The Internet is full of debates … nay, arguments. A debate implies civility and intelligence by both parties; arguments, well … at least one party has to be the fool. By fool, I mean the one who throws insults, goes off point, refuses evidence, and keeps dragging everyone back into the fray when the horse is clearly dead and further kicking wouldn’t help the smell of it; a child having a tantrum because they are not having their way—and that simply will not do.
Often times, these exchanges lead to frustration, anger, confusion, and, to those among us who have the mental fortitude, amusement. “Look at the monkey. Dance, monkey, dance!” Although I shake my head at the outrageous and downright asinine claims some have made and their desperate attempts to make them seem relevant and viable make me smirk, my first reaction is anger. This is often because the fools I question often devolve to flinging shit when they realize that they’re out of ammo (and by that I mean “intelligent” words). How DARE you question my integrity? I cry in my head, everything slowly becoming a curious shade of red as I use ALL CAPS to attempt to GET MY POINT ACROSS. It’s obvious they just haven’t seen what I wrote. I stated myself very clearly in the past, so maybe ALL CAPS WILL HELP. It’s also therapeutic. Something about it helps the red I’m seeing go away.
I recently had one of these instances on the Great Wide Web. I made a point that someone didn’t like. I never said anything to downplay their initial posts, but my simply having a different opinion and attempting to civilly present my case was enough for them to accuse me of labeling an entire group of people and they simply couldn’t talk to me anymore. I felt anger to the point of tears, a phenomenon known as “liquid rage,” from what I’d gathered.
Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I was painting with a broad brush… I took my evidence and questions to the Badger Cave, as the Brigade had recently taken me under their wing. I felt like a child running home to Mother after the big kids had pushed me into the mud, but I was in need of some sort of validation, even if it meant I was in the wrong.
The information they gave me was curious, to say the least, and not what I had expected. Apparently, I had done nothing wrong. I was right, in fact, from a factual perspective. But I had also lost. I didn’t realize it was about winning or losing, just facts.
Alison then delivered some of the most useful sentences I have ever heard. You seem angry, she typed. The UPPER CASED WORDS GIVE THAT AWAY. I was overly defensive. It means I was affected, and in the world of Internet arguments, it is not your facts that necessarily lead you to victory, but how you deal with the shit-slinging. You can’t react, you can’t show your anger. Feel it, but don’t show it. It shows they’ve gotten to you and the game is over. They’ve won.
Now, this particular exchange was not between some extremist or troll on the Internet, so the logic did not seemingly straight up apply in this girl’s humble opinion, but for the common Internet exchange, she was absolutely right.
I got to thinking after that: Why was I so defensive when my logic was sound? Why was I so angry when my integrity was questioned, despite knowing that it was intact? I realized it was because I got hit with a bullet that was not meant for me. I need not to dodge the bullet.
It is much harder to hit a solid object than one that is incorporeal or otherwise not physical. A person is very solid, but an idea, now … that is something you can’t quite “hit.” As such, it is much easier to aim at the person holding the idea than the target itself. One needs to remove themselves from the idea, and realize that the gun is not pointed at them but at what is BEHIND them. This helps you put your words into a more objective frame. If you aren’t being attacked, why do you need to be angry? Why do you need to dodge a bullet never meant for you?
Now, that rule does shift. Oftentimes, if your logic is sound and fact-based, and the fool in question’s own argument is flawed, they grow desperate. It is at that point that they move away from the item they cannot strike to what is standing in front of it: you. But that means you’ve got it in the bag; your original point was sound, they can’t attack that anymore, so they’ll turn their beady little eyes to you and hiss and claw. And what do you do then? Nothing. Nothing but respond as civilly as you had earlier. To do otherwise is engaging in the same nonsense they are showing you, and you needn’t bother; they are acting in desperation and expect, nay, WISH, for you to retaliate because it puts you both back on a level playing field. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Kill with kindness. Nothing enrages someone who is trying to get a reaction from you than you not giving it to them and, even worse, treating them well. It angers them more and shines a spotlight on their poor behaviour and them being in the wrong. You just need to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
After concocting this little metaphorical trick, I had the chance to try it out. A rather aggressive individual came after me online a while back, and while I wished to jump the gun and knock the stupid out of them as it had grown to a near-cancerous level, I did the opposite; I presented everything factually with no attacks on the person. I merely stated that their position was flawed, and here was why. I walked away twice, and they brought me back each time with insults and jabs, but I gave them no satisfaction of a reaction.
I refused to dodge the bullet. And when it WAS aimed at me, I killed with kindness. After all, nothing is more disarming than a genuine smile.