I like it. Even when I’m wholly unprepared to defend my position, I enjoy getting into a verbal discourse about important – or unimportant – topics. I just like to have ideas evolve and change. I like to challenge belief and have my beliefs challenged. In fact, one of the few things I believe (as opposed to just having ideas about) is that healthy, honest, civil and intellectual debate must be the crux of our civilization. As long as we can challenge one another to continue to innovate and constructively criticize our methodology in order to continually move forward in a positive and impactful manner.
But that enjoyment turned into a bit of a nasty addiction when the internet entered my life. Suddenly I had access to thousands upon millions of potential debate opponents. On top of that, I had access to a growing resource of information – I could literally pick any fight I wanted to, and ‘win’.
Except that there never was a win.
You can’t win on the Internet.
In over a decade of engaging avatars and anonymous posts on the internet, I can count perhaps a half dozen engagements that I would consider resolved where I emerged ‘in the right’. And though there never is a clear winner on the internet – I can say all of us lost. Time, energy – it deflates you. The only win I can think of that I didn’t feel dirty afterwards is when I managed to convince a dog owner to seek training for her dog instead of just giving up on it.
And it’s not like I take extreme positions about anything – I don’t like to think of myself on the political spectrum. I like to think that I can incorporate a good idea into my ideological systems without compromising my entire being. Which is part of the problem with arguing with most people on the internet.
Where I argue from a competitive desire, a lot of people argue from a place of insecurity. The ideas and beliefs that they come on the internet to express, defend or attack with are so integral to the core of their being that to question them, to shake that tree, is not just a threat to an abstract an idea, but a personal threat to their being – metaphysical or otherwise. And in those circumstances, it’s impossible to make one see the err of their ways. If they are so tied up in the abstracts of idea that they cannot tell where the person ends and the ideas begin, then the argument becomes a battle for life – and no one will give ground when it comes to their life.
Either that, or they play the ‘I’m the Victim‘ game. That ones always fun. Republicans are really good at that game.
Or, some people are just mean, stupid and ignorant, and enjoy feeling as though they are making others feel bad about themselves. More than once I’ve been told that something of mine ‘sucks’ – but when pressed for constructive criticism, the response devolves into little more than internet gibber.
Which is how I felt I won the last argument I had – on Reddit, mind you. I Moo’ed. After basically laughing at someone who insulted me and my work without grounds or reason, I just mooo’ed in response. And then he conceded to give me the last word. So I proclaimed victory over the internet.
So, today, I say no more.
I will not intelligently argue with you anymore, internet. I will reserve my best debates for those I meet in person, those that I can share and challenge ideas with in a face to face encounter. I will save my intellectual time, energies and efforts for those that will benefit from it, and for me to benefit from.
From now on, when you bleat at me some inanity that is clearly wrong, I will simply respond with my new (and supremely satisfying) battle cry: