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Ugh; arms - lead. typos - numerous. mood - decidedly weird. post - rambling.

I appreciate whomever of my readers who held back and didn't post massive disagreement with my post yesterday - you are a rare and noble breed, especially on the Intartubes.

There is a strange compulsion that many people have, to demand that everyone like or agree with the same things they like or agree with. It's not a new compulsion; as far back as I can remember, I have run into people who cannot picture any worldview but their own, and who will emphatically insist that you must see things their way, like their likes, and dislike their dislikes. A difference of taste, of opinion, of friends, and it is like the earth has opened up behind you, and you have arrayed yourself with all the forces of Evil-with-a-capital-E, and must therefore be destroyed, or at least harangued until you give in to their way of thinking.

If you doubt the intensity of my metaphor, go to one of the "mommy" discussion boards and start a breastfeeding thread. Take either side, it doesn't matter; in less than one minute, your computer will be a flaming mass of half-melted plastic and metal.

(Be prepared for death threats.)

I find this propensity fascinating - from "you like that person I hate, so you can't be my friend!", to "how can you hate Harry Potter? It's the best series of books ever!" and even "what do you mean, you don't like broccoli? How can anyone hate broccoli?!", the level of hostile disbelief that anyone, anywhere, could possibly not hold exactly the same views as them is astounding. It's not a product of the Internets, certainly, but it is unbelievably magnified by the ease and anonymity of on-line conversation.

(I think when it comes to communication on-line, we are all at an infant stage; we have to learn all over again how to treat each other, and most of us are not past the stage where we're in the playground, pushing down the little kid we don't like and shoving their face in the sand. A quick glance at any major blogger's comments section will bear out this theory.)

My journal has pretty much always been free of that kind of nonsense, and for that I am profoundly grateful (especially since I frequently write about stuff people feel strongly about). This is partly due to the fact that I have an intelligent and delightful readership, but mostly due to the fact that I have a very small readership in the grand scheme of things, and most of the world has no idea who I am. If I was ever to go out into the big wild Intarweb instead of sitting in my cosy LJ cottage, I would probably lose my tiny little mind. In the abstract, I find these vitriolic exchanges fascinating for their sociological implications; in reality, I would be profoundly upset and hurt if it was directed at me.

I've posited to friends various reasons for the completely hateful level of much of the commentary on anything on the Web, but I think there is no one pat answer. Some people demand absolute validation for their choice, because they have made such an emotional investment into their thing that any hint of disagreement sends them into a wild tailspin of hate and ignites an unstoppable desire to make the opposing party see the error of their ways (usually by calling them names and declaring their undying loyalty to their thing).

Some people see any other view on things as a direct threat to their way of life, and respond with massive anger and/or retaliatory actions that frequently seem to involve things like stalking the person, posting their personal information, and generally trying to make the hated person's life absolute hell.

...usually over something really trivial, hence the lolcat running joke The Intarwebs iz Srs Bznz.

There are people out there who are incensed that someone, somewhere, disagrees with them. Not only that, they have to seek them out, wherever they may be, and destroy them. Hitting the back button and ignoring them is simply not. an. option.

I honestly don't understand this reaction; I can be friends with people who dislike each other - I just don't invite them to the same parties. I can talk over ideas and ideologies with people who are diametrically opposed to me, and respect their views and feelings (even while disagreeing with them; if it gets too heavy, I either change the subject or excuse myself). And deep feelings over music, books, and lifestyle choices? Whatever works for you is fine by me, as long as it doesn't directly hurt peole.   I want to know what makes my friends tick; their ideas, hopes, views and dreams are part of what makes them precious and unique to me.  Friends should be like well-read and -loved books; you know what their stories are, but you love reading them over and over again, and always with pleasure.

That last paragraph makes it sound like I'm easygoing and mellow; I'm not in the least. I'm passionate about my ideas, I have very strong feelings about my perception of right and wrong, and I yell. A lot. Thing is, I try to do so in private. I'll go to bat for my friends, I hate hypocrisy, and if someone tries to come after me because they hate my choices, I'll push back. Hard.

When I was young and new to Usenet, I used to get into flame wars with people - my desire to fit in warred with my bad temper, and I found it far too easy to tell someone to FOAD when I couldn't see anything but their words. I quit when I realized that I was starting to hate what I had become on those lists.  I hurt people - and I hate that I did so.  I am deeply ashamed of that. 

But a lot of people can't seem to help themselves. On any site where feedback from random people is allowed, you will find insults, angry shouting, and vitriolic disagreement, and that's not counting the trolls, who are a separate matter. We're talking normally sane polite people who turn into frothy-mouthed mad dogs when confronted with an opposing viewpoint . Everyone is so sure they're right, they can't even consider that someone else might be right, too. After all, most of the things people fight so hard about are completely subjective. To come back to our breastfeeding board (I picked that thing because it is so controversial and seems almost impossible to discuss rationally), there are many valid options that people can use to fit in with their personal needs, but you wouldn't know it to see how violently different people try to justify their method as the One True Way.

