Friday, June 08, 2012

Sound Off


I'm gonna sound like a huge dick here for a few minutes -- and considering that I usually sound kind of like a dick but don't actually acknowledge it you can get an idea just how dickish I'm probably gonna be. You've been warned.

What with the backlash I've gotten over the last few days to my thoughts on marijuana legalization and the people who vociferously advocate for it -- making it a priority in their lives, basing their identity around it and hinging their vote on it at the exclusion of all else -- I figure now's as good a time as any to make clear my thoughts on Twitter. Hold on -- it'll make sense in a minute.

As usual, at lot of the reaction to the various pieces I've written lately has come by way of indignant tweets aimed in my direction, many of which I assume have been fired off in the hope of dragging me into a 140-character-at-a-time debate on the subject. I don't need to tell you that this is the way it works these days: You say something that somebody doesn't like; it catches the attention of a couple more people; they tell some friends or followers and the clouds suddenly light up and UFOs swarm down on top of you like in the final scenes of Close Encounters. No matter the subject, although particularly when it comes to politics, an opinion or two fired off via a blog post or otherwise published piece can immediately turn into a lengthy back-and-forth with people you've never met but who can't wait to tear your fucking head off in broken English because they have to keep it short in order to conform to Twitter's limited format.

Worst of all, there's generally a 99.9% chance that, since you took some time to formulate the views that you wrote out at length and the person pelting you with criticism obviously feels really strongly about his or her own views, in the end nobody's gonna budge and it's going to essentially come down to two idiots bitching at each other online, ad infinitum. Bottom line: For me, when it comes to disagreements, Twitter isn't the place for a decent debate of the issues -- it's a place to engage in an often meaningless and petty online "shouting match," one where very little progress is ever made and almost nothing ever gets resolved.

So with that in mind, I'm gonna put something in writing here that I've said on the podcast a couple of times and have let outraged critics know in 140-characters or less more than a few times: I don't get into Twitter battles. You disagree with something I have to say and want to let me know it? Feel free to fire away, but don't expect me to respond. I have a life and don't have time to get bogged down defending a point of view that I'm pretty sure I made clear from the get-go and have generally taken a good long time to consider and reconsider. I'm not saying that others won't have excellent counterpoints to my own and that they might provide me with a few things worth thinking about, but I'm not going to discuss those points at length on a platform as restrictive as Twitter. It just isn't worth my time.

Also, please keep in mind that just because I write something in an extended piece that you don't like, and I happen to have a Twitter account, it doesn't mean that I'm required to make myself available to you -- whom I pretty much guarantee I don't even know -- to address your concerns and defend my opinion 24/7. No, you're not entitled to my time just because I have an online presence and you have a bone to pick.

Now, if because of my unwillingness to play defense to your satisfaction and at your whim you feel like I'm some kind of intellectual lightweight or coward -- because you of course have that one special bit of logic and wisdom to impart that's going to make the house of cards that is my argument fall apart -- I can live with that. Again, there's a pretty good chance that I don't even know you and an even better chance that you're laboring under the entirely faulty assumption that I want to know you and believe that you're someone whose opinion I really need to take seriously. So, hey, if you want to turn around and tell the 500 people who follow you on Twitter -- the ones whose split-second decision to click your name with a mouse validates your sense of self-importance -- that you won the fight with the big, bad blowhard because he refused to get into it with you, thereby proving that you were right all along, have at it. I literally could not care less what you think of me.

I'm often happy to talk to people on Twitter, but I'm not required to do it -- particularly not with pissed-off people I don't know who just want to scrap and who will very likely be RTing my responses to their friends in order to get them into the fray, the digital version of calling in reinforcements and getting your friends to fight for you. There's nothing dumber than a Twitter feud -- which is why I don't get into them.

I hate to drop another sci-fi movie reference, but a Twitter fight is usually a futile game of tic-tac-toe -- and as we know, Joshua, when it comes to tic-tac-toe the only winning move is not to play.

