Like millions of other fellow human beings I engage in online conversations and communities with people who are like-minded as well as those with divergent views on pretty much any possible topic. I enjoy these interactions and have learned a lot from them.

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend that needs to stop. In much the same way that cable news has devolved into a public game of “Gotcha” and reporting on gaffes, it seems that too many commenters are trying to do the same thing.

Instead of substantive conversations, we are subjected to attempts to paint us into corners with positions that are impossible to justify. We are told that our grammar is not perfect so we are disregarded. We are informed that there is a study or statistic somewhere that demonstrates that a side point of the article is not universally held. Sometimes we are reminded of something we once said that is not consistent with something we recently said.

Often the criticism would be appropriate for an academic treatise on the subject. Blog posts are not academic treatises. They need to be treated differently.

Substantive discussions are so much harder to come by these days and it’s all because of Gotcha.

Playing Gotcha means that one no longer has to think about the substance of the article. Instead we focus on petty side points in order to avoid the real conversation.

I don’t watch cable news. But now cable news is indirectly affecting my social media and blogging and I don’t like it one bit. Before you post a comment anywhere, consider whether your comment is substantive or procedural. Are you trying to facilitate conversation or are you just being a nudnik?

Don’t be a nudnik. Thank you.