In my short time on Hubski, I'm noticing a stark dichotomy between two types of comments:
First: Helpful, positive, encouraging, neutral
Second: Combative, hostile, argumentative, attacking
The first, I like. The second...
I've studied the nature of violence, psychopathy, conflict, chaos et al. Life is a continually in flux thing, where emergent growth comes into play. Life, death, growth, decay, violence, peace, orgasm, anhedonia, conflict, resolution, postmodernism, classicism: each of these things are needed. It's the evolving cyclic interplay between these things that makes life, forward motion possible. It's how the universe was formed. Insisting on one way of being over another fails to take the complex nature of life into account.
Yet, I've been befuddled and annoyed by the argumentative, hostile comments I'm finding on Hubski. Why would someone choose to act like that? When it is painfully obvious that it detracts rather than helps? (Realizing full well my own subjectivity in this.)
Then I skimmed through a hostile comment today. Structure, syntax... it seemed oddly familiar, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I realized: I used to do the very same thing.
I was a wordy, ponderous idealist in my younger years. It was very important that others have the same beliefs as me, and if they didn't, I saw it as a personal attack, one which I HAD to defend myself against.
There's a friend I used to have, who was very impressed with how well read, educated she was. Our conversations were filled with labels, textbook definitions, elite narcissism, which I tolerated. And then she "attacked" me one time. For the sake of anonymity, let's say she was an avowed socialist, and she wrote me a lengthy email on how I was a capitalist, and all the ways I was wrong in being so. I was incensed, wrote an even longer email back, delving head first into dismantling her argument, that I was not, in fact, a capitalist, and insisting on how she was wrong, couldn't she see how limited she was?
I stopped being friends with her because of this. That wasn't an isolated incident. Embarrassingly, I can remember too many times in which my insistence on literalism and adhering to rigid ideals hurt relationships, how it pushed people away. Thankfully, with time, I learned to be less rigid, more open-minded. And I continue to try.
So I wonder: the hostile vs positive comments--is it a matter of maturity, age? Or is it something else instead?
I've spent a lot of time on the chan boards. You learn very quickly that anonymity can breed hostility, but it can also foster some amazing conversations that could never happen in real space. Anon boards are where I became an atheist, something that I still today cannot openly talk about at home or work due to stigma and real threats to loss of friends and employment. Most of the hostility is, in my opinion, venting from people who cannot talk freely in their personal lives. Why are people racist on 4chan and 8chan? Because they can't be in "real life." People need a place to vent with minimal consequence to stay sane, and here we are on a message board where most of us will never meet in real life. This place used to be the local pub; there was a social norm that things said in the pub were not really indicative of your character and that people could blow off steam and not have serious repercussions. That social space now in the internet.
I've been called names that nobody would ever dare say to my face. Or, more to the point, my ideas and my arguments have been torn asunder by randoms on the internet. I don't let random text online impact my mental health anymore. Then again, I've been on the "internet" longer than the .com domain has been a thing.
The hardest thing to learn about being on the internet is that your identity as a physical being, again in my opinion, should take a back seat to your ideas, your ideals and the way you can convey them to a greater public. Through online interactions I've learned how to separate my thoughts and ideas from my, for lack of a better term, identity. Online, nobody cares that you are some 18 year old high school kid in the inner city, or a 65 year old grandfather or anything in between. Some people I know in "real life" have a very hard time adjusting to this when they talk online. I know people who get pissed when people don't treat them the same way they get treated face to face; I also know people, myself included at times, who cheer the loss of identity that levels the field so that only your words matter.
Angry people on the internet are sort of a hobby of mine. On places like reddit, voat etc, if I see someone go off on a screed I'll troll through their post history. Some of the nastiest people on reddit where hurt damaged people who were lashing out at the void due to their home situation. Or they were having relationship issues. Or their parents were splitting up. Or any of a thousand things that make life suck. And yea, there were people who were just assholes.
So how to deal? First, stop typing. STOP. Read again, slowly, in a neutral voice. Is it possible to take the statement as a neutral statement? Is the person trolling? Do they have a comment history, and if so, is this comment out of place? was this a bad attempt at a joke? Or was this a barbed attack on my person? If an attack, don't reply. Don't touch the poop. Don't feed the trolls. Don't fuel the attention seekers. If, however, the statement can be taken as a non-attack, and instead just an impassioned reply (hey, it can happen!), work on replying in a neutral tone back, maybe for clarification or try to add to the conversation. One of the ways I work on this is to reply in a way that addresses the audience, sort of like what I am doing now. I don't know you, you've only been here nine days, and I am talking to you, but also to all those who are reading.
So how do you deal with a friend who goes off the rails? Part of maturity is learning to deal with people who are different than you. Different religions, politics, outlooks on life. You are going to end up working with people with offensive politics. You are going to deal with people with piercings when you don't like piercings, tattoos when you don't like tattoos etc. The only advice I can give you is to work on separating a person's character from their identity. And if the others can't do that to you? Learn to get a long, keep your mouth shut in meetings and learn to deal with people who are different than yourself.
If you can find an easy way to do that, let us know so we can help you write the book, get on Oprah and make your millions.