We got here because of a very simple fact: conflict is more profitable than conversation.
Be a bridge: how changing the way you speak can heal America

It’s also just plain easier.

I remember once hearing an editor say that “rant” articles were the laziest thing you could write – and thereafter could never look at 90% of newspaper Opinion sections the same way again.

My awareness of this also comes from having grown up on Internet forums and instant messenger – arguably two microcosms of culture that have spread to the whole web today.

Whenever you debate someone online, you have to project on them the best possible version of their argument, and the best possible intentions, otherwise things always devolve.

Under the bridge

This is mostly true – except when you hit a troll. Trolls don’t have that instinct underneath, they have another motivation: they want to be heard, they want someone to care about what they are doing.

If you look into their profiles, you’ll often find a Deviant Art page, where they talk surprising sensitively about their anxiety disorder or military injuries that have left them homebound, or frustration on certain topics that transparently reveal that they just don’t feel cared for.

Or they’re just a fucking idiot.

Either way, when you hit that, you leave. Write a wrap up post and leave. Don’t lash out at them, don’t engage the conflict. Wrap up and drop the mic. Anything else is foolish (although understandable for those who haven’t spent so long in this culture.)

Pick a side

Strangely, this means you have to lean into two possible options:

  1. Have total compassion for the person on the other side.
  2. Have zero compassion and leave.

Anything in the middle leaves you in that internet vortex, where conversation drifts into quoting each other, drilling into specifics, setting up strawmen and, inevitably, comparing someone to the Nazis.

There madness lies.

The trick is to pick a side – you are both thinking, caring people, or there’s no sincere discussion taking place – but remember that effectively you want to have both you and your partner on the same one.