When to Walk Away
Since a number of people said I should go ahead and do it, I’ve created a Jim C. Hines Fan Page over on Facebook. I blame you all.
I found myself in several Internet squabbles last week. One started on Twitter after one of my #Amazonfail posts. In that case, the other person and I swapped e-mails, and that was the end of it. I don’t think we changed each other’s minds, but it gave me another perspective to think about, and I appreciate that.
Another didn’t go so well. This was someone I know not to bother talking to in normal circumstances, but he was talking crap about a friend of mine, so I called him on it. The conversation went downhill from there. I eventually walked away, but I should have ended it much sooner.
It’s hard to walk away. I know where xkcd is coming from with this strip. It’s one thing to have an intelligent debate. Unfortunately, most of these arguments end up being the opposite of intelligent … yet the more the stupidity grows, the harder it is to walk away. It’s like the mosquito that keeps buzzing around the room, and you can’t go to bed until you’ve squashed the damn thing.
But you can’t squash online stupid. So I’m trying to learn when to let it go. As a part of that lesson, I put together some questions to ask myself, to help me recognize when it’s time to stop.
- What point(s) did I set out to make? Have I made them?
- Am I just pouring my own stupid onto the fire now?
- Is there anything the other person could say to make me agree with their point of view? (If not, it’s a good bet nothing I say will make them change their mind, either.)
- Who else is involved, either actively or otherwise? For example, arguing with a Publish America author might not change that author’s mind, but might educate and help others reading the exchange.
- Have I had this same argument with this person before? (If so, see Einstein’s quote about repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result.)
- Is this spilling into my real life? (Am I going back to the argument when I should be writing? Am I letting this person make me cranky in my interactions with my family?)
- What is my goal? Am I trying to win? (Never going to happen. What would “winning” even look like?)
- Would I say these words to the other person’s face?
- Can anything come of the argument that will make my life or anyone else’s better?
From time to time, my karate sensei talks about bullies and insults. If someone tells you you’re ugly, you smile and say “Thank you very much,” then walk away. Because why should that person’s opinion have any power over you? They’re not the most important person in your life. The people who do matter, they’re the ones whose opinions I should care about. Not some online twit.
Easier said than done. It feels almost unjust to allow someone to keep being wrong on the Internet. “That person is Wrong! We can’t let him get away with it!”
I hate fighting. I’m not someone who takes pleasure is taunting or trashing another person online. But I believe some battles do need to be fought. I also think there’s a time when I’ve made my point and need to walk away. I just need to get better about recognizing that time.
February 8, 2010 @ 9:47 am
I agree with everything you say, walking away is a good thing. Plus, not taking it personally when someone walks away.
“Am I just pouring my own stupid onto the fire now?”, that I love.
Jim C. Hines
February 8, 2010 @ 9:49 am
I think, for me, one of the things that’s tied up in walking away is that stupid need to get the last word. Like whoever’s still rambling at the end wins.
February 8, 2010 @ 9:52 am
What was it with last week? I ended up in three flame wars (cough…not that I fueled the flames or anything). I love the checklist. It is now bookmarked on my desktop.
Jim C. Hines
February 8, 2010 @ 9:56 am
I know the Amazon/Macmillan thing brought out a lot of anger and nastiness in certain circles, but beyond that, I have no idea. Maybe Groundhog’s Day just brings out the worst in people.
Tweets that mention Jim C. Hines » When to Walk Away -- Topsy.com
February 8, 2010 @ 10:16 am
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Angela Perry and Jim C. Hines, Rae Carson. Rae Carson said: RT @jimchines New Post: When to Walk Away http://bit.ly/bcuATV (GREAT post.) […]
February 8, 2010 @ 1:08 pm
Great post! Thanks for writing it. I have made some amazing friends on Twitter and I have also made some surprising enemies. I need to practice the “unfollow” or “Block” options more often then I do.
February 8, 2010 @ 5:37 pm
Well, since I love your books, I’ll make you an offer. Since, so far as I can tell, I’ve never been wrong in an internet argument, you can email me and I’ll give you the straight dope. You can count on me. And, I’ve never, ever kept an argument going long after it was obvious that all that was happening was retrenchment in position. Never.
So, let me know. I’m here for you. And, I want more Jig.
Jim C. Hines
February 8, 2010 @ 6:28 pm
A very kind offer, thank you! I’ll keep that in mind the next time I wade into one of these things 🙂
Jim C. Hines
February 8, 2010 @ 6:30 pm
Thanks! Glad it seemed to resonate with folks.
I think the Internet needs to come with a universal “Ignore” function for people. It would make it so much easier to avoid letting certain individuals get under my skin.
February 8, 2010 @ 8:26 pm
There’s this person who I have on my Twitter feed because he links to interesting stuff. So what if he always says something about it that I disagree with strongly, and so what if I read the article he linked to and come away with the opposite opinion? He has only 140 characters in a tweet, and I can deal with 140 characters.
Funny thing is, this guy probably thinks I’m his friend. And I probably am. But he has no idea that I can hardly stand to read his point of view.
Vent to someone nearby. That’s what I do. Once you write it down, it becomes immortal. Especially on the Internet.
Jim C. Hines
February 9, 2010 @ 8:08 am
I kind of enjoy reading comments and posts from people I disagree with. I figure it helps on the whole open-mindedness thing. But there’s also a big difference between disagreement and just being a jerk.