Disqus or Dining Room: Choosing Battlefields

Last month, I wrote about the new virtue I’ve created which enables us to restrain our responses, tame our tongues, and control our selves. I am calling this new virtue “Nicstrength” for obvious fiscal and copyrighting reasons. In the aforementioned article, I showed readers how they can avoid the exhaustion and hypertension that comes with diving facelong into every argument and debate that we find both online and in everyday life.

As if that alone wasn’t worth the hefty fee I’m going to charge to tell people more about Nicstrength©, this month we’re going to delve down even deeper. I’ll show you how Nicstrength®© can also guide you in the risky process of choosing your battleground. I’d like to suggest that there are better places to fight our battles than Facebook, Twitter, and Disqus, and I’m offering a platform that is perfectly suited for the exchange of ideas and aptly formatted to handle the confusion that comes as a necessary part of the learning process.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, let’s all go into our brain castles for a second and picture a scene. You’re getting ready to go pick up your kids from school. You’re just about to close your laptop when–BOOM–you see it: an ignorant comment a Facebook wall. You feel it rise up in you. The aghast exasperation at the realization that someone thinks that way. You glance at your watch, then at the screen, then at your watch, and you begin typing. Sure, there’s the one-frame, flickering memory of waiting children and their well-being, but they’ll totally understand when you explain to them how dumb this guy sounds.

Knowing you don’t need take the time to consider the dumb guy’s (DG) side because you already “get it”, you fire off a crippling reply in a matter of seconds, hit “post”, and close it up. When you return, you do all the necessary chores around the house, making sure everyone and everything is copacetic; all the while, the running ticker in your brain is eager for confirmation that DG has read your post, taken it to heart, and switched all political, religious, and funny animal video affiliations. You log in and find that, on all fronts, he has not. Oh well.

Another scenario: your spouse/kids/friends are all otherwise disposed. You have all the time in the world. Your finely-tuned opinion is now paired with the hours it can take to make this issue clear to others. You engage in a debate reminiscent of Gandalf and the Balrog, spanning multiple social media forums over many hours. At some point, you both realize that you’re spinning your wheels and you can no longer justify the amount of fiberoptic trees that had to die to host your epic debate. You log out, secure in your rightness and unsure why Gandalf can’t see your point and let you pass already.

Situations like this are so common that it can be hard to envision the meeting of the minds in any other forum. From tweeting to texting, we have come to accept the virtual world as the most fitting means of relating, conveying, and interacting. And why not? It’s quick, painless, inexpensive, and you can turn the conflict off at any point, which is the grown-up equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and humming loudly.

Catherine_Ray_flexes_a_bicep_(1903) (1)Granted, in some cases, that might be the wisest thing. If you find yourself bogged down in the mire that happens when two people have a one-sided argument with each other, a good dose of Nicstrength™®© can extricate you right quick. I’m not saying that digital media can’t bring people closer together and enlighten and unify. Not at all. I’ll be the first to utilize all forms of media for every inch I can get out of it and I know that people are touched and made better by the internet every day. I can’t imagine my life before Google, to be honest.

A while back, however, I started to ask myself if I was going about this whole human interaction thing in the right way. Whether it was seeing the 9,000th re-post of a condescending political talking head or the 9,001st “Amen” to an opinion so-and-so already agreed with, at some point I became deeply unsatisfied with our collective approach to each other and began looking for a different, possibly better, way.

Surprisingly, when I found it,  it was literally right there in front of me all the while, staring me in the face.

Humans!!! Someone else – an Other Person (OP)! In the same room with me. My face facing their face as they faced me. It was the craziest thing! I would say something and OP would either agree with me or disagree, just like on the intrawebnet, but then I had to continue seeing OP in the room with me. Sometimes OP would disagree with me, which felt like online, but then I’d notice that OP had the familiar grimace of a headache and I’d think, “Gosh, headaches stink. I think I’ll give OP some painkiller or a shoulder massage.” I soon realized that shoulder massages made OP uncomft, so I backed off on that.

Sometimes OP would berate me and call me all kinds of hateful words like “uninformed” and “stubborn” and “condescending”, and I’d want to lash out; but then I’d realize that I had been standing in OP’s way in the pasta isle at the grocery store and talking as if OP was a 3-year-old, instead of the 35-year-old with a 3-year-old of his own that he was, and he was pressed for time and stressed for funds.

