[Disclaimer: This is long, and you probably won't like what I have to say.]
Mostly, I try to stay ‘impartial’ in online conversations, unless I’m involved directly. This is done for several reasons, all of which I’ve decided upon over the last fifteen years of communicating via computers.
You see, back in the days of echo-mail and Usenet, there was a very real sense of etiquette. Flame wars were rare, and usually taken off-channel. When people spoke, they did so reasonably, and took the time to listen to what everyone else was saying, even if they didn’t agree with it. There were no ‘sides’, only a bunch of nerds trying to communicate. Respect was implicit, as everyone treated the medium as a blessing — we all knew that the conversations we were having were a lot more reasoned than we could expect to have outside of the community, and everyone held up their end of the bargain.
As a result, I try to stay out of conversations I’m not already part of, in the hopes that when I do have something to say, people know I’m not saying it lightly.
In this, the September That Never Ended, I’m starting to find my methods archaic, and made largely irrelevant in the face of the larger segment of internet users; people who don’t have a history with computers, and who treat the medium cheaply.
As more and more people use the internet as a way of communicating without accountability for what they say, I feel more and more like a dinosaur. I hold up my end of the bargain, but it seems like I’m the only one who knows the rules. This is, in all likelihood, the case, and I think LiveJournal is in no small part responsible.
I remember when LiveJournal was created. Some friends and I had just finished working on a similar project, Diary-X. We felt our product was superior to LJ, because ours was community-oriented, and not post-oriented. People want community, right?
It turns out that they don’t. People want to say things, and have as many people as possible read them. People don’t want conversations, they want comments. People don’t care what happens to their words after they click submit, nor do they take any responsibility for them. Get over it, it’s only LiveJournal.
I am constantly amazed by the human capacity for distance. What you feel isn’t relevant. The emotions and years of experience behind your words, irrelevant. You, the sum of your person, the good that you’ve contributed to the world — irrelevant. Now, your feelings have been reduced to “LJ Drama”. And, if you dare to express your frustration with the imposed imitations of the medium, you’re a drama queen.
I have a game I play.
When I get into a debate with someone online, and I know that my points are researched and well-spoken, that my logic is valid, and my language simple, I like to try to guess what angle the other person in the conversation will take to avoid addressing what I’ve said. Will they cherry-pick words from my argument for the sake of pedantry? Will they focus on my spelling? Personal Attack? Straw man?
It’s not a fun game, but it takes away from the frustration of dealing with idiots. I’ve gotten very good at it, over the years.
In any case, I’ve remained mostly silent when Leslie gets into arguments with people online, having learned something about people who haven’t grown up with the internet: You will never change their mind about anything. A casual internet user who goes into an argument with one opinion and leaves with another is a freak occurrence on the scale of virgin birth, or a forward-thinking record label. LiveJournal is proof positive of this.
With that said, I have to say something about this ‘drama’.
Although many of you are divorced from your online activities, not all of us are so blase. I treat online conversations with the same emotional investment that I would give to an offline conversation. The medium is irrelevant, what matters is what it is that people have to say. And while (sadly) I understand that other people treat this as a throwaway medium, I would ask you to take the time to think about what it is you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to. I would also ask you to approach someone if you have a problem with what it is they’re saying, and not let it fester for a year before you bring it up to them. At that point, your hurt has grown into something beyond the original slight. A simple miscommunication or difference of opinion can be easy to resolve, but less so when you’ve been carrying bruised feelings around for a while.
More specifically, hold up your end of the bargain. If you can’t be bothered to fairly respond to other people’s points, don’t respond at all. There is a social contract at work.
And if you do respond unfairly, and there’s a shitstorm of people calling you out on your prejudices, maybe they see something you don’t. Take the opportunity to examine what it is they’re saying, and see if you can learn from it. No one will fault you for bettering yourself.
But if you’re determined to be a stubborn, arrogant jerk about it, find someone else to play with. I’m tired of watching my partner feel like shit because of assholes and bitches. She’s not DJ Leslie, she’s not what other people have told you about her (ie: some chick who’s meth lab exploded), she’s a person. A wicked, brilliant and loving one who has taken the time to listen to and try to understand what other people are saying, even if it’s mean-spirited accusations about the motivations behind her own actions. I’ve spent every day with her for two years, and I’ve seen her every day dedicated to doing what she can to help others, regardless of how they’ve treated her — and I’m tired of watching someone so beautiful and rare edge closer and closer to self-loathing because of ugly people who can’t keep their own issues to themselves.
If you have an issue with her, state it fairly and come to the table with an open mind. Our door is open, and we have really good coffee.
If you don’t want to bring it up, and you’d rather let sleeping dogs lie, that’s your choice. Live your life, and leave her out of it.
If you insist on being an cunt, I’m not going to just sit back and watch anymore. I’m not above kicking people in the teeth. Or if my leg’s acting up that day, emptying bank accounts.
I’m done trying to be reasonable to unreasonable people.
(Of course, I really don’t have high expectations about people paying attention to this post. Even if they do, I expect people to sidestep. Play along at home! My money’s on a Circumstantial ad Hominem!)