Lately, my colleagues here on the Houston Press blogs have posted some kind, helpful tips on proper usage of social media to help you avoid pitfalls in a world where employers regularly look you up.
That was sweet of them because I work with good people full of love and huggles (hugs + snuggles) for their fellow man. However, I am not one of those people. I'm an ass, and I have honed being an ass like Batman has honed himself to be the avatar of vengeance and the night incarnate.
Don't worry, I'm an ass for justice...a justass if you will, and while my costume may suck, my mission is pure. I find idiocy and bigotry on the Internet and I treat it exactly as I would treat meeting a zombie. The difference is that instead of caving in their skulls with a PS1 controller, I do it with words. Lately I even get paid to do it, like when 2nd-Amendment fanatics canonize George Washington or when people overstate the frugality of Harry Truman. Nothing shuts down an argument like having someone hand you a check for telling another person that they're wrong.
Still, I can't convince the editors that every tirade is worth some scratch, but I keep on in my mission anyway. Over the years I've come across some truly sad attempts to fight by people who just couldn't muster a real comeback. If you find yourself uttering any of the following, please do everyone and yourself a favor and admit you lost.
5. "I'm Just Trying to Push Buttons"
Used by: Attention seekers, racists, sexists, all other ists, phobes, etc.
What they say: Hey man, I'm saying these things to wake people up! I want to get them thinking, and if you're getting pissed off, hey, mission accomplished.
What it means: Ironically, what this is attempting to do is make you feel bad about getting angry with an inflammatory comment when they just claimed that was the whole reason that they made the comment in the first place. There's nothing wrong with being a provocateur, I've done it myself a time or infinity, but if you have to explain what you're doing then, guess what, you failed.
A real provocateur hates being found out that they were intentionally manipulating people because that's the difference between manipulation and just being a loud-mouthed jerk.
Good response: You're pushing buttons? Well, you pushed the one labeled, "Things That Piss Me Off." Now I'm going to yell at you and you're going to sit there and take it since that is exactly what you asked for. This is courtesy rage.
4. The Message is What's Important
Used by: Misquoters, falsifiers of data, insecure people, zealots
What they say: It doesn't matter if Stalin said, "America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within." It's true anyway!
What it means: Sometimes these kinds of things get spread by people who never feel the slightest responsibility to vet them before they repost, and this response is really just anger lashing back because people don't want to admit that they were wrong. It's a minor crime.
The unforgivable one is people who know that quotes and facts aren't true, and go ahead and spread them anyway because they fit their particular ideological message. Basically, they want the prestige of a famous name without having earned it. It's a blatant something-for-nothing approach that is as damning spiritually as any welfare cheat. If you want to say something like the Stalin quote, just say it, don't try and up the leverage by tacking on the name of a dead person that can't defend themselves.
Good response: Take their profile pic and add a made-up quote that completely contradicts their position to it, then post it on your wall and tag them in the photo. They tend to learn real fast this way.
3. Everyone Knows the Media is Biased
Used by: Biased people
What they say: Everyone knows you can't trust the Associated Press. They're all liberal elitists/in the pocket of big corporations.
What it means: Being part of the media, I'm particularly sensitive to this one, mostly because like most journalists I am frightfully aware what the consequences of getting something wrong are. It means that the rent doesn't get paid and the baby doesn't eat.
I'm not saying that there isn't media bias. We all know to take Fox News and MSNBC with a grain of salt, as should you do so with any Web site with the word "watch" in the URL. However, you also need to always be open to the possibility that the story reported, the one that completely contradicts your viewpoint, isn't a case of bias. It's a case of you being wrong.
Bias is very easy to check, just by looking at headlines, or the helpful "Criticism" tab that Wikipedia maintains on so many articles about news sources. Calling all media biased just proves that you're wrong so often that you have literally lost the ability to know it.
A good response: There isn't a great one here since you're dealing with willful ignorance. The best response is usually, "Unlike, say, you?" 2. You Don't Have the Balls to Say That in Person
Who says this: People that cry when they get punched.
What they say: Actually, that's pretty much it. It usually comes after you've called them an idiot over Obama's birth certificate or the 9/11 conspiracy or something.
What it means: There is only one reason to use this line, and that is in order to frame all further communication as the work of a coward. Never mind that the person you're talking to may live in another state, country or continent. Never mind that you might never have seen this person before in your life, nor will you ever. Suddenly, it's all about you being too candyass to man up and call them an idiot to their face.
Don't worry. That sentence has never been uttered by any person who can actually fight worth a damn. It's a pot-kettle-black thing. You're perfectly safe.
A good response: Unfortunately, you must ignore this one. You can't outwit it since everything you say is portrayed as a delay of asserting your honor, and acting on it, or pretending you're going to, is a good way to end up in jail.
1. Blocking You
Who does this: Sore losers.
What they say: Nothing
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What it means: You won. See, your Facebook may be full of friends of friends, acquaintances, people who went to your school, etc. People that you may not actually know or care to know, and sometime after you or they accept a friend, you run up against the fact that they are a bigot or an idiot. It escalates, and rather than debate you they just close you off forever. Your newsfeed is free, and they can go back to their hole.
A good response: Well, I thought this article worked out pretty well.