Image drawn (poorly) by Louis, just before publishing.
I’m 27 years old. But when I get on the Internet, I’m 12.

This propensity towards immaturity was recently on display in the form of a political bickering match I got into with a friend of a friend on Facebook. After about 25 minutes of idiocy, I stopped, and I said out loud (and subsequently typed) the following:

Every. Damn. Time.
“Every. Damn. Time. Every time I see something on your Facebook and I think, like a forgetful idiot “I wonder what moronic vitriol James* has to add to THIS post?” And EVERY time I (or anyone else) tries to bring facts or logic in, James* does the political social media equivalent of throwing the ball into the lake and claiming he won. This is what I get for my hopelessly optimistic idea that people are good and smart, and not just disappointments.”

*The individual in question’s real name has been changed, more to protect my friend than James.

So why do I do it? I asked myself. And I’m not the only one. Other people often ask me in a much less subtle way:

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

It’s not a bad question, to be honest. It’s one I consider often. Why do I engage with people who are combative, off-putting, overzealous, and downright obnoxious?

Because I was one of those people once.

And people engaged with me.

And I slowly came around to see what an ass-clown I was being.

But a question that I’m often asked and don’t think is a good or valid question goes something like this:

“Why do you even bother listening to people who you disagree with at all?”

Because I need to. I think we all need to, but few of us do. Comedian and personal-hero Lewis Black said it best in a stand up routine I got to watch in person.

This was about eight years ago, so I’ll paraphrase:

“There’s no such thing as news anymore. There’s 1,000 TV channels, and 1,000,000 websites, and we don’t need to watch the news anymore. We just find the people who are yelling the thing we think the loudest and we agree with them.”
Sounds like my Facebook news feed.

I have no problem disagreeing with people. I do it all the time, because I, like most folks, am wrong about half the time. My disagreement with someone is a good thing, and I talk to them because I think disagreement is fine, and not acknowledging different viewpoints leads to a lack of empathy.

I don’t mind holding a different viewpoint as someone else, because when I hear someone state a position I don’t hold, I can at least think:

“I don’t personally think that, but I can see where you’re coming from.”

It’s only through being exposed to diverse viewpoints that we can maintain that human connection with the “other side.”

But when I get to the point where all I think is:

“I can’t even fathom how you think this…what’s wrong with you?”

That’s when the train comes off the track, and the implied air quotes are removed from that “other side.”

When I finally came to the realization that my media diet of all HuffPo all the time was causing me to make assumptions about Republicans that were equal parts unfair and untrue.

I had to take a step back. When I looked at the AIM chats and MySpace Messages (this was a long time ago) that I had exchanged with the people I disagreed with, but who would engage with me, I felt terrible about myself, and saw what a monster I had become.

I hope James will see that side of himself too one day.
I seriously doubt he will, but one can always hope.

Listen to this week’s episode, Episode 115— Apologies, Tesla, and Jesse Jackson (featuring a piece by Yours, Truly):

Written by Louis Reich of Comatose.

Comatose is a weekly series of amusing anecdotes, insightful commentary, and pithy stories. Every week three contributors are featured in short segments. The segments, though often unrelated, are tied together using music and narration to set the scene. Relax and enjoy the ride while listening to topics as varied as love, birthdays, and reciprocity.

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