Friday, November 1, 2013

10 Reasons Why You Already Lost This Internet Argument

I hate listicles, but I love unhealthy debate and cultural critique too much to let this one die. So, here are the 10 Reasons Why You Already Lost This Internet Argument. Friends and others, feel free to use this list and link relevant reasons when someone hasn't yet realized they're already done. Failing that, sit and appreciate how unrelated being right and winning an argument are on the Internet.

  • These have nothing to do with being right or being fair. It turns out that winning an argument and being right aren't the same thing at all. If you're using this list, you should remind yourself that this doesn't mean you're right; if you're being forcibly directed to this list, then it doesn't mean you're wrong. Some of these reasons (1, 7, 10) are actually ridiculous and should never work on their own. But, as in the rest of society, your cultural capital within a community is part of your eventual ability to succeed in that community. Remember that. Remember that it's not a good way for things to be, too, when you're listening to other people.
  • Using this to show someone they're wrong means you're going to look like an asshole. Seriously, it's rude. It might be true, but it's rude. That said, sometimes internet arguments are rude, and if the being-polite boundary has already been transcended than you may just feel like it's worth the risk, in which case go nuts, buddy!
  • This is not an all-inclusive list. It's just the most common ones I've seen. They seem to cover most cases at least partially. But if you feel a key reason is missing, do tell in the comments.

1. I know how to spell better than you.

It's as simple as that. Right now, even if you were right, it wouldn't matter. As soon as you stopped capitalizing words, spelling correctly, and putting apostrophes in the correct place, a lot of people ceased caring about the content of what you were saying. Using slang, colloquialisms, AAVE, etc. can all be okay, but when your spelling and grammar for however you speak English falls off, you just sound dumb. A few mistakes can be forgiven, but you apparently crossed that line long ago.

2. I'm a better person than you.

At the moment, you're either insulting people or suggesting that the best course of action in some situation involves discrimination against an individual or a group of people. I, on the other hand, am suggesting that one gives the benefit of the doubt and considers alternate strategies respecting everyone's humanity. Whether you're insulting a celebrity or proposing forbidding certain rights to citizens or whatever else, your strategy is the mean one and mine is the nice one, which on the internet translates to you being mean and me being nice. People like nice people better.

3. Your logic is flawed.

Right now, you're trying to justify that you're right about something, but your justification doesn't work at all. You might be using specific cases to justify general policy, incorrectly applying statistics, or simply just skipping a bunch of steps as to how what you're proposing actually accomplishes what you say it does. Regardless of the logical fallacy, it's clear that you don't know how to fill in the gap between what you know to be true and what you want to be true, so you made up an explanation that doesn't work. And my logic to explain why yours is wrong will be rock solid.

4. You make no sense.

You might be right about some things, but it's hard to tell through how confusing everything you say is. Maybe you've just replaced the correct words for the concepts you want to convey with arbitrary words from the dictionary. Maybe you're just having a completely different conversation than everyone else. There's really no point in continuing this discussion, as you've long since wandered off the deep end.

5. You're relying on incorrect or unconfirmed facts.

It's possible that, if the things you said were true, they would fully justify your opinions. But they aren't. I don't know if you were lied to or just made them up yourself, but your evidence isn't actually remotely factual. And sadly, the lack of soundness of your evidence invalidates everything else you've been saying. You just discredited yourself in the realm of facts; why should anyone care about your opinions at this point?

6. You're just repeating yourself.

The thing you just said was a rephrased of the previous thing you said, and the thing before that. I don't know if you realized this, but the statements I've been making called into question the soundness and validity of the original statement. You saying it twice more didn't make it any more solid, and I've already gotten out a clear explanation of several reasons as to why that's an unreasonable line of thinking. As long as you're not adding anything to it, I think we're done here.

7. I can use fancier words than you can.

You could be right; I could be wrong. However, you're clearly not up to date on the lingo required for this level of discourse, so you're starting to sound uninformed. I use words like "unilateral", "mitigated", "semantic", "heuristic," and "interstices", and it's clear you're starting to lose track of what I'm saying because you keep having to check a dictionary. I sound like I know what I'm talking about, and am hard enough to follow that people will assume I do. Unless you learn how to play the same game, you're better off conceding.