I wonder what it is in someone's emotional makeup that they see a different path as so directly critical and threatening to their own. What confidence is lacking that they attach so much significance to differing viewpoints and need to crush them so intensely?

Ideas that clash can live side by side; we are all unique, with our own tastes, and our own way of doing things. Each of us has to run our own experiments to find out what is exactly right for us, and we cannot follow anyone else's path exactly, no matter how well it worked for that person. I love Mark Rothko's paintings, I've never read a Harry Potter book, and I have no children, but that doesn't mean that loving Thomas Kinkade paintings, owning every Harry Potter thing ever made, and having three children isn't the perfect life for someone else.   It only becomes a problem when one of us starts to denigrate the others' choices in an attempt to validate their own.

(For the record, I don't like Kinkade, but I have no problem with other people liking him.  Just don't buy me anything Kinkade-y for Christmas because you "love his stuff so much, you have to love it, too!".  But my friends don't do that to me - they buy me skull stuff.)

(I love my friends.)

Like I said yesterday, demanding that everyone hold your viewpoint is fascism; there is room for all sorts of views, and some of them may be wrong, but in the end, most of them are exactly right for the person who holds them. And we need to respect that. I don't think someone's an idiot for loving the Twilight series to distraction (I am totally cool with that, as I have similar levels of love for other things), but I am likely to give them the hairy eyeball if they come storming after me because I happen to mention that I think the books are poorly written and overhyped, the movie looks dull, and the movie's star vampire looks decidedly odd with white face makeup.

(The fact that I'm profoundly jealous that someone can become a "star" with that poorly-written a book has nothing to do with my dislike.  Nope, not at all.  *innocent*)

Similarly thinking that because you aren't allergic to mushrooms means that no-one can possibly be allergic to mushrooms, and then attempting to force-feed them to me (or worse, sneaking them into my food) will not end well for you. Appreciate the differences around you, and learn from them. Saying I do something different doesn't mean I think your way is invalid, it just means that I am comfortable with my method. I will probably not think anything more of your method than "cool, they do it differently. That's interesting".

Fascism may make the trains run on time, but it doesn't allow for the creative possibilities inherent in multiple approaches to life. If we tend to our own gardens, and stop looking over the fence to see what our neighbours are doing (excpet to honestly admire their roses), we'll all be much happier with our own choices in life.

Comments

( 40 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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etinterrapax
Sep. 24th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
This all is exactly why I don't have many mom friends, and the ones I do have were my friends before we all had kids. I tried to make friends with other moms, and suddenly it was all about whether I was into attachment parenting or cloth diapering or believed in circumcision or felt let down by my birth experience. It's bad in the general population, but a thousand times worse among moms. Those annoying HFCS TV ads sponsored by Big Corn? Shockingly not that far from reality.
attack_laurel
Sep. 24th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
It is frightening, isn't it? There seems to be absolutely no allowance for even slightly different viewpoints, and it makes me sad, because it seems like it should be a good time for mutual support and celebration, not vitriol and one-upmanship.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - etinterrapax - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chargirlgenius - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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judithsewstoo
Sep. 24th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Viva la difference!
As my Mom always says, "If everybody liked the same things, the world would be a very boring place."

Celebrate differences - don't denigrate them! :)

:D

Can I be somewhat like you when I grow up? ;)

Passion - it's what makes Life worth living.
attack_laurel
Sep. 24th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Viva la difference!
No, you have to be *exactly* like me, or you won't be perfect. :P
Re: Viva la difference! - judithsewstoo - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
gwacie
Sep. 24th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
There was a quote somewhere... "Because it matters so little we care so much" or something like that... it's amazing how much people care over very, very small things.
donal_mac_r
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
My parents had several friends with whom they would cheerfully lock horns on political or social matters, and don't get me started about their arguments over how a bridge hand ought to have been played!

They would remind me that one's friends are whom you like often despite their differences or even perceived flaws. I have some friends with whom some subjects are simply not often brought up, but in come instances when the prickly topics DO surface, we state our positions, sometimes roll our eyes at each other, and sometimes trade barbs. But at the end of the day we're still friends. There's one in particular whose political and philosophical views are so different from mine that I figure the only reason we even like each other is that we do express our respective positions well and tolerate each others' about equally.
luciab
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
I just don't get the whole control-other-people's-lives obsession. Hell, I have enough trouble trying to get through my own; I sure don't have time or energy to worry about whether somebody else breastfeeds or eats broccoli or marries the same sex. I do at least begin to worry if it's going to directly affect me, like raise my taxes or curtail my reproductive rights. (Not that I wish to exercise those at this point, but you take my meaning.)
fearga
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Oh...word. What you said. Thank you for hitting the mark on something I've been thinking about for the last month or so.
And the mom thing? I made the terrible mistake of saying in my little "mom's group" that I thought taking care of a baby was akin to torture, and I could hardly wait until she grew up enough that I could talk to her. You can imagine the looks...and they moved the meetings to a time I couldn't come. *grin*
Mind if I post a link? There are several on my list who would benefit from your writing today....
attack_laurel
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
Not at all - you can post a link any time, since these posts are unlocked.
(no subject) - lady_jem - Sep. 24th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laurensa - Sep. 25th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grumpycarrie - Sep. 25th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
vom_schwarzwald
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
I think it is sad that the art of DEBATE just doesn't seem to exist online. I see plenty of examples of people bashing other's view points rather than DEBATING them. The use of logic and facts to discuss a topic can often lead to an expansion of one's knowledge base and sometimes even cause an opinion to shift (though certainly the latter is not required). Instead I see ridicule, inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and just plain rudeness.
vom_schwarzwald
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
Darn it
That sounded like I was saying I see "ridicule, inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and just plain rudeness" in your posts...

