A simple lesson I learned about ONLINE arguments! And being happier for it!

Long before the advent of “social media”, people shared opinions on IRC— Internet Relay Chat!
I use “share” as a euphemism.
Many users were opinionated, crass, and often deliberately offensive.
Does that mean nothing has changed in the online community?
There was a standing joke that the world’s lowest common denominators gathered on IRC— and I was one of them.

One such user excelled in conjuring up nicknames or handles that already conveyed some form of shock-value even before he chatted with anyone.
Needless to say, we entered into many online arguments.
I hated his guts.
Now in my mind’s eye, I conjured up a larger than life behemoth of a man!
A person who had muscles sprouting from his thumbs— running into forearms the size of tree-trunks!
I think the Warcraft Trolls supplied a subconscious template!

I ended up meeting that person in the offline world.
The takeaway here is that the person I met wasn’t the same person who chatted and fought with me online.
The person before me that day was a mild-mannered guy in his late twenties.
Someone who was going through a bizarrely tough time in his life!
The most revealing thing I recall was that he didn’t take much stock in what his online persona did.
He was hurting, and when he was online, it served as a means of channeling that anger into a fake character.

I don’t know of many people who haven’t had some version of an online fight.
Something that even stretched over months, or heaven forbid— years!
And even those who emerge as somewhat victorious will know that the victories as always hollow.

Nothing condones any aspect of cyber-bullying, trolling, or offensive behavior online.
And if you suspect dangerous online conduct, it needs to be reported to the relevant authorities.
But the minute you remember that an internet connection can be switched off and that a human is on the other side of the line, then it pushes a lot of things into perspective.
Choose your fights carefully.
Are you fighting a real demon(often it feels like it), or maybe someone who is haunted by so many personal demons that their online world has transformed into a manifestation of their struggles?

I’ve become much more relaxed, and subsequently happier since I hung up the gloves in the proverbial online-ring.
I will debate things to a point, but I know when to “tap-out!”
Life is so much easier for me these days when I remind myself I needn’t correct every online mistake or react to every atrocity I perceive!

This approach also washes over offline encounters.
Do you chase after every driver who cut you off on the road?
Or do you take solace in the fact that nothing serious happened?
And have you ever thought about the times when you were the perpetrator who paid no attention to the traffic?

Yes, I know I said it earlier— choose your battles with circumspection.
You’re not weak if you walk away from some things.
I think it takes a lot of strength and courage to walk away from certain things— especially if you have that super-industrial strength gut feeling that you’re right!
Life will provide enough opportunities for all of us to stand our ground— when it’s needed!
But merely swinging a sword all the time and screaming at perceived invisble enmies serves no purpose— and you will end up injuring yourself at some point.
That’s just how the law of averages works!

Until next time!
Matt LR



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