12 comments:

Janiece said...

Just so. I never really got the idea that trolls think they're entitled to their victim's time and attention. Why would I bother?

Amy said...

And here I was all excited to watch you be a huge dick...

I LOVE when you are a huge dick by the way. It's part of what keeps me coming back. The level of personality required to do that is huge, and I just love watching it happen.

Having said that..

Fuck Twitter - you are dead on.

Colonel Yelgen P. Masters said...

You are the second person I know who referenced the WOPR today.

Kickass.

Steven D Skelton said...

I don't do twitter, so I've no idea of it's social customs. That said, you didn't sound like a dick to me. That was all very reasonable.

pknaack1 said...

This is the internet today. There’s 313M people in the US, with 313M different worldviews, and each and every one of those worldviews is developed over many years, (usually) internally consistent, developed in the limited realm of whatever sphere of individuals they have moved through since their childhood, and many of those people are well-equipped to spout whatever nuggets of “wisdom” they think they need to spout in order to defend their carefully cultivated worldviews. The internet allows anyone with an opinion to instantly connect with hundreds or even thousands of other people with the exact same opinion. Many of the “inventors” of the internet consider(ed) this to be the greatest thing about the internet: it’s ability to bring together those who have great ideas but feel alone in their little spheres, and make them feel less alone and more worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is not how the internet works. If the internet had the property that those with really bad ideas did not find the solidarity they desired, then it might have fulfilled that original vision. But, the really bad ideas find just as much support as the good ones--and in many cases, even more... because lies, fabrications, absolutisms, and sensationalism are far more interesting than fairness, open-mindedness, and compromise. Truth is boring. Ultimately, in any forum, it becomes like a filter or funnel: only a tiny portion of the people on the internet actually participate--but which group? The smartest? The ones with the most brilliant ideas? No... the loudest, the most outraged, the most angry, the most fervent. No matter how strange, illogical, asinine, or unsupported by facts, if they can say it loudly, they’re the ones who will dominate. There is one more thing. The 140-character limit imposed by Twitter is seen by its creators as a creative stimulus, a way to force people to trim the fat and condense their thoughts into the highest density possible, to say the most with the least. Unfortunately, that works even better for anger and vitriol than it does for humor and insight. The 140-character limit causes the angry person to pack as much of a wallop as possible: more swear words, more insults, more references to dead dictators. The creators of the internet envisioned a beautiful 200-story shiny tower of a library, full of gleaming nuggets of useful information, a vast repository of ideas and conversation, a place where anyone can find peace and solace, a beacon of knowledge to the wondrous variety of peoples of the world, and what they got instead was a 200-story rent-by-the-hour sex emporium hotel almost entirely filled with crap-laced decaying bathrooms with spent-condom-plugged toilets and epithets about your mother scrawled on the stall walls. But then, that’s just my worldview...

So I say, Chez : good move, don’t feed the trolls.

Al said...

Now I'm jonesing on a WOPR you bastard.

Kat said...

Agreed. And I'd like see if one of these brat children would have the balls to say their oh-so-clever 140 to your face.

TheReaperD said...

If you feed the trolls a "My little pony" gets raped according to the internet meme. Damn, hard choices.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who uses Twitter as their sole means of communication has not the attention span required for an actual debate. As far as I am concerned, they can be completely ignored. That may be a dick thing to say, but it does not diminish its basis in fact.

Anonymous said...

I admire your ability to resist feeding the trolls. Trouble is they never seem to starve to death because lesser minded fools keep feeding them instead.

Yatz said...

Don't be a dick, chez - feed a troll today (it's cheaper than, say, buying cat food, and the smell is not as bad).

Tuba Terry said...

I have actually seen people make the ridiculous leap from "I'm the last one arguing" to "my argument is correct".

Or even better "They refuse to argue, therefore I'm right."

Real winners there.