Friday, April 27, 2007

Sophistry

I was commenting recently on a non-blogger blog (one that doesn't let you delete your comments) and woopsie--accidentally called someone a sophist. I didn't even wait to be called out on it, I just wrote my little apology and clarified that I disagreed with him and wasn't attacking his character. But, the damage apparently had been done and it didn't help the conversation going forward, what with him immediately calling me uncharitable, and me saying essentially I know you are but what am I?, and even pulling out all the stops and putting a "neener" in my next comment back.

Considering Beck's recent post, I've been mulling the difficulties with online communication about hot topics. There are lots of problems with it. First of all, we violate the dictum nearly every day to never discuss religion or politics in polite company (homosexuality being a fairly political topic). We talk about issues that cut to our hearts, and how can you stand back and let someone say something that seems wrong on the topic without lashing out?

I've erred on the other side too, coming down too soft when people say things that are just really messed up. It's a hard balance to strike, and I hope I can get better at it over time.

So, here are some new goals for myself:
  • Don't feel obligated to point out every ridiculous thing someone writes. Other people are smart enough to notice it too without my help.
  • Avoid discussion forums where there is an established history of really cranky people. This may take some substantial self restraint when the topic feels important to me and there are some really really stupid things being accepted as clever.
  • Don't be drawn into a comment war in which some other party and I consistently rephrase the other person's point and criticize it. This one is tricky because I'm always afraid after someone stupidly rephrases something I attempted to write very precisely that others will be persuaded that that was my intent. I clarify and clarify and it ends up being a tiresome bicker-session that informs nobody of anything and has a great risk of bringing out nastiness.
  • Even when somebody is a horrible raunch, I'll only look stupid if I get defensive in my response to their insults. Unfortunately, I've learned this from experience MORE than once.
  • People are generally sneaky only insofar as they are attempting to creatively forward ideals and opinions that they believe are right and good. When I think they are a disingenuous jerk, I should remember that they probably think the same thing about me, and we could all be a little more charitable to each other.

2 comments:

My Best Is All I Have said...

Ha ha. I read that other blog and thought that you calling him a sophist was funny and strangely appropriate. But that's just me, the closed-minded active Mormon.

Scot said...

Can you share the link to the blog? I want to see. :-)

Anyway, I could be helped by a similar list of resolutions, and I appreciate the insight. I recognize a lot of my history there, a good part of it time that could have better been spent.