This is one of those risky posts to write. Risky because I am laying myself open to criticism for doing exactly what I am about to complain about and that is expressing opinions online.
This past week has seen me become irritated, annoyed, upset and saddened by a number of online exchanges in writing communities that have degenerated into bickering and insults to the point that Group Admins have needed to step in and warn participants to be respectful. It frustrates me immensely that supposed adults cannot control themselves and behave reasonably when they read something with which they don’t agree. Instead, they choose to insert themselves into the discussion, become rude and abusive because the topic is not to their taste.
This week I have witnessed a prevalent attitude of “This is my opinion and I have the right to express it. I don’t care if it offends anyone and I will defend it against all comers. I don’t have to listen to you because I don’t agree with you. I consider you stupid/evil/weak for saying what you did.” Why are there are so many unpleasant people who find satisfaction in being deliberately antagonizing? I wonder if they are actually voicing their true opinion or if they just enjoy lighting the fuse and standing back to watch the fireworks. Trolls abound.
“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” – ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan
To borrow a quote from Harry Callahan, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”
Now, I am not against people having opinions. I don’t expect everyone to be in agreement, that would be ridiculous. But it seems that there are too many people online who won’t even do a commenter the courtesy of reading the post and thinking about it before they rattle their keyboard to respond in anger or to inform them that they are wrong. Step back and look at the big picture. Consider if your response is fair, appropriate, and proportionate before you let your fingers fly.
The demise of healthy debate is something to be mourned. The skills for exchanging opposing or varied opinions with others are being lost. The back and forth of a stimulating discussion is disappearing. There is no searching for common ground, weighing up the value of another argument, considering that someone will have different experiences which affect their viewpoint, and may indeed invalidate our own point. There are so many learning opportunities wasted by not ‘listening’ to more sides of a debate than our own.
With advances in technology, we appear to become poorer at communication between people. Perhaps we, as parents and teachers, are failing to pass on these skills so we only have ourselves to blame. Maybe we believe our lives are too busy to engage with others properly so we hastily dash off a response without a care for how it will be received by others. For some, the anonymity of the internet gives them the sense of being untouchable, not to be held accountable for any hurt or offense they may cause.
Whatever the reasons, it saddens me to think I now have unrealistic expectations of the world we live in and the people who inhabit it.