If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear-stained eyes
Don’t be surprised when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet.
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice.
Pink Floyd, The Thin Ice
I have written previously about the importance of communication and my own experiences learning how to open myself up to people in my life.
But it occurs to me today, that however hard interpersonal communication can be, we’ve got a whole new medium here that is far more difficult: online communication.
I have worked really hard at this over the last few years. I think I have an advantage in that I generally think well of other people. So when someone says something ignorant or obnoxious, I assume that is a case of poor communication, sarcasm or a bad mood. Or something along those lines. Usually, that means that I can bring the conversation around to something more useful.
Of course, there are still trolls. I’ve been lucky in that I have had little contact with this particular variety of internet monster. I know that some sites are regularly overrun, but I have never been a regular participant on any of those sites. Thank the gods. I wouldn’t be here today if that was a common experience in my life – its just not worth it. When they pop up now and again, I’ve generally been able to wash my hands of the whole thing pretty easily.
But there’s another variety of internet monster, if you will. These are the people that are quite opinionated, generally well read and completely lacking in the basic social skills that allow communication to be possible. (That’s kind of harsh, but it’s been a rough weekend.)
I’m really batting my brain at the moment, trying to figure out how to approach such a person. I find that if I approach them with ‘this is what people are perceiving, so perhaps you might want to take a step back and reconsider how you are expressing yourself’ that I am ignored in favor of righteous indignation toward others that were, perhaps a little less gentle. So that’s no good. Obviously the ‘less tact’ approach is also not terribly conducive to improving communication. Its far too easy for online conversations to degenerate into pissing matches. At the same time, simply ignoring the problem merely allows it escalate until there are no good strategies available.
So I’m opening up the floor. Has anyone else experienced this particular internet monster? I’m sure we’ve all seen this behavior to some extent, but I am talking about an extreme case in this instance. And I am wondering if anyone has tried out any strategies that have seemed to work well. Or ideas on strategies to try, even. I need some help folks and I just know some smart person out there is gonna help me out. After all, I generally think well of other people!
(Originally Posted November 27, 2006)