Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What we have here is failure to communicate

Bellatrys has a good, lengthy* post up aobut combatting trolls and when to say when. I've read some of the work by the gent who inspired her to write this and found him to be the most amazing of mythical creatures: a self-constructed strawman. If you ever imagine an argument and find yourself saying, "Oh, but no one would be so stupid as to try and make that case," well, he may have already done it.

It started me thinking about communication, and why on the interweb it so often turns ugly.

  • In social terms, stupid people tend to have the advantage over smart people. This is because the actual point of a verbal fight is--most often--to be seen as holding one's ground. An intelligent person will try to respond to the other person's points and tailor their own for the occasion. A moron will--intentionaly or not--miss the point and go ballistic based on their misreading of what the other person said to them. Then an onlooker will say, "I might not agree with him/her, but they sure show character."

  • Even if no one else says that, a sufficiently ego-hungry person will imagine it.

  • A large part of communication in the real world (or should I be calling it "meatspace"?) is nonverbal, as we pick up hints from posture, facial expression, tears if all else fails... But this is lacking online, which can lead to misunderstandings even among people of good faith

  • Not everyone has good faith

  • In fact, even in face to face conversation, some people only self-regulate so that no one will take a swing at their teeth and/or balls. Message boards and blogs free them from thinking about that contingency.

Of course a lack of self-censorship can be a good thing. I think it is a good thing in the context of goodwill. But again, you're not always going to have that context.

No comments: