This month’s question, which is more of a discussion, is quite long so I will keep the intro brief. If you’re reading this blog then there’s a high likelihood that you’re no stranger to Twitter. And if you’re on Twitter then it’s a safe bet that you have seen your share of arguments, venting, rants, drunken photography and some very heated debates. In fact, it’s more likely that you have seen any of those things than actual positive debate and academic discussion. So, without further ado:
“As a user of Twitter, it’s not uncommon to see vitriol being spit in any and all directions. In fact, it seems as if Twitter has become a sort of empty cavern into which users can scream their 140 character (or less) criticisms. Do you engage in online arguments and if so, do you put any sort of limitations or guidelines on those interactions? Do you specifically avoid confrontation on Twitter and, if so, how do you go about avoiding that conflict? Do you think any of the argumentativeness on Twitter is productive? How could Twitter better be utilized as a forum for intellectually progressive discussion?”
Manny-O-War: “As I have said in recent days, Twitter has become a sort of social glory hole. I see endless amounts of users brandishing their sub-par expressions into a hole in Twitter’s firewall not knowing what, or who, is on the other side. Yet, the person thrusting themselves into the eyes and ears of the use on the other side will inevitably climax when they see their puny thoughts in print. The majority of Twitter users would be better off buying some land and constructing a well which they can just scream their thoughts down. At least the well will echo your sentiments. So, to get to the question at hand, I try my hardest to distance myself from arguing online. For starters, it’s very easy to not listen to someone’s response when you can merely look away. Face-to-face debate is much more constructive because there’s at least a modicum of respect between the two intellects. I must admit, however, that I have been sucked into the void of argument a few times. It’s during those times that I look to my friends, whom I respect, to pull me out of the quicksand and restore me to my rightful place; hiding in my direct messages tab discussing issues with a few sane people (who may or may not always disagree with me). For any deeper thoughts you can look to my recent column about being an asshole.”
Jaci (Dæomoness): “I really do my best to avoid arguments on Twitter and social media in general because it’s just pointless, masturbatory yelling. No one is ever looking to resolve a conflict online, they just want to hammer someone with reasons why they believe they are right. It’s natural that people use social media as a way to say really mean or confrontational shit because one is ‘protected’ by the softly-lit Tubes of Internet and more likely than not — actual geographical miles — so the impact of words is seemingly diminished. If you’re one of those keyboard warriors who likes to bully people from the safety of their crumb-laden, Cheeto-smelling futon, I only have one question to ask you: Would you say that directly to someone’s face? If the answer is ‘No’, then shut the fuck up.
I avoid most conflict by ignoring the hell out of it, and also by utilizing the glorious mute function in TweetDeck. It’s been a saving grace when MetalTwitter™ is exploding about something and I get sick of hearing about it constantly.
Online confrontations? Not productive in any way. Ain’t got time for that. I got on Twitter initially to find people who I have things in common with [metal, design]. I have made genuine friendships with dear people I talk to on a daily basis and see regularly in person, and I’ve also worked on awesome projects that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise. The best thing you can utilize Twitter and other social media outlets for is to find like-minded people and then take the conversation offline to collaborate on things or hang out and drink whiskey. Do cool things and make cool shit. Stop yelling.”
Dan Kaplan: “I used to engage in shouting matches on Twitter (and Facebook) much, much more frequently than I do now. I’d have verbal fisticuffs about everything from music to movies to (most frequently) politics, and often of the ‘NO, YOU’RE A DUMBASS AND I’M RIGHT’ variety. And it got me nowhere. Funny enough, people tend to have actual reasons for their beliefs, and don’t actually respond to abrasive condemnations of them. Who knew?!
These days, I’m doing so far, far less. And I have to tip my hat, at least in part, to fellow 9C contributor Drew Zalucky, who shared an article earlier this year that I’ve been trying to make my M.O. for this type of conduct. The piece, a Medium op-ed titled “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb” discusses the unfortunate segmentation of online communities into groups who, largely, hold the same values and beliefs about everything — which, unfortunately, complicates true discourse about different issues. I’m not even beginning to scrape the surface with a paraphrase like that, but there’s one quote that’s stuck with me, which I’ll share verbatim:
We should all enter every issue with the very real possibility that we might be wrong this time…Isn’t it possible that we’re not right about everything? That those who live in places not where you live, watch shows that you don’t watch, and read books that you don’t read, have opinions and belief systems just as valid as yours? That maybe you don’t see the entire picture?
It seems so simple, but for a long time, such thoughts never even crossed my mind. Now, I can’t shake them — and ever since, I’ve tried to make it a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ of sorts to try and understand other people. To try and talk with them, rather than shouting at them. And honestly? Not enough people do that on social media. So these days, I don’t bother. Sorry, I just don’t have the energy for MORE OUTRAGE!!!”
