Someone is wrong on the internet!

*Not Yoyo Related, just some of my random thoughts.

       Argument.  It seems to be a fundamental part of being a human.  If you have one  person, you have peace. Two people, argument, 3 or more, warfare! OK, so it’s not quite that bad, but we as a species seem to have an ingrained need to be right.  More importantly, we need our tribe/group/family to be right.  If I were to hazard a guess I would speculate that it’s tied into the evolutionary need for ones own genes to spread and dominate.  The most important people to you genetically are your parents, children and siblings.  Beyond that the ties fade exponentially unless strung together through some sort if ideology.  I remember once reading the fact that you have more in common genetically with your siblings than with your grandchildren.  It makes sense.  You siblings share the same genetic code from a direct ancestor.  Your grandchildren only have a quarter of your DNA.  Great grandchildren are almost irrelevant as far as the viral reproduction priorities of human DNA is concerned.  That is until we are tied together through ideology. 

      The family or tribe or whatever your culture calls the extended group you call your own is an extension of the human ability to create imaginary structures.  I’ve read that one argument for why homo-sapiens ended up being the dominant hominids is our ability to create religion.  At it’s base level religion is a tool humans use to explain the world around us, categorize the unexplainable and tie together in groups.

      My tribe is all 100% certain that the goddess “Aperture” opens a hole in the sky and makes the rain fall. 

      For that to be true and for it to be a viable explanation of why the rain falls, we have to be right.  If we allow for the tribe down the valley to believe that the dragon-beast “Crevasse” tears the sky open to make the rain fall, then we are back to not having an explanation that we can be sure of.

      This isn’t all bad. Amazing works throughout history have occurred because of our ability to come together in groups behind something that needs doing.  It’s how we recover from disasters A hurricane in continental USA is met with massive rescue and rebuilding efforts because it’s part of the fantasy that is “The USA!” While as we’ve seen, the same thing in Puerto Rico (which is in fact part of the USA) hasn’t had nearly the response, due I suspect in part because it’s not perceived as really being part of the USA.  On a smaller scale when someone in a reasonably functional local church community has a disaster, everyone pulls together to offer support, despite not being genetically related at all.  I saw this first hand with my Mother and Father in Law.  When my Mother in Law was in hospital, the Church community rallied to help get my father in law there for visits, made sure he got to church and got out for social events.

     In comes facebook/Reddit/Tumblr/Twitter etc.  Until the internet it was reasonably easy to maintain our illusions and our created explanations for the world around us.  We had the option of living in a place where a cluster of people agreed with us.  We could choose to spend time only in social gatherings with like minded people (hockey team/church/D&D night) and avoid those who disagreed.  Family was always a challenge because we have that genetic imperative to keep them alive, but they tend to disagree with us and rebel.  The internet has given us both the ability to dive in deep and find groups of exactly like minded people, while at the same time putting us in virtual social groups where we are exposed to other people who we usually would just not interact with in person.  They say things that pop up in our feed or in a chat group and we feel obligated to correct them.  I once saw a beautiful comic of a man sitting in a dark room at a computer, his wife at the door saying “are you coming to bed” and he replies “I can’t somebody is wrong on the internet!” (See Below).

     What makes it frustrating is that so few people are dangerously wrong, most of the time it really isn’t that important.  And it’s transient.  If you just ignore that idiot that says oranges are made out of potato skins dipped in battery acid, his statements will eventually disappear.  The paradox is that the urge to argue and correct someone who says something ‘stupid’ generally results in their opinion getting more attention than it should.  When you share something on facebook for the purpose of saying “hey look how wrong this guy is” you run the risk that someone susceptible will see and believe it. Far better to ignore it.  It’s near impossible to change someone’s mind on facebook because the process of arguing so rarely has no basis in logic, reason or any kind of accountability.  I once spent an entire day getting called a “Religion Apologist” by someone who clearly had a very damaging childhood.  I was responding to something he was flailing about that was religion related with historical facts about how religion fit into different societies.  I think I made the egregious error of acknowledging that for some people being part of a religion does great good (my father in law being a prime example) by giving them a social circle and community support.  There was no way to argue with this person though, because instead of acknowledging that any position other than his could be correct, he just kept repeating the same response that had very little bearing on what I was saying.

What can we do about this? The first thing that comes to mind for me is what I have made a practice of.I write my response to these sorts of people, then delete it. I make the mental calculation regarding whether or not I want to spend the day arguing online, then decide to go about my day. It has the double benefit of me having my say, while not giving the idiot the facebook algorithm bump up to more visibility. Instead I go outside and catch Pokemon. A much more productive use of my time.