and nutbar conspiracy theorists. If you got it off Reddit or Free Republic or Townhall or someplace like that… get some confirmation from the damn New York Times or Washington Post or CNN or BBC.
3. I reiterate: no sexual shaming. No fat “jokes”. No ethnic jokes. (Yeah, I know a shitload of ’em. Some people just take them wrong). Nothing that you think might be triggery. You can swear your head off, if that’s your style — it certainly is my style sometimes. But, basically, if you have to stop and ask yourself if it might really offend someone, there’s a decent chance it will. Use your words, and find a different way to phrase it.
4. Did I mention facts? Whatever you think you know about climate change, Planned Parenthood, Benghazi, Obama’s birth certificate, or the wonderful benefits of fracking, there’s a good chance you have at least some misinformation. No, not that site. No, not that one either. Science denial will get you Blocked faster than two days of eating peanut butter.

Recently, Tom has (quite sensibly, in my opinion) moved his political postings to a separate page called Political Noise (https://www.facebook.com/politicalnoise?pnref=story), where he has basically the same rules as above, but has also articulated this:

If conversations go off the rails, if people are snarling at each other and no one’s going to change each other’s minds, I will step in and say ENOUGH. When that happens, THE THREAD IS CLOSED AND I EXPECT YOU TO STOP COMMENTING. We’ve reached the loud, circular phase of the argument, and it’s time to let it go and move on.

If someone is being a particular jerk about things, I may hit you with the Ban Hammer and say BUH-BYE. Usually, this is just for a couple of days. If you’re a really special snowflake, however, it may be permanent.

He adds: “Anybody got a problem with that? Tough. My wall, my rules. Now. Go forth and play nice.”

As of a few days ago, Tom’s main Facebook page is reserved for personal updates and musings, his professional page (https://www.facebook.com/tomsmithonline?fref=ts)  for his music, and the new page for political/social opinions.

Then there’s Jim Wright, widely known writer, blogger, Navy veteran, and unrepentant curmudgeon, whose website Stonekettle Station (http://www.stonekettle.com/) and Facebook page are platforms for his strongly worded and often iconoclastic views. He has maxed out the number of Facebook friends allowed. His rules (which I asked permission to quote, so don’t bother reporting me to him):

Things that get you booted off my Facebook page:
1. Acting like an asshole.
2. Acting like an ignorant asshole.
3. Acting like an asshole to other commenters.
4. Acting like a condescending asshole by explaining to other commenters “what Jim ‘really’ meant.”
If you act in this manner, you will be summarily removed. Period. There will be no warning given ….
Addendum: You get booted, DON’T email me begging an explanation, forgiveness and/or reinstatement. I already gave your slot away. If you don’t want to get booted, don’t act like an asshole. If you’re not sure what I consider acting like an asshole is, then err well on the side of caution. I am not going to argue about this.

Jim has also been known to publicly mock any truly and/or amusingly stupid comments, tweets, or messages, and, under certain circumstances, to send forth his “minions” to do likewise.

Another Famous Writer weeds out friend requests in advance. Apparently he goes to your home page and looks at whether you post cat photos and pass-alongs from Upworthy and Buzzfeed. I quit trying. I like cat photos and sometimes find Upworthy and Buzzfeed interesting. If that rules me out for his roster of friends, so be it. I have plenty of friends who follow things that I consider dopey. Then again, I’m not even within shouting distance of the Facebook friend limit.

All things considered, I am glad not to be even a semi-public figure (except insofar as my blogs make me one, which is not very far at all) – and glad to have non-troll friends, however opinionated.