Suddenly, OP was everywhere and if we truly wanted to meet each other on any significant level, I had to continuously keep OP’s humanity at the forefront of our discussion. The trillions of factors that actual make up OP’s life were forced to come into play, and that was frustrating. It was also liberating.

Sure, I couldn’t turn off the conversation with a click. Sure, I could no longer mistake his tone for one of rudeness, because he was right there and I could hear the sincerity in his voice. Sure, I had to set aside at least an hour in order to really allow OP and me to see, hear, and care for each other while exchanging opinions and thoughts. Heck, I even had to deal with the hassle of re-scheduling due to illness.

OP was harder to forget once I knew about his childhood.

It was harder to disregard her anger when she told me why she was angry.

And, hopefully, vice versa.

Friends, choosing your battlefield is staggeringly important. Aquinas said that to love is to “will the good of the other”. Well, willing the good of OP might actually mean avoiding the conversation until it can be done in a mature way that respects OP’s dignity and worth, if ever. If you’re tempted to say, “I only have like five minutes”, then consider waiting until you can give OP the time required to affirm his or her goodness and to force OP to remember yours. Everyone is always worth more than five minutes and a flippant response.

Let’s get out of the trenches. If we choose slick, murky, sticky, putrid space to wage our wars, we shouldn’t be surprised when we end up fallen, clouded, caked, and reeking. On the other hand, if we fight the time constraints and bear the weight that comes with upholding every human’s dignity, we may cover less digital ground, but we will have gone a mile in OP’s shoes.

Basically, consider moving the scuffles from Disqus to your dining room table. That way, your faces will face, and when the talk is done, you can at least make OP do your dishes.

 

4 thoughts on “Disqus or Dining Room: Choosing Battlefields”

  1. Avatar

    What virtual chat needs is an OOP. One other person, a moderator like any well
    ordered debate requires and one under the mantle of Robert’s rules of Order. Then, the scoring to determine who voiced a clear and concise advantage of reason could
    be determined.

  2. Avatar

    This is so timely. Just today I was pondering the usefulness of Disqus. I have been so disillusioned since I found out about astroturfing. That is, many ubiquitous commenters are paid shills. IMHO that seems like a job for bottom feeders… Their job is to create the illusion that there is a majority opinion contrary to the actual majority opinion. Just google the term LGBT media consultant. (I thought employers were not supposed to discriminate based on sexual preference?) You will wind up on Indeed.com (another website like Monster.com). There you will see how the ACLU needs media consultants whose duties include “coordinating volunteers” and “managing content across a range of media including blogs, chat-rooms, Facebook and Twitter.” There is a great TED talk you can catch on astroturfing. The speaker is a former journalist with CBS. She talks about the dead giveaways in how you can spot shills. (I always wondered why they insult with such impugnity!) Anyway, your article contains good advice. Forget the whole chat thing and just lead a wholesome life. Offer your prayers to God and teach your children well! God Bless.

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    Just for the record, I think it is useful to say that using Disqus and other means of commenting are properly part of our call to evangelize. Obviously, it should not just be a forum for venting our anger, but I have always seen that it provides a space for respectful reasoning (even if one of the parties is unreasonable). Clearly, one must be well informed to give a rational defense of the Catholic position, but with persistence it is possible to do this if you have the right training. It is also quite important to remember that there are other people who are reading the comments — it isn’t really necessary to convince the person you are dialoging with. As long as you are rational, rational readers will see where the truth is and will be reinforced in the convictions that are true or at least they will be more favorably inclined to accept a well reasoned argument. I have seen people totally disarmed when things are pointed out to them which they really were never aware of. Some are really seeking the truth and need help to find it. Indeed, I think that some people who write blogs would perhaps be better off if they invested more time in the comment ministry.

  4. Avatar

    This is fantastic!!!! You nailed it–when we are physically with another person (in conversation or debate), we are continually reminded of their humanity and that we need to treat them with love and respect, unlike all of the internet arguments where people seem to forget that real, living, breathing people are on the other end!

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