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.