Remember the bar-room lawyer? That annoying and self-opinionated type propping up the bar whose only purpose in life is to hold your attention with their rigid postulating on the state of the world, when all you’re trying to do is enjoy a quiet drink in your local boozer? Yeah, me too, but being face to face and telling them to take a long walk off a short pier is easier said than done. So you probably tolerate them until you concoct a handy diversion in order to flee the onslaught– a restroom emergency or a sudden life-threatening medical condition are my personal favourites. Not so with the Internet, which is the perfect setting for the keyboard warrior who you are unlikely to ever meet in person. They love that you see, which is why there are so many of them lurking behind that screen you stare at all day.
Did I Ask For Your Opinion?
This is meat and drink to the troll because to them, opinions can be tossed around like a cat playing with a dead mouse. But not all Internet arguments involve trolls. Many involve normal humans like you and me and they could be the result of getting out of bed on the wrong side that morning. It happens to all of us but boy, things can escalate very quickly online. Though, for me personally, it’s the high and mighty, sanctimonious types who throw unsolicited opinions at you that really get my goat. On a tech forum not long ago, I posted something mundane about upgrading a PC motherboard and said how easy it was, probably with some other details thrown in to flower up the post, and lo and behold, I was pounced upon by a so-called Windows licencing expert telling me that it was illegal to transfer a Windows license from one motherboard to another, which I wasn’t doing anyway.
Pardon me? Did I ask for your advice? But of course, the keywords illegal and license were crucial to the intervention and injected only to provoke a reaction. On this occasion, I didn’t react as required but instead pointed out some pertinent facts which they eventually swallowed rather indignantly, shuffling off to that dark corner of the Web, where they lurk waiting for the next moment to pounce.
Then, a few weeks later the very same expert pounced again when a similar topic was posted and I had commented on how easy it is to install Windows 10 on a system that had already had its license activated. Yet again, the words illegal, licensing and a new one, OEM was infused into the mix– you see where this is going don’t you? It’s so easy to get sucked into the maelstrom, whether in a forum or on social media, and the secret is knowing when to ignore it and move on, or simply to use Thor’s hammer– if you’re up to it.
Is This A Public Or Private Argument?
A private argument is what takes place in your soundproofed house or car with all the doors and windows closed and no hidden microphones. A public argument is practically anything you get involved with online, so once you’ve typed those words publicly, they’ll never go away and will come back to haunt you for the rest of your life. That is unless you venture into the Dark Web and pull the shutters down in the style of Guardian journalists and whistleblowers.
Facebook is a prime example of Internet arguments and unless you’re in a group, there’s practically no moderation, so the gloves come off and it’s keyboards at dawn. But fighting in public — aka hanging out your dirty washing– is all the rage nowadays. Just look at Macron and Bolsanaro– two heads of state slugging it out on Twitter, with the US president chucking in the odd grenade for good measure.
Block And Ignore
But ask yourself– do you really want to go head to head with a complete stranger in public? Just to prove a point? Just so that you can be right and sit on the moral high ground? Slapping other people around in public on Twitter and Facebook may give you that split second rush, but in the end, you’ll be remembered for about ten minutes and then cast aside, as people move on with the rest of their lives, or the next Tweet. One of the most reasonable ripostes to a veiled attack from someone on the Internet is, “Could you please explain the fundamental reasoning behind your position?”
That should have the effect of dialing down the heat and forcing the assailant not to follow their instincts of attack quite so aggressively– in theory.
Ultimately though, I’ve found that the best course of action is to use the tools at your disposal such as the ignore/block option in forums and social media, thus ridding yourself of the scourge forevermore. I’ve used that fail-safe on a few occasions very successfully (an ex-wife, numerous trolls or simply the despicable) and I’m glad I did. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a healthy discussion, but when it crosses the line and becomes a war of words, it’s time to restock and take action. On the other hand, in the words of Napoleon, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”
I throw that nugget in because for some people there’s nothing more amusing than winding up a persistent troll and dangling carrot after carrot in front of them. The trouble with that approach is that the end-game is always a distant blur on the horizon which gets further and further away as the wind-up escalates. But I suppose that’s the whole idea if you’ve got a day or two to waste on that kind of thing. Either way, have fun and don’t take the Internet too seriously.