8. Nothing you're saying is an original thought.

Arguing with you is amazingly easy because you're just reciting an argument used by a politician/religious thinker/random public figure. It's possible that your convictions about these things are as strong as theirs, but it turns out people have argued with them, too. In a public forum. So, the arguments against your case are all prepared and easy-access. And, because I'm not just reciting someone else's argument, I'm going to outlast you on this one. I can keep arguing after the key points on the Internet have been exhausted. So let's just skip the recitation and get to the part where I make more sense than you.

9. You lost when you started calling me names.

I understand that you're angry. You're wrong and you don't want to believe it. However, your response of trying to humiliate or hurt me by calling me names is a terrible way to approach this. The people who think your name-calling has merit are overwhelmed by those who think you're being an asshole. As a bonus, I couldn't care less what you think of me. You clearly have nothing left to say on the actual original subject of this conversation; go home.

10. Nobody is ever going to agree with you here.

I don't know how you found this conversation, but your opinions right now aren't just in the minority: they're downright personally offensive to the majority people reading. If you think that you're changing my friends' minds, you're wrong; instead, I'm getting messages apologizing that I have to deal with someone so clearly insensitive and wrong. Go find someplace where people don't already solidly disagree with you; there's no conversation to be had here.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why I argue with you when I agree with you.

I like arguing.

To clarify: I don’t mean ad hominem attacks or verbal fighting; that’s different. I’m also not talking about arguments that you have with significant people in your life about your future.

I’m not even talking about those times when someone says something offensive or belittling about real people who didn’t do anything to deserve that kind of commentary. If I have it in me at the time, I’ll try to explain why that was offensive, and usually get nowhere, but I’ll feel better that I tried to speak truth to someone who wasn’t getting it.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is arguing with people I agree with.
If you’re reading this, odds are actually already pretty good you agree with me. You wouldn’t have come here if you didn’t think you would. I spend most of my days surrounded by people who are roughly on the same page as me as far as political leanings, social views, intellectual capabilities and knowledge of the world. Most people are. That’s because it’s way damn easier to be friends with people you tend to agree with than people you don’t.

Another thing about a lot of the people reading this is that they’re probably from a similar demographic as me. They’re people who study complicated things and get degrees and know they won’t be working food service forever. A good chunk of them are white and wealthy. And almost all of them are liberal. Just like me! Privilege is fun!

Well, except that I found out that I have an issue with being surrounded by people I agree with. Because it starts to feel wrong, and gets me all agitated when anyone expresses any opinion more substantive than a restaurant review. Because at some level, I know if everyone agreed on things, the world would look a hell of a lot different from how it does. So if I’m agreeing with my friends all of the time, then that makes me think one of two things:

Either: I haven't been listening to the other side of a lot of issues
Or: I would disagree with my friends if I was paying more attention

Both of these are Bad Things. One means that I’m in a bubble; the other means that I’m not even paying attention to things in said bubble. Both are at some level already true.

So what do I do? Naturally, I become a pain in the ass.

If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you may have seen this. Post an article and say you like it? That’s me at the bottom, wondering why you didn’t object to x-and-y. Become enraged about a world issue? Oh hey, me here – is that actually important at all? Post a meme, and I might object to the political correctness of the premise; post a critique of political incorrectness, and I might object to the premise of that. I mean, I won’t say anything that I think is totally morally out of the question, but I’ll fake opinions on topics I don’t care about just because you have the opposing opinion.

I couldn’t care less if this bothers you. I’m doing it for me. And I’m doing it for four big reasons that I can think of right now, in no particular order:

Reason 1 – You’re annoying me. If you post a lot of opinions on Facebook about something, I start getting very suspicious. I might think you’re just posting it because you were looking for something to be enraged about; I might think you actually don’t understand what you’re posting at all. I want you to prove it.

Reason 2 – I want to watch people saying smart things. There’s a certain high I get from seeing someone I know post something I agree with in a clearly argued, coherent way. A lot of my friends are fully capable of doing that, but as long as we agree, I’ll never see them do it.

Reason 3 – It’s a good challenge. I get to practice debate skills that don’t get much exercise in my usual crowd. The alternative is usually drunkenly arguing about Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino and programming languages and beer. It’s not a good look for me.

