I’ve given up arguing on the internet.
I’ve always been an outspoken sort of a chap: rarely do I bite my tongue. I think there are some things that one has not only a right, but a duty, to speak out on. I often challenge strangers talking about newspaper articles that I know to be lies and misrepresentation and even if I’ve just met someone, I will try politely to correct misapprehensions and challenge faulty memes. No-one alone can stop a powerful meme, but it’s vital at least to impede its flow as much as possible. This, of course, extends to the internet. Almost everyone on the internet argues. It often seems as though everyone is doing it all the time, although I know that this isn’t true: every message board, group, social networking service and email mailing list contains a minority of highly vocal people who are passionate about certain things, and a tiny ‘nutter’ core of people who will argue about pretty much anything, twist the discourse around to their favourite hot-potato topic and generally make everyone suffer for their convictions. If you need a primer on the subject of trolls and trolling, the warm and witty Lucy Pepper has a series on this very subject
Troll or not, though, it seems that it’s extremely rare that anyone ever changes their mind because of something said on the internet. Is it all a waste of time? Would we (or more precisely I) be happier without the constant point-scoring, friction and constantly adversarial attitudes? Would I be more likely to seek out and stick with peaceful, consensual, soft-focus social media communities rather than the retro shit-flinging every-man-for-himself phpbb thread boards that, like an ex-speed-freak, I know I will never entirely eschew for deluxe Brave New Web soma. I know why the punks hated ecstasy now.
Or would I become depressed and frustrated, dissociated from the defence of principle and having derelicted my duty to stand the barricades against the vocal, the sharp-elbowed, the gullible and those who would steal from and injure their poorer brothers under the banner of fairness and freedom?
Well, we’ll see. I’m giving up online bickering. For a week.