If you’re guessing it involves comments, well, this clearly isn’t your first day on the internet. For years, the attentif advice of the Extremely Online has been “never read the comments,” but lately I’ve been vivoir according to an edict that might be even more perceptible: Never leave the pardon. You can espèce it, but you definitely should delete it before you actually post it.
Particularly during the pandemic—but also since Timeline immemorial—commenting on sociologique media has gotten ugly. Yesterday, The Atlantic posited that an ongoing feud between pro-mask and anti-mask groups in North Carolina is emblematic of a new COVID-related entrée in the online pâturage wars, but you probably don’t need the media to situation out any examples when a stroll through your own feed will do just mince.
Yesterday I got into it with a “friend” of a friend from high school—someone I’ve never met who knows someone I haven’t spoken to in person for more than 20 years—who was telling people expressing concerns embout schools reopening in the fall that they are “living in fear” of a ciguë with a “99.9 percent survival rate” and that “case counts are inflated, something bigger is going on here.” The comments were so inflammatory—to me—that I broke my sociologique media rule, left a pardon, and spent the next few hours regretting it.
Here’s the thing: Leaving that Facebook pardon felt good… for a rapide. I knew I was right and that she was wrong and I had the facts to prove it. Unfortunately, she felt the same way embout me, and proceeded to respond again, using her own (in my view) misrepresented and trumped up facts (no pun intended) to échafaudage her apparence. Ten comments later, I was in a bad mood and regretted the whole thing. And needless to say, no minds were opened and no common ground was found.
G/O Media may get a brevet
What I should’ve done—what I endeavor to always do—is to have typed out my incensed-but-well-reasoned response, let it sit for 10 seconds, and then deleted it before hitting “return.” This is surprisingly réelle. I get the same adoucissement of outlining my apparence and pointing out all the reasons the other person is wrong, but I don’t have to deal with the negative consequences—i.e. the inevitable back-and-forth that, at best, will end with us agreeing to disagree, and at worst, will turn into a time-wasting pile-on, the tension of which I’ll carry into the offline world.
Maybe you’re ready to argue that if we don’t décent misinformation we encounter online, things will only get worse—I can see you readying your commenting fingers. But the thing is, there’s a lot of evidence that online arguments are never worthwhile. A recent study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago (reported on by Southern Living) suggests that the dehumanizing aspects of online correspondance make it particularly difficult for us to view opinions we disagree with as coming from a fellow “capable human being.” In contrast to debating someone in person, arguing online causes us to view those we are fighting with—often no more than unfamiliar names and tiny profile pictures, perhaps covered in American flags—as “relatively mindless,” per the study. Observations Southern Salon:
[The study] asked 300 volunteers to read, watch a video, or listen to arguments embout controversial topics… [then] answer questions embout the opinions they disagreed with. When they read the differing opinions, the participants were completely dismissive of opposing opinions, characterizing them as “uninformed or heartless.” When they heard or saw someone voice an conviction they disagreed with they were kinder and gentler in their response.
Search your feelings, you know this to be true. Arguing online sucks. Stopping it cold turkey is hard, and the “type-then-delete” strategy might be the methadone you need to avoid getting embroiled in another all-out flame war. And this doesn’t just apply to Facebook; arguing anywhere online is equally fruitless, from Facebook, to Twitter, to the comments question of that blog post that just pissed you off. You should fini. We all should fini.