I have been on the internet for an excessively long time. I am thirty-two at the time of writing, and a greater part of my teenage years were spent on a nascent, barely formed internet. The time before that was spent on the world wide web’s humble predecessor, the BBS or Bulletin Board System. That’s right; I’ve been at this long enough to nostalgically remember a time where connecting to the internet meant listening to my computer try to speak like an auto-tuned dolphin every time it wanted to interact with a phone line and where tablet PCs were still props on Star Trek.
In this time I’ve had my fair share of shouting and name calling, though I’ve actually tried to avoided more of it than I’ve ever contributed to. You see, digital arguments usually come down to one single thing; people aren’t looking to gain new perspectives, but to tell you how wrong you are. In a vast majority of “conversations”, where people come to the internet to scream at each other and make aspersions on their parentage and sexuality, I just can’t opt out quickly enough. This becomes especially true of people “discussing” religion on line. I had the misfortune of putting together a lot of my understandings of religion, philosophy, and basic human nature on the horrid cesspool that was (and probably still is) Gaia Online’s Extendend Disscussion forum.
Morality and Religion was one of the sub forums there and I saw shit no one should have to see. Take every bad stereo type of internet discussions, add all of the wonderful language and terminology of XBox Live, throw in the standard amount of philosophical entitlement that comes with every religious discussion, and than make 60% of the people involved 17 years old or younger that are basically just parroting a half-baked version of their parent’s beliefs. There are moments when the term “cluster fuck” just doesn’t do a situation any justice.
As a result, I’m naturally inclined to let arguments pass me by unless there are some elements of decorum involved. I’ll hold my ground if such a person comes swinging through, but I’ve got better things to do than to go out and proactively look for windmills to joust with. I save my talking for places and people who do just as much listening as speaking. Surprisingly, I’ve found a few Heathen groups on Facebook (of all places) where conversational etiquette is observed and that’s where a lot of my discussions and debates ocur. I’ve joined the forums for “Polytheism Without Borders” (and you should too!), but I haven’t been in a place where I can engage with that forum in a meaningful way; babies, it turns out, require a lot of time. Who knew?
In discussions I have both participated and opened, and even some I wouldn’t normally touch with a twenty foot pole, I’ve begun to see a very silly and idiotic mentality show up. It’s a very egotistical, hubiristic sort of talking point…one which I have found myself loathing intently. I’m talking about statements such as “Ugh! Why are we still talking about “X”. and “I am so tired of seeing people talk about this! Get over it!”.
Social media is a powerful, and amazing tool. While most people just use it to find pictures of cats doing wacky things, you can also use it as a powerful conduit to communication and knowledge. You can make connections, network, and research things in extremely effective ways. What you can also do is use it to filter out stuff you have no interest in. Seriously, you get to pay attention to or ignore what ever you choose. Social media allows you to craft your internet experience to your own design, and the agency that is at one’s finger tips is staggering.
I use this power. When I see an argument that I find banal or redundant, I use the powers at my command to ignore it. Sometime I just opt not to read it. Other times, I use my amazing and arcane magic of “click on the little tab thingie” to make it disappear from view. In other words, I simply act like an adult, I do not engage in dialog I am not interested in. If I have constructive criticism or something similar which may add something to the dialogue for all those involved, I have no issue in adding it; that’s the point of intellectual conversation.
If instead I have the temptation to whine more than my six year old when she is subjected to the ignominy of green beans, I keep that to myself. I make it my job to shut up, mind my own business, and find something I do want to talk about or look at. You see, no one is going to give a damn if I am tired of a discussion or not. As in the world of flesh and blood, I have the responsibility to take myself out of situations that do not interest me. On the internet, this duty is absolutely legion; you have a greater capacity to seek out knowledge and experience than has ever existed on the planet Earth. If you cannot find something that you consider engaging, you have no one but yourself to blame. If you don’t like a discussion, find one you do like. It’s really just that simple
No one thinks of you, or anyone else, as a conversational Caesar; we do not wait with bated breath for someone to raise or lower their thumb in the direction of our discussions so that we might know of their blessings and condemnations. When someone comes into a existing discussion, and gripes and complains about how they don’t want to listen to this, they come off (to me) as whiny, ignorant, and lazy. Their options were and still remain limitless in what they can be doing at that moment, yet they’ve decided to gripe about the first thing that they found that they didn’t like.
I wouldn’t be bothered if they actually were saying their opinion on the subject so long as it was something constructive. Hell, I want to hear constructive dissent! I want to learn about the things I don’t understand and view points I may not have considered. I absolutely loathe metagentics, but I would jump at the chance to talk to Mr. McNallen one on one about it; Is there any way I could better understand his thinking than to hear if from his own mouth with my own ears? I crave constructive criticism and contrasting opinions, because that is how I believe we evolve both intellectually and spiritually.
To frame these things theologically for a second, I set a great deal of my worship to Loki. One of the aspects that most will talk when it comes to him is the propensity to present uncomfortable truths. If my worship and veneration of him is in earnest, what else could I do but look for those truths that could shift my perspective? I doubt I could make an honest claim of worshiping him if I only wanted comforting lies for myself, yet was willing to deal in harsh truths for others.
When someone tries to squash a conversation because they’re tired of hearing it, they are communicating to me that pressing the back button on their browser was too much effort. They are saying, to the world that it was easier to sit there and bitch about the inconvenience of reading a thing they found boring than to go find something interesting. I don’t even suspect that such people think anyone is going to humor them, so I have no idea what they are even trying to do. No matter what their intent, all they’re doing is wasting everyone’s time.
Stop demanding the world babysit you. If you find something you can’t stand than all you need to do is get up, go find something that does interest you, and shut the fuck up. No one should stop their thinking for your benefit.
Feel free to drop this link into the internet discussion of your choice! While you’re doing that, take some time and check me out over on Patreon! My patron feed has links to all the work I do everywhere! What is that you say? I only create content at WordPress? Well, stayed tuned for a big announcement!