When I was a kid, I used to get into all kinds of trouble with my parents for saying inappropriate stuff. I was a bit of a motor-mouth at the time, and there was no disconnect switch between my brain and my tongue. If I thought it, I said it. It seems to me that the phrase I heard most in my young life was an exasperated, “Think before you speak!”
As a lesson, it was one that stuck. It’s why you don’t tend to find me in the middle of the latest online fracas. Lots of the folks I follow online tend to get involved in every controversy that crops up around their areas of interest, and it’s not that I’m any different from them. Many is the time I’ll find myself in the middle of typing out a tweet, comment or blog post about some egregious thing someone else has said, when I stop.
I stop and look at what I’ve written, and wonder – is this helping? Does pointing out how some argument is nonsense add to anyone’s understanding or will it just make me feel better? When someone snarkily tells me I’m wrong, my first reaction is usually to build up my original argument more, rather than to listen to their points. So why would my snark be any more productive?
There’s nothing wrong with debate, and certainly nothing wrong with posting opinions and ideas. In fact, that’s the whole point of discussion, whether it’s over dinner or over the internet. But I’ve noticed so many people lining up to take pot shots at folks on other sides of the debate. Is all the aggro worth it? Does it actually advance anything? I suspect that the answer, too often, is no.
It drove me nuts when I was a kid, but I have to admit that my folks were right. Sometimes that few seconds between thinking it and saying it (or typing it) make all the difference.
What do you think? Talk to me via twitter, @darusha.