Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tips For Hostile Internet Emailers

Just as a helpful hint for the day, here's how commenters who think I'm a Very Bad Person can have more productive offline conversations with me.

First, and most importantly, it would be extremely helpful if one operates from the assumption that I'm operating from a place of good faith and that we, therefore, might be having a miscommunication issue rather than a "Fannie is SO mean" issue.

Since that's an assumption that some people are utterly incapable of granting to anyone not in their cadre of like-minded folks, preferring instead to see villains and monsters in every simple Internet disagreement, let's continue.

When writing one's email tirade to me, one must remember that it's simply not an omen of good things to come when the command "don't be offended" prefaces one's commentary. When I see that order, I just know someone's about to say some really mean shit.

Secondly, when writing one's email tirade, also be aware that I rarely think (or care) about all the minute details of Internet conversations that are, say, more than a week old.  No, I don't remember what "H" said at 4:52 pm 2 months ago and how when "R" responded at 5:07 pm that was totally mean but I didn't even say anything about that mean comment when I called out "S's" comment at 3:34.  

It's like, at some point, you just have to move on with life, you know, and let things go.

A month is like 12 years in Internet time and while dude might remember every real and imagined harm that has ever happened to him on Internet, the truth is, I don't exist to Answer For his Totally Objective belief that my boundary-setting statements about his particular boorish behavior are "distasteful" and unfairly applied to him while I purportedly let "everyone else" off the hook for doing "the same thing." (Hint: It's probably not the "same thing," actually).

When I see particularly asshole-ish behavior I often will call it out, and if I don't call out other crappy behavior happening on the same forum or even my own blog, well I'm not sure what to say other than that I'm not, like, the Hall Monitor of Internet, I don't get paid for any of this, and I can't and won't "catch" every instance of People Being Mean On Internet and, hell, I won't even try to do so just for the sake of being morally consistent.

I don't have the time, I don't have the energy, and I actually do have other things to do in life. 

If dude wants to start paying me a salary to do that, I might consider it, but until then, I don't know, maybe he can start his own blog and come up with, like, the Perfect Commend Moderation System and tell us all what the secret to being perfect is.

Along those lines, I'm also not interested in reading line-by-line, bold-faced, and bracketed accusations, "rebuttals," and paranoid responses to my weeks'-old comments, especially if he, in emails to me, shifts from condescendingly writing about me in the 3rd person rather than to me.  That's such a strange phenomenon I've encountered other times on the Internet. Some bigoted men will, without further ado, stop directly talking with me in a comment thread and instead start talking about me, as though they're Totally Objective Observers having a private monologue moment about me to "the audience."

It's very bizarre and entitled behavior to just shut out a person from a conversation within a conversation about that person's rights.

Anyway, I do think this particular dude, the Angry Emailer that is, is kind of new to Internet conversations and blogging, so I'm deliberately not linking to the forum in which this weeks-old convo took place. It would feel kind of like making fun of a toddler who is still in that self-centric phase where ze thinks that covering hir eyes means that other people can't see hir.  It also seems like lots of people, including myself at one point, just kinda have to go through that "I think someone is wrong on Internet and if I don't rebut each and every point I think that person is wrong about, no matter how trivial, I might die!!!" phase.

My point is that I hope in time people like this guy learn that, believe it or not, lots of people who participate in blogging don't exist solely, or even at all, to be mean to people like him. It's actually quite self-centered to think that I sit around thinking of ways to be so unfair to him, or to anyone really, through my blogging and commentary. And, it's just not productive to continually assume the worst about other people's motives on Internet. 

On a related note about vilifying one's political opponents, I'm still figuring out ways to effectively engage with those who are unable to see their opponents as anything but aggressive villains.  The other day, for instance, I had the experience of telling an opponent of same-sex marriage that his argument was confusing to me, asking him to clarify, and then asking him if he could provide some practical solutions to his stated concerns.

I shit you not, this guy described my comment as a "new line of attack" and dropped a couple names of logical fallacies that he thought I was"committing"  by.... asking him to clarify his position because I didn't understand his argument.

It can be difficult to even know what to say to that, really, other than, "Wut?

I've learned that it's far easier for some people to accuse rather than to engage. To engage means that one sees one's political opponents as human, and however imperfect, worthy of dialoguing with. If one insists on accusing, no matter how much evidence of good faith the other person renders, one is quite literally acting obstinately devoted to one's own opinions and prejudices about what kind of person the political opponent is.

Dare I say it, it's the very definition of bigotry.

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