Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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06.05.2019

The intelligence gap tells you when to block on social media

That didn’t take long. I’ve been on NewTumbl 15 days and already a troll’s been by (the above is in reverse chronological order). I guess this is the internet in the late 2010s: people don’t believe in exchanging views, and that trolling is the new normal. You see it all the time on Twitter and Facebook, though it surprised me to see it happen so quickly on NewTumbl.
   Usually, it takes a lot longer for the unthinking to join a platform. Online, where opinions count and your bank balance doesn’t, we are looking at an intelligence gap. This was predicted long ago; by whom I don’t recall, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it came up in the late Norman Macrae’s writings many years ago.
   It took a while for spammers to ruin email for me. I was on email for years before I received my first spam. Twitter and Facebook were pretty nice places to be 12 years ago. Even there, it took a while to descend.
   You can blame certain politicians if you like, but the fact is we would have got there on our own, because most of us have seen the quality of debate declining on social media. Mansplaining, whitesplaining, trolling, abuse, the list goes on. The intelligence gap means that there are those incapable of having a reasoned argument without resorting to one of the above methods.
   The disappointment I feel about one NewTumbl user is simply the speed at which it’s happened, since their comment was pretty tame. Tumblr, for all its faults, actually never got political in the 12 years I was there. If you didn’t like a political view, it was usually too much trouble to comment, so you did what you might do in real life if you overheard a political comment you disagreed with: you moved on.
   Many NewTumbl users are ex-Tumblr, so it’s disappointing that one person decided not to carry forth the old platform’s culture, and infected the new place.
   So what do you do at a platform which is your unwinding social medium? You block.
   Normally I wouldn’t block. My Dad’s uncanny ability to call US presidential elections was down to, at least for 2016, his reading of the comments on their political blogs. The more views he read, the better an idea he had of which way the wind was blowing. On Twitter I block only a very few people; certainly a differing political opinion is not a reason to do it. In fact, I used to live by the mantra of ‘They who lose an argument block first’ but lately I’m revising my opinion.
   Some people are just lost causes. An analysis of the intelligence gap tells you that they’re too far along the path to hell that no amount of reasoning can help them. If others can’t resort to a civil disagreement from the outset, then they might be lost causes, too. Their opinion is actually not worth hearing.
   But the most important thing is your time. It is precious. Is engaging with a troll or a racist or a nutjob really something you wish to do?
   I realize some might think that blocking is “letting them win” or that they “get off on it”. I suppose even trolls have their fans. We congregate to those on the intelligence ladder who are closest to us. This has the inherent risk of us not hearing viewpoints we mightn’t like.
   But does it? If you don’t block based on opposing political views, and you don’t block because someone is either richer or poorer than you are, then what are you really missing? (And I doubt anyone blocks based on gender or sexuality.) Surely that still gives you a sense of where the world is, and allow you to get opposing viewpoints so you can refine your own thinking.
   And you can always block differently for each platform. Do it more in online places where you want to relax. Do it less in places where you want to engage and debate.
   Today, I did my first NewTumbl block. Our wee troll should be delighted.

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Filed under: culture, internet, politics, technology—Jack Yan @ 09.37

2 Responses to ‘The intelligence gap tells you when to block on social media’

  1. Some trolls are nothing more than a waste of a good eye-roll.

    I think I’d enjoy a platform moderated by Maggie Smith. Some days, I’m just too tired to channel my inner Maggie and end up sounding like Dorothy from Oz scolding the wizard, instead of a bigger wizard in charge of the fleet of flying monkeys, if you catch my drift. I could use a fleet of flying monkeys, you know.

    I’ve mostly reached the same conclusion (my old cardinal rule in The Art of the Flamewar being, “He who stops to profanity first, loses”), but since the goal of the troll is to silence others, it does feel like giving them satisfaction. I have to remember that peace is a gift we claim for ourselves when we walk away, rather than delivering the coup de grâce they deserve.

    Friends have recently pointed out to me that maybe I give some people too much benefit of the doubt, therefore too much time and patience in debate. Is it that I am loathe to believe they’re hopeless, or too quick to blame myself for an inability to persuade through logic and rhetoric?

    I have struggled with that question a lot, lately. If it’s just ego and stubbornness, I’m wasting a lot of time online.

  2. Jack Yan says:

    We probably need to jump very quickly to labelling someone a troll. If their first message isn’t courteous, then I think that pretty much clinches it: they’re wanting to stir. I always feel that they’re there to enter into protracted debates and not respond to obvious points—they get their buzz from watching us get upset. Silence probably frustrates them more, though they might get some joy from knowing they were blocked.
       I used to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but you and I are better schooled on netiquette and remember how things once were. We probably need to believe some are hopeless, just as we might in real (offline) life with certain folks.

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