Reason 4 – Agreeing becomes fun. I mean it. It is really fun to agree with people after debating with them. Conceding an argument makes me feel marvelous. If you haven’t tried it, you should, for no other reason than that it confuses the hell out of people and it's fun to watch. They were so righteous and angry, they were already writing their next response to you being dumb…and you agreed? That’s impossible. Beyond that, I think it can lead to some great conversations that wouldn't have started, but I think confusing people is joy enough.

Now, this is fun to do on my own, but it’s way more fun if other people do it, too. Can you imagine if the internet actually started having people all over it who disagree with your opinions might agree with you if you presented an intelligent argument, or who just want to make sure you’ve thought through your logic? Wouldn’t that be cool?

It’s funny, because now that I write this, it almost sounds like it’s an honorable thing to do. Let’s be honest, people: this is pretty much subdued trolling of intellectuals. Not only that, it can be interesting to see what you find when you post an opinion no one else would have, to see what sort of people agree with you and why. Because, as it turns out, you do know people you disagree with. A lot of them have learned not to say anything about their more unpopular opinions in your crowd. In my crowd, religious people and moderate Republicans get a lot of badness thrown at them before they even specify what that means about their beliefs or world views. They tend to keep that to themselves after a while. But if you give them a starting point, you might actually get them to give you the real deal, the actual honest-to-god argument against your opinion that you hadn’t yet really seen in person.

So, to all of you people with strong opinions, even if they’re smart ones, even if they’re ones I agree with…start arguing amongst yourself a bit more. Let’s be willing to change our minds sometimes. Just because we think we’re right doesn’t mean we get to freeze our stances.

On that note: I’m sorry I still haven’t posted about birds. It’s on my list.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

About spopsticks.

This is my blog. At present, I have yet to come up with an agenda for it, but my suspicion is, like most blogs, it will be a platform for me to write absurd opinions and to endow them with sufficient pathos that you are eventually inclined to agree completely with me. Like most blogs, it will fail. Like most bloggers, I don't care, because it really doesn't matter to me if you disagree with me. I happen to know I'm right.

But before I dive into that rhythm, I felt like I ought to explain the title.

Hopefully it is already obvious to you. In your world of food-eating, you may have encountered a number of different tools, including forks, spoons, knives, and chopsticks. Occasionally, one might find an excellent synthesis of the first two (sporks). I've even seen some interesting designs integrating knives into other pieces as well, though there is always a chance of a mishap if you put the serrated blade too close to a food-bearing part of such an implement.

However, one tool continues not to exist which I find surprising: the spopstick.

What is a spopstick? It is the synthesis of all that is good in a spoon and in a chopstick. On the one hand, it grants you the flexibility to isolate and grab your food, as chopsticks do so well; on the other hand, it gives an appropriate scooping ability to allow the conveyance of liquids or gelatinous foods to your well-deserving mouth.

If you want to imagine spopsticks: cup your hands in front of you. Right now, your arms are the bodies of the two individual spopsticks, and your hands are the spoon part. You can imagine designing them so that they actually settles neatly together. Alternately, if you could rotate your arms around, you could make it so you could use them like ordinary chopsticks. You could also swap the position of your two arms to get a spoon shape that you could hold like a normal spoon, with the cup parts of each again settling together (they're more like slices of a bowl than what you think of as a spoon).

I would of course provide more detail, but I hope to patent this someday and so I'd rather keep you in a state of confusion.*

At present, I am staying in Australia, specifically in Sydney, where a high density of Asian restaurants has required a rather intense amount of chopstick usage in the past few days. However, the inevitability of the loss of certain slippery bits of chopstick-resistant food continues to upset me and remind me of my long-loved imaginary eating implement. And, given that my friend/nemesis (frenemesis?) Colin has started a blog lately, it seemed high time for me to continue my love affair of starting blogs. His, of course, is named The Best Thing Ever, whereas mine is in fact named after the best thing ever: the spopstick. Well, one of the best things ever. I wouldn't want to displace chocolate, sloths, Space Mountain, that video of a cat or the sound of opening a treasure chest in a Zelda game.

Until next time, in which I will be complaining about birds.


*slash I can't draw a diagram worth shit so you're going to have to make do without.