There was a fight on Twitter the other day.
If you are familiar with social networking in any way, shape or form, this will come as no surprise.
Somebody was in an argument with an individual on the opposing side of a political issue. He retweeted one of her responses to him – the Twitter way of calling for reinforcements. And naturally, I was first to charge to the frontlines of a debate that was not directed at me whatsoever, screeching my banshee-like battle cry and waving my American flag above my head as I approached.
“Awww! Misogynistic, objectifying slurs. What a good substitute for a coherent argument.”
Not bad, right?
Unsurprisingly, the party in question was not pleased with my having butted in where I wasn’t wanted. We hurtled into the kind of debate that renders you incapable of thinking straight as you vibrate with rage, excitement, and painful flashes of self-righteousness. A slew of “bad words” was fired at me. I deflected swiftly with skillful retweets (followed up by “this is the kind of person I’m dealing with”s and “I apologize for sharing, but she’s the one who typed it”s.) I re-read each tactical strike three times before hitting send, terrified that any typo or excluded apostrophe would be my Achilles’ heel.
She said that women who vote Republican are brain dead.
“I propose that any woman who votes exclusively for either party is brain dead.”
C*nt. Didn’t I realize that the world was grossly overpopulated?
“Calling names makes you appear defensive and incapable of forming a valid argument.”
We went round after round, steadily gaining attention and support from our respective allies. Someone told her to kill herself. She responded by telling the woman to follow her own advice. Several individuals accused her of merely seeking attention and needing psychological help. Among the token insults, we continued to debate.
The hatred and petulance of my own side, by this point, was acting as friendly fire. My brothers-in-arms were so cemented in their beliefs and the knowledge that theirs was the right side that they didn’t care about this girl’s opinion. Things that no one would utter to a person in “real life” were being written, favorited, and retweeted by the dozens. Instead of being the better person and calmly expressing one’s viewpoint, people were succumbing to the screaming and kicking, lowering themselves to the level of the individual I was trying to reason with. After forty five minutes of burning with such anger that my whole couch was vibrating, I was tiring of engaging in such a fruitless argument.
When I get tired of attempting to be mature, the polar opposite takes its place. I stated that until she was willing to level with me as a civilized, respectful person, I was done discussing this with her.
I then tweeted to someone else who was arguing with her and mentioned her Twitter handle very conspicuously.
“Can you tell @personinquestion that I think I hope her fridge stops working so all her ice cream melts and refreezes?”
She told me that she was a vegan; not a savage like me. “Ignoring” her, I again tweeted at our mutual acquaintance:
“Can you tell
@personinquestion that I hope she farts in public and everybody stares at her?”
I know, I should’ve joined debate team.
She told me that I was unfunny, to which I had this sentiment to articulate:
“Oh, I’m very serious. I hope it’s one of those hot, musty farts that isn’t that loud but smells like Satan.”
Blame it on my chronic fatigue, but I don’t have it in me to keep “being angry” for extended periods of time. I’m not good at making enemies. I’m just too lazy.
She responded with “such trash.”
Now giggling maniacally, I clicked “edit.” I changed my name (Michelle Most) to “Such Trash.” I then began a Google search for images of trash cans, then changed my profile picture as well.
I finally simply asked her the question everyone neglected to ask her from the start in favor of self-assuring bullying: Why does this make you so angry?
Without any name calling, she answered.
You may be angry at them, but it’s their right to decide on this issue, I replied.
“Well, I hope they go out of business,” she responded.
Giving a frustrated sigh to my empty living room, I waited a few moments to make it seem as if I had other important things to do besides bickering with a complete stranger over the Internet before replying, “:D Congratulations!! And that’s how you deal with a business you don’t agree with in a free market society.”
Too tired to take myself, her, or any political issue seriously, I began tweeting her terrible clip art of confetti, balloons, and congratulations.
And then she responded with this.
“lol. Stop. You are a smart ass. I’m starting to like you. I don’t want to like you.”
Just like that, two people who disagree on something so sensationalized and inflammatory that we should never be able to be friends began to like each other.
That was one of the most exciting and simultaneously uncomfortable moments of my life.
I told her that though we disagree, I respect her and that I admire her passion. She apologized for being nasty, and I forgave her. I followed her account, and she followed mine in return.
What we often forget is that we’re not going to be right on every issue. More importantly, we forget that politics isn’t about winning a fight – it’s a forum for discussion; for expressing your opinion, then listening to the other person’s, then seriously weighing your belief against the valid criticism they have.
When you write someone off as wrong and therefore invalid, you forfeit the opportunity to show someone the validity of your opinion. You also forfeit a chance to critically dissect your own in order to strengthen and amend it.
Is beating someone down really more important than connecting with and showing respect to another human being?
I may lose some followers and friends when people notice that I regularly correspond on Twitter with the girl I had the argument with. But if someone is so convinced that he’s right that he shuts out everyone who disagrees, do I really want to be friends with him in the first place?
No, actually, I guess not.