Fail Friday: Cyber Wars And Unfriendliness

Remember when Facebook was just a place to interact with friends? Remember when hearing “You’ve got mail” initiated an exciting gut reaction at the thought of a new chain letter arriving in your inbox? Remember your first tweet?

Remember the world before internet engagement became more media, less social, and centered on ego-fulfillment via analytics?

I do too.

Unfortunately for me, I love to debate and I love my opinions. Hell, I dedicated my 30-day writing challenge on this very website to laying out what I think it means to be a libertarian and have launched a long-shot campaign to become a member of my fraternity’s national board.

(Hashtag: NominateNik, www.nik4gc.com)

Unfortunately, I haven’t always been a person that I or others have liked on the internet, and so this Fail Friday is one that will appear all-too-familiar to those of you who use Facebook, Twitter, or who have received an over-reactive email from a supervisor/leader.

Debate Me. I Dare You.

As I mentioned I am steadfast in my beliefs, and I am now happy to acknowledge that. Gone are the days where I preached about my open-mindedness and pretended as if everyone’s opinion was of value to me.

I actually consider that progress.

The internet can do tricky things to a person, but most importantly it encourages someone to be as much of an asshole as possible, anonymous or not.

I admit that I fell for the sense of power that online commentary afforded me. Here are a few web-related failures:

“You’re the PRESIDENT now”

After being elected chapter president (I had yet to be sworn in), I sent an email to my chapter brothers.

I was also the Executive Director for Greenfeather, a program at Stetson designed to raise funds for several local nonprofit organizations. As the head honcho of the program, I was disappointed that the members of my fraternity lacked the competitive spirit needed to win the trophy. (Let’s be honest, philanthropy is all about showing off to most people; I was no different at the time.)

I sent a hasty email, expressing my disappointment in my brothers, which more likely came across as disgust. A chapter brother responded with the above quote, noting that email was not the proper medium and that my tone would turn off those who were not already on my side.

He was actually a consistent check on my anger/power trips, and I can’t imagine I’d be the same without him. Still, lesson learned — use email wisely and to make clear, simple points, not to rant.

American Presidential Elections

Becoming a libertarian was exciting, and so I naturally wanted to share my newfound intellectual supremacy with the world. I posted regularly on Facebook, replied to other’s political posts and relished in debate on my own.

In fact, a recent few debates inspired me to write this post, because the manner in which I was debating my friends was improper.

I began to see how people would personalize politics, blocking or unfriending one another, expecting the worst out of the intentions of their opponents.

It didn’t make sense that other people were stupid or wanted poor people to die, but I was happy to use those talking points if they furthered my debate.

I had a group of friends I would message with regularly and individually, and although none of us ever changed our minds, we all took shots at one another regularly.

Unfortunately, I ruined several friendships, including one or two familial relationships, which have only been repaired with distance, time, and agreements to disagree.

I specifically recall coming for one acquaintance on Twitter and his message reply regarding my disrespect and that he had lost trust in me. It hurt, and I likely masked that hurt with some show of arrogance, but these beefs, my shifty tactics and my loss of relationships resulted in a sense of personal disgust.

Aftermath

I note it here, but I am no longer “in the know.”

I have muted most news media channels (even ones I often agree with) on most social media channels and gave up Facebook and Twitter entirely during the 2016 election. I knew the best way to avoid the temptation of sparking useless online debates was to avoid opportunities to engage in them.

Some relationships have not fully recovered, but I came back to social media (and real life) with a new code of ethics regarding politics.

My beliefs are not mine to force onto others: I don’t comment on political posts by friends online and try to find the common desires behind competing politics of friends I converse with in person.

That said — I welcome debate on things I post and rarely hold back in those instances. I also try to make it clear that I don’t condone the internet debate tactics I once used (such as tying a person to their politics or a political figure to hurt their credibility or focusing on being the one to get the last word in and then casually dipping out of the conversation), and reply to most pokes at my politics by friends in real life with humor or simple tit-for-tat conversation.

All in all, I make efforts to return the focus of my social media to connecting with friends when possible, and a positive benefit has been that those who are genuinely interested in my opinions request them in respectful, personal and one-on-one settings or channels.

Still, I have solidified June as a month where I take a hiatus from the onslaught of information provided by the social internet. Stress mounts over the course of the year, and the rules I set for myself become more difficult to maintain without an occasional break from the hustle and bustle of the web.

To put it simply: I learned how easy it is to lose one’s sense of etiquette and ethics while communicating over the internet, and how pointless it is to pick fights with people you otherwise like. The stress caused by the constant ticker of news on Facebook and Twitter (I changed my trending topics on twitter to Dubai so that I couldn’t read any of them as they are in Arabic) is unnecessary and designed to get a rise out of subscribers as are public debates with people who notably disagree with you.

Do I love to discuss politics? Yes.

Will I respond to challengers? Most certainly yes, especially if they use the schemes I once held near and dear to my heart.

Will I pick a fight with an individual without their invitation? No.

My advice is not worth your dollar, but if you are interested in reading it:

If all else fails and you feel the stress creeping in, shut yourself off for a day or a week or a month or just an hour if that’s all you can manage. You may come to find in your time to reflect without distractions that you have a choice in how you react to what is on the internet, how you maintain your own code of ethics, and how you maintain your happiness. There is no better feeling than self-awareness.