Monday, July 28, 2014

Drop the rope: why fighting online is a waste of your life.

Any woman who has been in an online parenting forum has probably been there. A simple discussion about anything from potty training to circumcision takes a wrong turn and gets ugly fast. Opinions are stated, then personal anecdotes, followed by 'evidence' and when that fails the insults start flying, people are deleted and blocked and eventually an admin shuts it all down.

You might say it's debating, but debating is done with a clear head and cool temper. When it comes to parenting it's impossible to have that sort of detachment about your choices because you feel strongly about what you believe in. To be told how wrong you are with such conviction is going to infuriate you, no matter how right you feel your choices are. You'll try to prove your point, but only be met with more resistance, less tact and more anger the harder you try to show them the light. Eventually your blood will boil with the frustration and you'll reach the point of no return.

It's funny how these fights pan out, how somehow the validity of each comment or piece of 'evidence' is proved with the number of 'likes' it receives from others who are in agreement of that point of view. Few people realize that sheer numbers don't mean merit, and the fact that a narrow minded clique of online friends backing you up doesn't make you right. When you fight online, you're not changing anything. Arguing with someone rarely changes their mind on the issue, but rather strengthens their own point of view. The more someone presents their own argument, the more certain they feel about the ideas behind it and the less they will even consider anyone else's. The uglier things get, the more cemented you become in your own beliefs. And online, things always get ugly.

I belong to birth clubs, natural parenting groups and groups for parents of children with autism, each more vicious than the next. If you think the average mother is territorial, you should see how mama bear special needs parents can be. Those groups have specific graphics they post just to shut down a thread, which is something that often happens multiple times a day. I used to think it was just parenting groups, but then my husband pointed out that it happens to him too. The comments on news articles, videos on youtube and even the forecasts on the Weather Network go off topic and get heated on a regular basis. Just think of the famous rainbow number cake article- on the internet ANYTHING can go sour. It's even worse when it's on your own page, with people you actually know in real life. The ability to post articles, photos and opinions about all sorts of controversial topics previously reserved for private conversations can turn friends and family into enemies when the wrong button is triggered.

I am no stranger to these arguments, and have lost my cool on a few occasions. I had an innocent thread on the spacing between children turn into an all out brawl that ended in accusations of child abuse. I was called an immoral swine by the friend of a relative for standing up in my belief of my sister's right to marry and raise a child with her wife. I've said a few overly rude things to complete strangers when getting caught up in the comments section of articles or blogs.

It's tempting to get involved in these sort of situations. Sometimes it's just because a regular conversation thread goes off on a tangent and goes sour at some point, other times you know it's a hot topic but you feel you can just make 'one little tasteful comment' and then walk away. The problem is that it might even be fun at first. Perhaps you're bored and it's adding a little bit of excitement to your day. At first it can generate the good kind of adrenaline, before it escalates to something closer to rage. Sometimes it's even a bit disappointing when a thread is locked or deleted before it fully goes off the rails and you're left wanting to say and hear more. But other times it gathers momentum so quickly that it reaches a point of regret and remorse before anyone can step in and make everyone behave.

No matter what stage of the game you're in, you need to drop the rope.

Something catch your eye that looks like it might be upsetting? Stop reading.

Read something infuriating or controversial? DON'T READ THE COMMENTS.

Read some comments that have you shaking your head? DON'T ADD TO THEM!

Too late? Already said something and got a rude response? Walk away. Let it go.

Got drawn into a circular, forehead smashing argument with a cretin or two? Forget about the last word. Just disappear.

Let it get way out of hand, spew insults and feel terrible about yourself? Apologize, either privately or publicly and then leave it be.

People always claim they want world peace, but judging from the sheer amount of animosity online about both the big and the small things, clearly that's never going to happen. There are always these pleas for people to 'end the mommy wars' and all 'support each other' but frankly, the world is full of self righteous, uneducated jerk faces that are never, ever going to have a whit of common sense. When you get involved in these sort of things, you actually become one of them.

But the biggest argument against argument is this: Do you really want to waste your precious free time getting sucked into this pointless negativity? It's not going to change anything, or 'educate' anyone or make you feel very good is it? The other day a friend of mine was telling me about how much of a time suck even just READING the comments was for her. 'I didn't even SAY anything, and I lost an entire Saturday morning just trying to follow along. What a waste of my day off!'

What would you rather be doing? What makes you happy? I'm sure you know. If these people are SO stupid, why are you GIVING them sacred hours of your life? Drop the rope, shut er' down and walk away. They will fall splat on their faces with or without you there anyway.


  1. Love love love this!!! The worse part is I wasted my whole mat leave friending back stabbing crazy women and missed out on getting to know lovely local ladies :(. You live and learn.

    1. With my first baby it was all about the 'real life' activities and drops ins and I made some wonderful friends. But with a 3 year old and newborn who slept non stop I spent a lot more time with virtual moms the second time, which certainly wasn't nearly as positive for me.

  2. Thank you for this! So well said. I'm going to try to keep in mind that the chances of me changing someone's mind are pretty small, no matter how polite or reasonable I am, so I should just stop.

    It's like this:

  3. Oh my god, YES to all of this. My husband loses his mind posting all over Jezebel and Gawker and I just shake my head. I'm an avid lurker on GOMI (how I found you) and adopting this exact attitude has made me soooo much happier.

    1. My husband has a fake email account so he can argue with people on the news sites. I don't see a lot of fighting on GOMI, probably because everyone is making fun of the same people :P

  4. May I point readers to your " 6 reasons why I'm glad I have daughters" post? I think you gave yourself enough rope there to hang yourself with that one.
    No fake email account here. I man up to my comments, unlike others...