No, no, NO...not what I meant...I was making a general observation that has nothing to do with what YOU write. Sorry if there was any confusion.

Sigh.

Me no write gud.
(no subject) - akgnome - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vom_schwarzwald - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
chargirlgenius
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
I still think it’s the positive ions shooting out from our monitors making us all cranky. Desk waterfalls for everybody! ;-)
vom_schwarzwald
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
Errr...is there something besides a desk waterfall I could use...the sound of water, well, it might make one visit the bathroom more frequently....

:-)
(no subject) - chargirlgenius - Sep. 24th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vom_schwarzwald - Sep. 24th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
akgnome
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
i would hate if everyone thought like me. God, how boring.

and i despise flame wars. so many people seem unable or unwilling to step away from their keyboards and take a deep breath when someone disagrees with them. it's like they are putting all their hostile feelings into the words on the screen, and assume that the person meant it in that way. hate 'em or love 'em, there's a reason why emoticons were invented.
wortschmiedin
Sep. 24th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
i very much agree with you. there ;) do you hate me now? seriously the problem is we all think we are what is normal so everybody who isn't like us isn't. but Darwin (oops deaththreat potential1) would tell you that normalcy is evolutiionary useless and god would say (deaththreatpotential no2) how dare you question the way I set up this world. and I, well fwiw i very much agree with you. except for sunscreen of course. everybody should use sunscreen ;)
attack_laurel
Sep. 24th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
(straight face)I'm allergic to sunscreen. (/straight face)

Heh. :)
(no subject) - wortschmiedin - Sep. 24th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - baronsnorri - Sep. 25th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
sherwood21
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
I think that part of the problem may be that the internet makes it really easy to find people who DO have the same or very, very similar interests, opinions, and ideas. And that kinda spoils some people, and when they're confronted with something new, they're shocked or surprised, because it's outside their realm of experience.

I'm on kind of a lot of painkillers that make me not so bright right now, so I hope that made sense. :D
attack_laurel
Sep. 25th, 2008 10:43 am (UTC)
It does, and I perfectly understand. :) I think the fan sites can also breed a mob mentality, wherein people who *are* outraged at difference get all their friends to harass the disagreeing person, and it gets ugly. Insults on the internet are largely consequence free, so people do it too easily.

...I'm not sure what that says about our basic selves. O-o
hsifeng
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Society can be fascinating: But what makes it interesting are the difference, more so than the similarities. When people I am around all start insisting that everyone think the same, I start looking for new real estate.

BTW - "I am clearly right about this. If you don't agree, I hope that _________ falls out of the _______ and ________ all over your _________." *evil grin*
alphafemale1
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
I've been feeling this way about politics lately- among my very well-educated and intelligent friends, presenting another POV results in "Are you stupid to think that way?" And I really feel it will only backfire- if we treat middle America like backwater ignoramuses, we will not have the election outcome we desire. For instance, although I find it abhorrant, there are plenty of women who agree with Palin's pro-life stance. Me saying "But that's stupid!" won't change their minds.

I have a friend who I frequently disagree with. And I've figured out why: we have fundamentally different worldviews. I can understand that there might be more than one "right" way to think about something, and she feels that there is *only* one right way to think about something (and three guesses-it's her way, of course). This means that debate is futile. If people understood that sometimes you cannot and will not change someone else's mind no matter how clever and articulate your argument, the internet (and the world?) would be a nicer place.

It's that old "agree to disagree".

Nicely written, by the way, and I didn't notice any typos. :)
nobarking
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
I was talking about something similar to someone a few days ago and he summed it up SO PERFECTLY:

"We're talking about the basest, earliest human issue -- attachment (be it to another person, a thing, an idea, a philosophy, cheerios vs scrambled eggs). We don't deal with it on a logical level, we deal with it on our basest emotional level because it is the thing that drives us. Most people are practically incapable of dealing with it any way but emotionally without actual training, which is why we have to have critical thinking and logic and debate classes in school."

I think this is part of what happens, if you're attached enough to something (and the worst part is half the time we don't even realize we are) you stop working on a thought level and are working completely on an emotional level.

But oof. It doesn't make it any more fun to deal with.
debsiobhan
Sep. 24th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
Who boy - I definitely learned the lesson about party invites for people who don't like each other. You may remember that New Year's Eve Party. You and Bob were totally classy, he was a jerk.
attack_laurel
Sep. 25th, 2008 10:45 am (UTC)
I still tell people that story, and about how FREAKING AWESOME YOU WERE. :)

*smooch*
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