Western education 2013

Sunday, July 13, 2014

.... the online commentary game....

This week I noticed an article on Business Week with regards to Monsanto.... you know, the makers of DDT, PCB's and who are now creating GMO seeds....

..... so, I learned a lot about online commenting.  There are those who are called Trolls or Shills... people whose soul purpose is to create controvery on online forums while sometimes getting paid to do so.  They quote articles they have sourced online to back up their points, they often times use sarcasm and 'humour' to rile up anyone who would challenge them.....

....... so, I riled a few of them.... I wanted to know what exactly they were all about and I had some interesting responses.

Michael - with enough banter I was able to discern this young man as being a bored high school student who thought it was hysterically funny to throw out casual insults throughout the internet on various topics from vaccinations to Monsanto.  When he was flailing in his arguments, I simply cast the net and used his own tactics against him.... he was not amused and when I finally nailed him with re-posts of his from many of the sites he had been on... his only retort was that I had no sense of humour.  According to what I could learn of him through my research... his parents immigrated to the States.  So this is how he shows respect to the adoptive country he now calls home and to the people whom live in it??  This is the better life his parents wanted for him??

Rob - This individual is intelligent and I got the feeling that there was something within his posts that were sensitive, almost defensive..... with poking, I learned that he came from a poor farming past and that his distinct belief and trust in advancing GMO technology was what was fueling his posts... he thought I wanted to live in the past where all farming continued in the old ways and back to a very difficult existence.... he couldn't have been more wrong.  I am anti-Monsanto, not advancing technologies unless of course they continue to splice animal/insect DNA into our food and then I have an issue with that.  He spent more time throwing websites, quotes and opinions at me to support his beliefs.... and in one site, when it appeared he was losing an argument he replied that he was at least getting paid $1 per post by Monsanto.  Whether he is or he is not... the internet is not forgiving according to the fellow he complained openly to about me pointing this out..... we ended our debate amicably and respectably.  I have learned much from this individual about presenting an argument and debating it.... and also learning to think twice before posting once.  

Hyper____ - this guy is interesting and I get the sense that he is very intelligent, blended with an open mind but firm in his convictions.... he is also sensitive.  It took insults and poking to get to the real deal with him - I needed to know where exactly he stood in his beliefs with respect to GMO's and Monsanto without the constant barrage of quotes and condescending remarks.  It turns out he lost a sister to cancer recently and this revelation took us in a different direction immediately.  I apologized for poking him and gave my deepest condolences.....but I truly needed to understand his strong rebuttles against those of us who were anti-Monsanto.  He doesn't support Monsanto but supports GMO in order to simplify farming and create a better environment - that I understand.  We were able to communicate a few more times... and this time with respect and kindness towards each other.... perhaps one day we will banter on another forum.

Elizabeth..... sweet, young and naive.... thinking that big companies were making developments for the soul purpose of advancing and bettering our society.  She makes statements that are not well researched and based on her own limited knowledge.... she makes up the majority of people posting on these sites.... She states what her credentials are but they don't necessarily match what is stated on her profile.... it's a defense mechanism used to tell me she has more knowledge than she does.  When pressed, she calls me nasty.... I tell her to firm up her point of view.... later, she changes her name to protect her identity.  It has taught me to carefully research before posting... Elizabeth/Jane has learned that lesson the hard way.

Chris - a random disrespectful comment "people get cancer and die..... and that is that"  I carefully considered his statement after another one he posted where he calls me a few choice names.... I respond after researching his insecure FB account with "Naval Rescue Swimmers drown.... and that is that.  This lesson above all I think was the most important one....if you post ignorant name-calling posts, make sure you set your security settings on FB so people cannot just obtain your information and use it..... and really, don't post anything you wouldn't want your military boss to read when you are slamming civilians on an open forum without merit or respect.

