I have been involved in a number of different message boards. At one time or another I have been part of forums on CNN, the NY Times, ABC and a number of other places. And any time the topic of discussion was something that people feel passionately about the tone eventually grew quite ugly.
I can’t think of a single place where flame wars didn’t didn’t spring up. And to those who know me it will not be surprising to read that I have been involved in some of those wars. I like a good debate. I like to challenge and be challenged, but all the same in time each one of those places went from being a placed I liked to frequent to something ugly and nasty.
The negativity and ugliness always began to wear me down because the dialogue just wasn’t that interesting. It turned into something dull where ideas were no longer being exchanged, just insults.
Don’t get me wrong, I admit to kind of enjoying that. I admit to being a button pusher and shitstirrer, not every time or in every instance, but I have had my share of fun making getting a rise out of people. And many have done it to me.
But the thing that really got to me, the one thing that just consistently bothered me were the racist views that would come out in these places from people I had thought were more thoughtful and moderate.
The outright racists were easy to deal with. They never hid their position, never dissembled or disguised their hatred. It was easy to handle that. But those closet cases were something else, they did bother me.
They did make me wonder how many people actually believe some of the crap that I was reading. And it made me wonder if there was any point all in debating with them. Was I accomplishing anything by trying to engage with them, trying to convince them to look at things a different way.
I am not sure that it was. I am not sure that it made a difference for them or for anyone who was lurking. Or maybe it did, I just don’t know.
What I decided was that I would turn my focus from some of these venues and go elsewhere. And from time to time I would poke my head in and try to steer the conversation in different directions, I would try and correct misinformation on some topics. But I always reminded myself to not get caught up in these holes for too long. Too much negative energy.
The world can be so bright and so beautiful, but it can also be so very ugly.