12 votes

Is there any point in arguing with people?

8 comments

  1. [7]
    petrichor
    Link
    I ran across this comment on Hacker News a while back that's really stuck with me since.

    I ran across this comment on Hacker News a while back that's really stuck with me since.

    When you interact online, you fundamentally are interacting with only yourself. It is a solipsistic endeavor. You fundamentally choose which comments to respond to; unlike the real world, where a conversation occurs between two people, you can instantly drive into a conversation whenever you see fit, and leave whenever you wish also.

    Therefore, the choice of which conversation, which comment, is entirely yours. And since the comments available are literally never-ending, you have the ultimate choice as to which you are responding. Therefore, every conversation you have is with a version of a person you have constructed in your head.

    This is what enables people to be mean and rude on the internet. It's because they are talking to a construct which is fundamentally in their own head, often times with their own nasty internal conflicts applied.

    This is also the fundamental mistake people make about the online world being a place where "discourse" can change anyone's internal landscape. It cannot, because it every discourse on the internet is by definition completely a subset of the ego of the single individual.

    25 votes
    1. kfwyre
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I see some of myself in this. At my best here on Tildes, I try to put a lot of effort into comments that I hope others will find meaningful and beneficial. At my worst here on Tildes, I feel like...

      I see some of myself in this.

      At my best here on Tildes, I try to put a lot of effort into comments that I hope others will find meaningful and beneficial. At my worst here on Tildes, I feel like I'm simply picking and choosing which unfortunate commenter will be the springboard for my self-important grandstanding. I can look at almost any comment I've ever made on this site and view them through both of those lenses, simultaneously. Am I commenting here for the sake of others, or for myself? Do I write what I write to try to be understood, or to simply be heard? If I tell myself my ego has nothing to do with it, then why do I still obsessively check the vote counts on my comments?

      That said, I do think that this person is missing the mark bigtime in one particular place: not all interaction online takes place in the form of commenting. On any given day here I read far more comments than I make. Every day there are comments here that I think about, take in, ponder, reflect on, and come to conclusions about, despite the author of that comment never hearing from me directly. The discourse of others here has definitely changed my internal landscape, and some of that has happened simply from me being an observer -- not even a participant -- in the discussion. I think that's about as ego-less as one can get, as that process is functionally invisible to everybody except me.

      13 votes
    2. [2]
      mtset
      Link Parent
      This is very contrary to my experience - I have learned a great deal from certain internet discussions, and I've seen the same in my friends. I think this HN commentor might be projecting a bit?

      This is also the fundamental mistake people make about the online world being a place where "discourse" can change anyone's internal landscape. It cannot, because it every discourse on the internet is by definition completely a subset of the ego of the single individual.

      This is very contrary to my experience - I have learned a great deal from certain internet discussions, and I've seen the same in my friends. I think this HN commentor might be projecting a bit?

      9 votes
      1. suspended
        Link Parent
        This (the HN comment) could apply to some people. However, it does not apply to me and a good number of people that I know online.

        This (the HN comment) could apply to some people. However, it does not apply to me and a good number of people that I know online.

        2 votes
    3. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      I think there's a strong strain of this in Reddit-style commenting, but that's not the only way to interact online. Forum culture wasn't like this and neither is synchronous chat (IRC, Discord,...

      I think there's a strong strain of this in Reddit-style commenting, but that's not the only way to interact online. Forum culture wasn't like this and neither is synchronous chat (IRC, Discord, etc.) There is social pressure to STFU when you start going in circles and having social bonds that extend outside that specific back-and-forth makes it easier to turn down the temperature when it starts ratcheting up.

      What's different about a place like Reddit or HN is that everything you engage with is treated as an atomized bit of "content." Your interactions aren't with the people saying the stuff, it's with the stuff being said. This predisposes you to hyperfocus on the stuff and ignore the people.

      9 votes
  2. knocklessmonster
    Link
    I grew up with a bunch of strong egos, and all of us were tempered by circumstance to bare down against our detractors. It's incredibly difficult to fix if you're even aware of the problem. FWIW,...

    I grew up with a bunch of strong egos, and all of us were tempered by circumstance to bare down against our detractors. It's incredibly difficult to fix if you're even aware of the problem. FWIW, I'm as bad as anybody about it.

    Whenever this topic comes up I always say the best way to combat disinformation, for example, is not confrontation but an aura of accuracy: Spread the truth in a non-confrontational way and it may stick in a bunch of people. As the article says you don't need to convince everybody, but at least a majority. Unfortunately how big a majority does depend on the country and the powers at work. Gentle, subtle correction may work as well, but because of who/how I and the people I know can be I've got limited experience with it.

    6 votes