The site Disqus, of which I am now a member of, does not allow you to retract statements published... and, as Rob discovered, things said in a heated retort can have an unexpected backlash.  There are many people with opinions that attack and demoralize others and it is really easy to get caught up in the melee.  Some are looking for approval in how many 'upvotes' they get with random snipe attacks on the unsuspecting as Michael and Chris does....they just look for reactions to start an argument.  There are those that likely get paid to post and often encourage through prodding to continue the conversation until either or both of you look incredibly stupid.  There are those, like myself, who will apologize for being inappropriate and continue the debate respectfully, using my own name (means I have to own what I say) and will stand my ground when attacked from behind. 

It is truly an art to communicate on any of these forums... remember.... 

1. State  your opinion - back it up if need be with published accreditied reports, keep it simple and to the point.
2. Generalized statements will always get you into trouble.  Only speak of things you know or have experienced first hand.  My brother's Uncle's best friend's wife........NO!!
3. Do not respond to reply posts that are insulting unless you want to battle it out... from an outsider's point of view... you both look moronic if you lower yourself  to their level (which is easily done).  
4.  Ask for clarification - if you do not understand a response to a post you made or others, feel free to ask for more detail.  Be polite and they will in turn be polite back.
5.  Know your opponent - scan other posts, how many posts and how they treat others online.  Often if they are really antagonistic, it is best to just post a link without opinion.
6.  Your opinion is Public!!! Once you put your opinion out there... you often can only edit it at best.  Make sure you do not respond emotionally and if you do.... read it twice before posting.
7.  You are likely not an expert - so don't give yourself more 'credentials' than what you have.  Elizabeth claimed she was a historian...but with a little research, she is a librarian who likes to read history... a buff and a Historian are clearly not one and the same.  As she quickly found out...she lost respect and credibility.
8.  The internet does not have all the answers... and yet, link after link is posted and some are heatedly disputed.  Make sure you have links to Scholarly papers that have merit and read the entire thing... because your opponents will to disprove the paper you have wasted their time referring them to.
9.  Set your limits - an article with opinion streams lasts only a few days.... like a conversation, it has a beginning, middle and end.  State your opinion, back it up and let others add to the conversation.
10.  It's not personal unless you want it to be - it is a conversation with strangers, so if someone says something and someone else adds to it in a derogatory manner, you can choose to respond with the same ammunition or choose to learn how to difuse the situation with maturity.... really hard to do but great practice.  You can also choose to re read what you wrote to see if it was misinterpreted or you were being antagonistic.  Prodding and pushing buttons can sometimes bring surprising responses as it did in my case and using the situation to take the positives.  
11.  Thank your opponent - often we learn from every interaction we involve ourselves in either good or bad.... if the conversation was terse and both opponents were heated, thank them for their enthusiasm and strong beliefs... they will appreciate knowing that it really was argued with good intentions.  Two antagonists I battled with online I now follow and ending the conversation with compliments and best wishes really made it enjoyable.
12.  If this puts you in a bad mood.... because they do not see your point of view.... then this is not for you.  Move on and find something else to do.
13.  Your sense of humour - may not convey well online and may well get you into hot water.  
14.  Clean up your act and act accordingly - Remember what you put out on the internet stays on the internet and becomes public property.  Any boss or prospective employee can find out what kind of person you are simply by looking for your comments on public forums. 
15.  Do you really know who you are chatting with? - we warn our children all the time about online strangers and yet we go online and make friends, combat on forums and share personal information... which later could come back and haunt you.  Keep to the topic... unless you feel it is absolutely necessary.  My cancer journey is public and I share some minor details if the disussion warrents it.  Most people respond well if they understand you come from a good place...its all in how you express yourself and since you do not know who you are speaking with... be respectful.  

For the uninitiated, it is a great way to learn communication skills and to make your voice heard.  With some people, I will just post a link with no comments to avoid any antagonistic and personal responses... remind yourself that while your friends and family love your sarcastic sense of humour... tend to one... it doesn't translate well to someone who doesn't know your twisted sense of humour.  I enjoyed my first real foray into online discussions... I might have a few bruises but I also have learned so much doing so!! 

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