It’s my personal conviction that the Internet divides as much as it unites. Sadly, it divides even those who agree on many or even most things. Why? Because the Internet fosters debate. No matter how much you share in common with a person, you quickly come to find the one, two or three things you can’t agree on. Then those few things quickly grow out of proportion, and before you know it you’ve forgotten that you had anything important in common.
I’ve spent a couple years wandering around the ‘net looking for conversation and kindred spirits. It’s not for lack of like-minded family and friends. It’s just that your personal friends aren’t always available to chat about this, that or the other thing. (In fact, my personal closest friends have such hectic schedules that we only connect about once every month or so.) So in a weird way, Internet “friends” can come to feel more accessible than your real friends. But because of the phenomenon I’ve just described, you learn by experience to hold these new-found “kindred spirits” lightly. Because you feel compelled to talk about everything, and sooner or later you disagree, and those disagreements magnify until you can’t stand each other and part ways.
I’ve encountered this with all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts. I’ve tried to “fit in” around various web communities, only to discover I don’t really belong, for one reason or another. Every time I think “Finally, somebody like me!” I come to discover, “Oh snap… not really, and in fact, they don’t like me.”
But listen, here’s a little tip I’ve discovered, and once it finally dawned on me it was a very freeing thought: Let it go. Here’s how that manifests itself concretely for me: When I’ve opened my big mouth and gotten entangled in something somewhere on the ‘net, and gotten someone or a few someones annoyed or impatient or mad at me… I simply leave the thread behind me. I make a final comment, and then I DON’T GO BACK. Because I know that if I sneak a peek to see how people are responding, I won’t be able to resist the temptation to jump right back into the mess and keep wasting my time with people who’ll never be convinced by me anyway.
So instead… I let it go. The other day, I was trying to analyze the feeling of freedom that it gives me to take this approach, because it seemed familiar to me. Then I thought of an analogy. Occasionally when I’m driving, I’ll do something that makes another driver mad at me. I’ll turn in front of somebody when I thought I’d checked and it was clear. I’ll make my move when someone else technically had right of way. Or maybe it’s not my fault. Maybe it’s the other guy’s fault, and he honks his horn at me just because he’s a jerk.
But then (at least assuming I haven’t broken the law or anything), I keep driving. I move on. I leave the angry dude or dudette behind me and continue going about my life. Because I know it doesn’t matter, nobody can do anything to me, and there aren’t any consequences.
I thought of another analogy. Sometimes I do stupid things in my dreams. And of course when you’re dreaming, you often don’t realize you’re dreaming. But when you wake up, you think, “Wait a minute… that was just a dream! It didn’t matter! I don’t have anything to worry about after all!”
Blog debates are like that. Unless you already know somebody very well, and a precious relationship is being thrown away, there’s really not much at stake. You don’t really know these people, and they don’t really know you. So give up trying to argue with them. If they decide they don’t want to be your “friend” anymore, that’s their choice. In the meantime… you still have real friends, and a life to live. A real life.