Not Arguing on the Internet

The impulse to argue online, or just to share knowledge, is a strange thing. It’s a thankless thing to do these days, when so many people are just waiting to be triggered by anything.

This morning, on a forum about a completely different topic, someone brought up pit bulls. There was the usual nature/nurture argument between “it’s the owners turning them mean” and “it’s the breed.” I quickly knocked out a couple hundred words about how it’s both: the breed was designed over many generations to be an aggressive fighter, but now it draws people who want to encourage that behavior. It was a well-written, fair explanation, and as I proofread it, I thought, “Why do this?” It was sure to get me downvoted and attacked, probably by people on both sides. Some of them might have even read it, but most wouldn’t. The odds of changing anyone’s mind with one post is slim to none. I don’t know any of these people, so why do I care what they think about pit bulls anyway?

So I canceled it without posting. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, writing something and then trashing it. When you know about things, there’s an impulse to share, and that’s generally not a bad thing. Internet forums probably aren’t the best place to do it, though. The other day, someone mentioned finding my reddit account. It was a weird feeling, because I’m not ashamed of anything I post there, but you don’t write the same in the middle of conversations as you would if you expected someone to read all your posts in one sitting. I even wonder about this blog sometimes. I stand behind everything I write here, but the “Dear Reader” in my mind when I’m writing is someone who knows me, so I don’t have to lard posts up with disclaimers. Someone who drops in here cold wouldn’t have that context and could take away all sorts of impressions. I’m too old to care about that, but if I were more fragile, I’d have to.

At least the blog has another purpose, as a place to collect links to my content that might actually produce some value. More on that coming soon. In the meantime, I think I’m going to stop all other online commenting that can be tied to my name, and do less of it in general. I should satisfy the impulse on more useful, lasting writing anyway.