Normally I’d leave all social media references to my compatriot Ricardo Gonzalez and his #This column. However, this week I had a personal experience that I felt would be good to talk about.
When I say “personal experience,” what I really mean is I committed one of the cardinal sins of online interactions. It’s something everyone who regularly interacts on web forums should know not to do.
I got into an argument on Facebook.
I know. I know. I’m still mad at myself over it, to be honest. And the worst part: It was over politics.
I know! It’s right there on the “Top list of things never to say on the Internet if you want to keep your friends and your intelligence,” next to religion and Mass Effect 3’s ending. It’s basically one of the stupidest things to argue about in an already stupid form of debate.
I won’t speak of my political views here, it’s unimportant to the story and how I got involved in the situation, but I will say I took exception to the way misinformation was being spread and facts were being twisted.
As a journalist I hold great value in the ideal of neutrality. I’m not registered with a political party, nor do I ignore facts that may be contrary to my point of view. In these dark days of extreme partisanship I should know better, but it irks me to no end when I see such obvious bias and single-mindedness in others.
Nevertheless it’s no excuse for my idiocy. Now I have a first-hand account of how the entire thing spirals out of control.
It’s interesting how these arguments snowball. Normally I would like to think I know better, but the original reason I decided to post anything was simply to correct a simple fact. Just a number that had gone down instead of up, that’s all I wanted to clear up.
Before I knew it, there were people telling me I was wrong. I don’t like being wrong. Especially when I’m right. I grew indignant, I bristled as I quickly googled several news stories to back up the fact.
I was already being sucked in, and I didn’t even realize it.
But my sources were not valid, I was told. No, they favored one side, they said. USA Today is apparently an unreliable news source.
And so it went, I was too far gone at this point to realize what I had done, that I’d fallen down the comment rabbit hole. In my mind I had the moral—and factual—high ground, but as the argument went on I found myself more and more irritated.
Eventually I lashed out, looked like a jerk, and probably didn’t help my original point at all. No one walked away convinced of anything, except probably the notion that I was just a sarcastic, self-righteous college student.
I can’t say it was an inaccurate takeaway.
But this isn’t the “Moping with Matt” column—here we look to the future! So let me give you some advice on how not to make the same mistakes I did.
Don’t pick fights on the Internet. Don’t be dumb.
I can’t think of anything good that has ever come out of an online debate like that. Conversations like that were never meant to happen through simple text messages on a screen. It takes more than that to get across the complex ideas and arguments that an intellectual debate requires.
Let’s keep a civil tongue in our heads. Let’s not let that tiny flame in our mouths start forest fires. Most importantly, let’s not go shooting our mouths off just to start a fight.
Anyway, how much did Obama kick Romney’s butt in that debate Tuesday night?