Dustin Grooms: “I’m not a confrontational guy by nature. (Very few of us Southerners are, truthfully.) I’ve always been taught to handle conflict privately and with dignity: Don’t lose your temper, don’t resort to attacking the person rather than their ideas or actions, and when possible, agree to disagree. You’ll never agree with or please everyone, and you can’t always win; when you realize that, it’s suddenly like your balls drop all over again. That said, I’ve also been taught that avoiding conflict altogether is a good strategy as long as you don’t become a blubbery, spineless mess or a “yes man” in the process. You can stand up for yourself and defend your ideas without being a prick, and likewise, it’s best to keep your mouth shut about business that isn’t yours to begin with. It’s difficult to find this middle ground, but it does exist.
The great misfortune of social media is that everyone has an opinion; when I say that people are garbage heaps with legs and mouths, I mean that everyone on social media thinks that they each are somehow a unique snowflake (they’re not) whose opinions matter (they don’t), and those mighty opinions MUST be heard and taken as objective fact. This mentality is what leads to most online disputes, and frankly, most of them turn into a chest-puffing contest – a battle of egos. Especially on social media, people are far more snarky than they are in real life, and that’s where we get glorious things like subtweeting and passive-aggressive meme responses.
That said, I think there is plenty of room for productive debate on Twitter, although it will never replace a face-to-face debate. I’m convinced that our stunted communication skills are a direct result of believing that we can settle our grievances on a small blue screen and not really being active about communicating with people.
But hey, it’s Twitter. We’re talking about the dregs of humanity all in one place. As long as there are still abundant pictures of puppies and occasionally cool people, I’ll hang in there. Plus it’s way better than Facebook for talking about Old Thunder.”
Tenebrous Kate: “I make it a point never to engage in online arguments, no matter how badly I ache to win. At one moment in my life, I had just scoured through a stack of film criticism books in order to deliver a killing blow in an argument about how the movies of Italian horror director Dario Argento relate to the works of 19th Century essayist Thomas De Quincey. Just as I was about to scan in the highly damning passage I’d been looking for, it dawned on me that not only was this possibly the stupidest, most esoteric, and pedantic argument to ever happen between nerds, but that my opponent would never concede defeat. Instead, I logged off and ate an ice cream sandwich while engaging in a snarkfest with a very erudite pal that included the phrase “DO YOU EVEN DE QUINCEY, BRO?” It was the best possible outcome.
Schuler Benson: “I saw this email right after I saw that Antonin Scalia died, so given the nature of Twitter and of this topic, it seems timely. I love Twitter. It’s my primary go-to social media platform. Not as suffocating as Facebook, not as ephemeral as something like Instagram or Snapchat (which I don’t even understand, actually, but anyway). I’ll spout off opinions, and I’ll often use it as a vent for the hateful miasmas that want to boil out of me way too often, but it’s typically about unsolvable shit like parking woes or how fucked up I think things like property tax are. I am a hateful person; having said that, I don’t use Twitter to attack people, I don’t think, and I keep most of my remarks about subjects of substance relatively tongue-in-cheek… even if the emotion driving them is genuine. I don’t typically put myself out there about any topic I’m serious enough about that a retort from a stranger would require me putting a lot of effort into backing up my views, and I won’t typically lunge at somebody whose views don’t align with mine. I don’t thrive on confrontation, and I typically don’t run into others who do. And when situations like these arise, it’s almost always with randos whose purpose isn’t to push an agenda, but to get a rise out of anyone they can. They get blocked immediately; I don’t have time for that shit. For people who do a lot of arguing on Twitter about topics with actual gravity… I don’t know, man. I guess anywhere there’s passionate, intellectual discourse, there’ll also be productivity of some kind. But the anonymity of the internet, I think, usually caters to the baser parts of people that would rather just sling shit.”
Corey Butterworth: “I don’t engage in Twitter frequently and I engage in online arguments virtually never. I think they are completely pointless; a total waste of time. Nothing will ever come of them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they should be allowed to have it. That said, the fact that people think their opinion deserves an audience is equally as pathetic. But I guess some people are more insecure than others and need that reinforcement/attention. But either way, if other people’s opinions strike a bad chord with you, stop being so god damn defensive and/or passive aggressive. You don’t need to pick a fight with every opinion that differs from your own. I mean… I’d say people don’t care what you think, but then again they spent the time to spew their nonsense publicly to begin with so that can’t be true. Whatever, I don’t get it. Any of it.
That said, I am super glad social media exists because it is how I discover so many amazing bands. And based on all of the above, I’m probably a total hypocrite because, um, this blog. Whatever. Aside from that, I don’t care. Did I answer the question?”
And that wraps up Volume III of the Circle Pit. Have a any thoughts to add? Of course you do. Leave your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, feel free to drop Circle Pit suggestions at us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– The Nine Circles Team