The dogs won't let go of the steak.

My collection of books warning about the dangers of the internet grows. From Lanier to Stoll to Carr and more, I'm a choir being preached to.

Some random rules and guidelines I've assembled and mostly sorta tried to follow:
  1. Dump Twitter. I left Twitter in January, because it's a sewer full stop. Get out now, while you can, before the turds hit you in the face. It inspires the worst behavior, both in response and in thinking you should opine on everything. There is no better place for a witty retort to be misconstrued and cost you your job or whatever else.
  2. Reduce Facebook. If you can dump Facebook, great. If you're like me and have to have an account for work page management and to connect with family, reduce use. No Facebook on my mobile devices. I only check it at my desktop.
  3. Time Limit Entanglements. Embroil yourself in an online battle for no more than one day only. Let's be honest: no one is changing anyone's mind. The internet is where we dig trenches and lob retorts and talking points.
  4. Time Limit Screens Usage. Limited number of hours online and staring at screens (exception: when client work demands I be working)
That's just a few. There ought to be more. But it's a start.

The last one is tough. I have to work really hard to not look at screens all day because that's where my work and income originate for the most part. It's especially difficult yet important in the evening when there are better things to be doing. It's most definitely important to limit exposure in the hour(s) leading up to bed because the blue screens hurt my eyes and it's hard to sleep after staring at them.

It's basically about using the internet as a tool instead of letting it use you as a tool.

Still, I have my moments.

For whatever reason, I like to drop a comment bomb somewhere and then engage in different ways and see how people respond. I find it fascinating to watch the different tactics and methods people use when communicating online, and how they respond to certain replies. Each personality responds differently, and each winds down (or up) as things go along in a different way.

From an observational standpoint, it's absolutely intriguing. The key is observational, i.e. a kind of emotionless apathetic involvement where the actual conversation isn't stirring up too much passion in you. If you have a thin skin, it won't work out well. I kind of wrote about this in my first book, in the essay on North Dakota deadpan.

Some might call it trolling. I don't; to me, trolling is purposefully pushing people's buttons to elicit the worst behavior. I've done trolling. This is more about legitimately responding without trying to control a certain response. It's not caring too much about the response in itself as much as you care about observing how people respond to legitimate interaction.

It's a very good technique for writers who want a better idea of how people who are not like you tend to react or speak; you find out how they respond, the words they use, and the angle they take. I often do this when I'm working on an article, blog post, or book idea and I need a better understanding of where a different group is coming from.

A few days ago, I did just that.

I left a comment on a post that negatively spoke about the Ark Encounter, and then let it sit to see what the response would be (I had a pretty good idea, but wanted to run a bit of a test).

The commenting system on the site was Disqus, which I've never really liked because I find it difficult to stay on top of comments to respond to both in the Disqus dashboard, on the post itself, or via email threading. Still, it wasn't long before I had a growing collection of emails via Disqus alerting me to responses. 

Since I put a one-day moratorium on engagement (see item #3 on my list), I did my best to respond to each comment for the day. I may at some point blog about the responses because I find it an interesting petri dish of human discourse. As I noted, Disqus doesn't make it easy to ascertain which ones I've responded to or not (multiple comments come in at the same time, for example, and the email thread reads as "read"), but I think I hit all of them. Then, at the end of the day when it was time to shut down the screens for the evening, I signed off and let them know I'd had a good conversation (decent folks for the most part, save for one wanker named Trevor) but was calling it as far as my participation.

I'll be darned if, when I checked my email the next afternoon, there weren't another h-yuge pile of comments. I didn't review all of them, but I did review the bottom of the list that was most recent, and just had to shake my head. I am still, several days later, getting email comment notifications. I simply archive them instead of reading them. It would be easy to go back and enter the discussion, but I have the one day rule for a good reason. I've learned my lesson after 20+ years of online experience with such things.

Here is why you ought to have a one-day limit on engagement: the dogs won't let go of the steak.

They got their teeth in, they smell blood, they won't let go.

They're never going to let go.

The steak is going to get mauled no matter what.

The dogs are the target and regular audience for the blog.

You're the steak.

I have learned that there are two places I can leave a comment and get unending returns: Calvinist blogs, and atheist/evolution blogs. Holy cats, do the flame warriors emerge. 

The results for these seemingly disparate sites are the same, oddly. Mostly male. A desire to let you know you don't know enough to have an opinion. Some are more self-controlled, but still have a patronizing way about them. Some just seem to enjoy discussing things (that's ideal). And some have a desire to school you properly, whether by laying "logical" traps for you to step in or just bluntly saying "you're wrong, I'm right, here's why." All of this occurs with varying levels of emotion, projection, indignation, curiosity, congeniality, and belligerence.

I have to admit that the highlight comment on the most recent foray was when a guy going by "Just Bob" grudgingly said I had "wasted native intelligence" i.e. I guess I'm not a total idiot which makes my beliefs all the more unfortunate because clearly those beliefs belong the to the realm of fools. I can very much live with someone thinking my faith and beliefs are foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19).

Wasted native intelligence.

If I met that guy in person, I think I'd shake his hand and buy him a coffee or whatever. That comment made my day and was absolutely worth a day's work of commenting. I told him I'd add that to my internet hall of fame, which I started when some random dude commented more than a decade ago:

Odd: most of my internet hall of fame incidents involve someone with a variation of the name "Bob." It's no wonder I have the website.

I can remember--back in the pre-social media days when blogs were where you had conversations--of being fixated for a week on a post. There were no mobile devices then, so it was a constant state of running the computer or, in extreme "someone on the internet doesn't agree with me!" situations, you simply never left.

Man, that sucked.

Whole days were wasted on furious typing with the achievement of nothing, raising your blood pressure and indignation (if you cared too much).

I don't want to be the dog who won't let go of the steak, or worse, revisits its vomit (Proverbs 26:11), proving myself a fool.

Embroil yourself in online battles one day only. One day only. Otherwise you just waste your native intelligence.

Verify your distance from enemy target, one day only.


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