By Jason Menard
What’s the best way to make sure you’re always ‘right’? For many, it’s using a 3D approach to on-line interaction. Unfortunately, using this approach causes you to miss out on a few other Ds — such as debate and discussion that can lead to positive development of ideas.
So what are these three Ds? You’ve likely seen them or experienced them anywhere there’s an on-line discussion, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or even newspaper comments sections. They are, in order:
And here’s how they work.
The most popular way is to call your ‘opponent’ a troll. There are other terms bandied about, such as Conservative/Liberal, tree-hugger/corporate stooge… but you get the idea.
Once you’ve set that in motion, you can quickly follow up on your ‘opponent’s’ delivery or wording as opposed to the message they’re trying to convey. (The ‘it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it…’ defense.)
Once you’ve established a faulty foundation based on the first two, you can easily move on to the third – dismissal. You see, if I’ve defined that the person delivering the statement is merely a ‘troll’, then I can comfortably ignore anything that comes out of that person’s mouth (or fingers.)
But those other Ds you miss out upon using this process are potentially so valuable: debate, discussion, and development.
And, generally, those who employ the 3D Twitter approach have another D in their repertoire – denial. Castigating others for behaviour they too have perpetuated, asking forgiveness for behaviour that they’re not willing to forgive in others, and using labels as a foundation to undermine discussion when you rail against labelling.
You can still defend and debate without deriding or deflecting.
I’ve referenced this a couple of times and will do so again. In an interview with the head of a veteran’s program at Sunnybrook in Toronto, I was told that they look at aggressive seniors who suffer from dementia as an opportunity – their violent behaviour is an expression of an unmet need. Often it’s one that the person no longer has the ability to express through normal channels.
For example, one veteran became highly agitated and aggressive whenever the news came on. He couldn’t express why. It turns out that the news broadcasts reminded him of his tour in World War II and he was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem was solved by moving him to a location without TVs.
Yes, the behaviour was inappropriate. Yes, this person didn’t express his feelings in the way that most people would deem appropriate. But his need and opinion are valuable – and simply dismissing him as “crazy” or “violent” misses the very real truth of the matter.
People in later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia aren’t the only ones who react with anger or violence to display an unmet need — babies and small children do it too.
That immature behaviour is what stunts any positive growth in any on-line discourse. Sticking your fingers in your ears, throwing a temper tantrum, or calling someone a name doesn’t make you more right — it only serves to prevent you from listening and learning. And when that behaviour is returned in an equally puerile fashion, then on-line discourse can quickly devolve into schoolyard infancy.
I have yet to see a true ‘troll’ in all my years in social media. I have seen many people exhibit ‘trollish’ tactics, from passive-aggressive statements to oversimplifications and generalizations. And I’ve seen many people use the term ‘troll’ as a synonym for ‘someone who doesn’t agree with me.’
But I’ve seen very few people simply out there just to make outlandish statements for kicks.
I have seen people make statements designed to raise someone else’s dander, or touch an exposed nerve. And while I may not agree with how they say it, often there is a valid question, statement, or opinion at the root.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve had some of my most involved and in-depth discussions with some of those who are automatically branded as trolls. And some of my most frustrating, least-interactive engagements have been with those who allege to champion discourse.
The difference? In many cases, the so-called trolls want to talk and have their opinions heard. They’re also willing to listen to you if you afford them the courtesy of listening to them. Conversely, I’ve found some who profess to be the biggest advocate for open discussion are the quickest to invoke the 3D approach and speak in ellipses.
I’m willing to defend any statement I make. If my opinion or idea doesn’t stand up to scrutiny or is indefensible, that is good information to know. Scientifically, one doesn’t test a hypothesis, then say, “That’s it. No more questions — especially from that group of scientists…” It’s opened for scrutiny, testing, and challenges.
And the end result becomes stronger.
It can be tough to look past the pomp and bluster to get at the root of an argument, but some can’t control their ‘passion’ and get lost in the debate. Does that make their point any less valid? In the end, employing a 3D strategy in any sort of debate or discussion leaves your argument or idea with one big D.