I vividly remember wanting to be picked as a Hall Monitor in fifth grade. This “privilege” always went to the better students … the ones whose nose seemed perpetually stuck up the teacher’s rear.
But I sucked it up and sucked up because I really wanted to wear that orange vest and have some taste of authority. And finally, I DID IT!
I got picked.
And as my classmates filed by on my day, my friend Leah wildly waved at me and said loudly, “HI BROOKE!”
I was torn. There’s no talking in the hall; I was meant to give her a yellow card.
I decided that I was going to pretend I hadn’t heard her, when I heard Mrs. Gaines from behind me. “Brooke, you’ll need to give Leah a yellow card for talking in the hallway.”
I turned around, horrified, and sheepishly walked over to my best friend and handed her a card.
“Sorry”, I said.
I know she hadn’t meant to say anything. It wasn’t that she was gossiping or being “bad” on purpose; she was excited for me since she knew I REALLY wanted to be a hall monitor.
And boy, did I get what I wished for.
Fast forward 24 years and the need for authority hasn’t changed. Only now we have internet vigilantes.
Maybe it’s partly because of my experience in 5th grade, or maybe it was several things over the course of growing up, but I’m more of an open-minded person now.
I like to let people come to their own conclusions. I don’t have some deep-seeded need to be “right” – and I especially don’t need to prove others are “wrong.”
While I respect authority, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes authoritative roles can become abusive in nature, and can easily coerce others into mob mentality situations.
I got pulled over by the Internet Police last week.
And it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
It seems a stat I quoted in my post on Visual Literacy was not a stat at all … according to the “police.”
I had heard the stat during a speech about visuals at SMWNYC in February, written it down, and then proceeded to look up the source on Google when I decided to use it in my post.
I’ll be the 1st to admit, I did not do any further research. I can’t speak for every blogger, but I highly doubt we spend hours researching one source for citing.
If it comes from a legitimate source (which I consider LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram – the parties backing this stat at SMWNYC), I trust it.
This is the stat in question:
“We process pictures 60,000 times faster than text.”
Eight words in a 519 word post sent a group of gentlemen (if you can call them that) after me like a duck on a June Bug.
Dean, the leader, left a comment on my post saying that the stat “may not actually be a fact”, and linked to a post.
I thanked him for his opinion, and underscored the importance of literacy and how marketers should start to try to understand visuals better.
Apparently “may not actually be a fact” really means it IS a fact, I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you don’t remove the “fact” in question I’m going to make an online spectacle of you.
Because I got a 2nd comment from Dean (which I didn’t approve) that said:
“It’s not really an opinion. It’s a fact. The research would appear to be bogus. I’m not arguing the concept and I agree and advocate for the same thing you are but I have heard many people use this same research and I used to cite it too, it’s just that no one can actually find the original research. I don’t think it’s ethical to cite things that aren’t actually fact.”
From which I gleaned these things:
- His choice of words “may not actually be fact” on his 1st comment (which led me to label it opinion) were a poor choice
- He’s says it’s a fact and then goes on to say the research would APPEAR to be bogus – thus adding to confusion on whether or not this stat is true or false
- He calls me unethical – to which I take great offense
- Since I don’t know enough about what’s true and what’s not, I need to politely decline the argument on my blog post
While I’ve admitted that I took the stat at face value from hearing it at SMWNYC and then finding it on Google, I did not cite it with any intent of being unethical.
But then, nearly simultaneously, I get another comment on my blog (which I don’t approve) from Alan Levine that says, in part:
“Yes, of course visual information is important. Do we need a factoid to support this? The phrase is meaningless. What kind of information? What do we mean by processing? Yes, we can recognize faces among a crowd fast. Yes,. we can identify waldo in a complex image. Does that mean understanding? But please, do not assert a quasifactoid’s value based upon how many people/luminaries have said it (like 60,000 times).”
I’m wondering where this guy comes from when my phone starts blowing up with tags on Twitter …
I’ve always thought calling someone unethical was nice … such a lovely compliment.
When Faced With Internet Trolls …
While police are out there to protect and serve, internet trolls are out there to rip you apart and bring you down to their level.
At this point, I feel the “police” turned into trolls.
I’m sure everyone has their own definition of trolls, but here are a few of my checkboxes:
- They can’t have opposing opinions (or things that “may not actually be fact”) without being nasty or mean
- They don’t operate alone and always sound the horns, calling in other trolls to help them “win” the “fight”
- They’re contrarians – often their own words seem to contradict what they’ve previously said (i.e.: may be fact vs. fact)
- They say things like “so much for civil discourse” when actually they have brought in an army to attack you over 8 words on a 519 word post
- When you “feed” them — which I regrettably did by adding a notation to my blog and continuing to defend myself on Twitter as they kept pinging me — they only grow more hungry
After the 2nd comment by Dean and the comment from Alan and the first “sounding of the sirens” by Dean on Twitter, I had added a notation to my blog stating:
“It should be noted that some people have discrepancies with the above stat. If you’d like more information on this, please see the comment below by Dean and follow his link for more research.”
I thought that should have been the end of it. I wanted to let people make up their own minds on whether or not this “fact” was a fact, stat or otherwise – besides, who am I to decide that the source I cited is wrong and these “gentlemen” (again, I use the term loosely) are right?!
Apparently this lot has made it their online mission to prove themselves right and all others wrong and unethical – and they won’t back down until we concede and bow to their almighty power.
After over an hour of back and forth on Twitter, Dean did finally apologize when I pointed out that:
- My intent was not to be unethical, and it was rude to imply it was
- My blog platform is not the place for their group to promote their platform and/or missions – they have their own blogs for that
- Their approach, rather than coming from a helpful place, was an attack on me personally and therefore did not allow for open conversation or understanding
I thought it was over, but woke up Monday morning to a blog post by Alan stating that I’m no scientist (duh), along with other character assassinations.
He also decided to choose one tweet (out of a string of back and forth that took place for over an hour straight) to make me look as though I wasn’t willing to discuss the subject, even though my very first tweet to the frothy-mouthed trolls said,
(Alan would have a GREAT career in reality TV – I personally recommend he reach out to Bravo for one of the housewives shows … the editing is unbelievable!)
What Would Have Worked …
Maybe it’s the Southern in me, but I really feel you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Had I been approached nicely, had the words not been contradictory, had I felt I was being taught or helped, this all could have gone down the way I prefer – with understanding and openness.
Instead, the opposite happened and now here we are three days later still harping on this stupid stat.
And then there’s me … worrying about my community and whether or not I should “feed the trolls” with this post and open myself to more attacks.
I’ve decided it’s worth it.
We’re so hell bent on proving we’re RIGHT and you’re WRONG that we forget there are humans on the other side of the screen. What we say can be hurtful – even damaging.
While I applaud and agree with their efforts to stop the spreading of information that isn’t scientifically proven, I don’t think we should have to prove it to the detriment of others.
I Leave It To You … What Would You Do?
I still don’t know if this “fact” is fact or not. I felt my notation was enough to quell the squawking chickens pecking at my ankles.
I leave my comments section open — while others, like Copyblogger, do not — so we can have open conversations.
But at what point do you say, “ENOUGH”? When is it okay to protect yourself from trolls, internet police & hall monitors?
Let me know in the comments section below.
See you in the social sphere!
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