Digital Self-Defense

In our time we have seen the rise of the highly opinionated, poorly informed, easily offended, self-righteous, self-promoting, vociferous, obnoxious, feisty-yet-spineless, anti-bully, cry-bully, cry-baby, my-mom-says-I’m-special-like-a-snowflake generation. It is easy to dismiss them as cupcakes, but this does not give a real picture of the coincidence of opposites they truly are that makes them such a monstrous beauty.

By no means do I intend to justify the need for safe spaces and cry-ins by grown-ups who never learned that life is hard. I do, however, want to take a shot at understanding why answering the online rants of this type is probably only going to result in higher blood pressure for you, and how there are some other tactics that might make things easier for you.

So many people seem to find a sense of validation in social media likes. When we post an update onto our preferred social media platform, we will constantly return to see the number of likes. And people seem to be overly concerned about who is liking their updates.

What seems to be an even bigger problem is when we start getting negative feedback. This is probably rarer in the personal friend list, but people are fair game when they stick their digital neck out and comment on a public news article. People get extremely courageous in the digital world. And there is a faction that sees it as their job to silence alternate views and opinions. These are the folks I mentioned at the start. Educated, tech savvy, and quite certain that any opinion contrary to theirs is richly deserving of ridicule. They certainly seem to despise anyone who is working-class, religious, or who simply does not buy what the news media outlets are selling.

And if you become bold enough to offer an opinion different from them, you will be attacked.

Does the thought bother you? Well, if it does, there are a few options you have.

The first and most effective method would be to simply not comment on these public news stories. Yes, you have a right to comment, but do you have a reason to do so? Look at it this way; no comment from you will eliminate any chance they have of attacking you or your opinion. And remember, there is no comment you can give will change anyone’s mind on the subject. The people who already agree with you will agree, and those who do not will disagree. And depending on the topic, there will be a virtual all-in attack if your opinion is found to be contrary. If this type of thing bothers you, don’t make the comment in the first place. This is the digital equivalent of not showing up for the fight.

Another method for those who really feel the need to make that comment, make your point and don’t return for the follow-up comments and/or like checking. Much like the physical self-defense advice of walking away, this has the end result of you getting that opinion off of your chest, but without the added rise in blood pressure that goes with reading the bad things that will be said about you. Even in the topics that I cover here, the feedback I get is about fifty-fifty. Half of my email feedback is positive and friendly with a “keep up the good work” vibe, while the other half is a hateful attack. Once I see that the email is not a constructive criticism (I get a few of those too), I do the unthinkable – I stop reading it. There is a world of difference between, “I disagree with what you said because A, B, C and D lead me to believe you are wrong.” and “Who the hell do you think you are! You don’t know sh*t! I could kick your ass!” When people tell you that you are wrong, but give reasons which they feel support their position, it is not an attack, and it is a surprisingly adult thing to do. However, name calling and ad hominem attacks etc. are a kind of last resort desperation measure by those who know they will not win an argument by reason. There is no sense in engaging with those who resort to these tactics because any rational response will only bring them to attack with even more irrationality. Walk away from it.

The last option I see is one that I seldom take, and that is fully engaging the trolls. It is a no-win situation because, as mentioned above, with the internet troll type even when you reach philosophical bedrock and leave them without a rational leg to stand on, they will name-call and claim victory.

Myself, I prefer to not participate in the comment sections wherever possible, and it is usually possible. On those occasions where I do throw something out there, it will be on something I know well and from a position I can defend without resorting to wikipedia. Arguing can be fun with a good opponent. But you have to have skin thick enough to withstand the fertilizer storm that will follow.

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