Over the past year I've learned something new about myself. I am no longer willing to go to battle on the internet. I'm fairly old-school internet. I didn't have a computer in the BBS days but I know what IRC and newsgroups are. a/s/l? makes me want to cringe and punch someone in the neck. I know better than to click on any link that shows up. Anyone around during goatse.cx knows exactly what I'm talking about.
I used to go to war quite a bit. If someone said something that I felt was blatantly wrong... I didn't rest until they conceded defeat or enough of an army had jumped on the bandwagon to continue fighting well after I no longer needed to.
I no longer partake in such activities. Some might call this maturity.
I can't tell. The impulse is still there. I read something and feel that rush of adrenaline, my impulses screaming at me to grab my armor and weapon and head into battle. Something feels drastically different now. Beliefs feel like regimes. Consensus agreement feels like propaganda. The words spew forth, like a brainwashed member of "the cause" spouting the catch phrases of their visionary dictator. Disagreement is thought crime. Nonconformity will lead the gestapo straight to your door.
It takes me all of about 10 seconds to decide it's not a fight worth fighting.
There was a time when you could talk to people. Debate. Examples. Counter-examples. Evidence. Discussion. Points of view. Relativity. When the dust cleared that was a new understanding of one another and a whole lot of different views to consider and evaluate.
I don't know exactly when the great change happened. People don't want to listen. They don't want to consider anything that is different from what they already believe. What is even more troublesome is that they don't even attempt to support their views. They are just "right" and there don't need to be reasons.
One of my favorite things is when someone is able to change my mind on something. They make a case that is so strong and compelling and with enough reasoning an evidence that I cannot deny its truth. I LOVE when this happens. I want to hear someone argue with me with passion. I want to (virtually) see their eyes light up as they present their case that is obviously dear to their heart. They finish and I evaluate against my own beliefs and wonder if they can coexist or not. In some cases I find myself in total agreement. In others, I may not fully agree but I can understand their frame of reference and the validity of the points within it. The biggest thing is that there is a shared respect in the end. This is rewarding and promotes growth of everyone involved.
In some ways current internet warfare feels like marching off against fanatics. How dare you question the accepted teachings? The battle cry pierces the air and a unified group of voices quote in unison, page 19 paragraph 3 of the manifesto.
At this point I sit back at my desk and just think, "what the hell happened?"
That's not to say that I don't get into the occasional skirmish. I just choose carefully when it comes to the battlefield.