Why I Don't Get Involved

I did what I shouldn't do: I clicked on one of those links that popped up while I was browsing. It went to a Japan Times article whose title I thought was interesting, and before long I was reading a host of other articles in that newspaper's web archives; an hour later I was looking at the commentators on YouTube whom the journalists criticised, and others on sites such as reddit that criticised the journalists in turn. This is, I believe, what is colloquially known as a 'rabbit hole'.

It was like going out drinking with a large group of people: I have to do it every few years in order to remind myself why I don't.

There's an awful lot of people out there who are very outspoken. I salute most of them, really, having the energy to keep fighting their fights, and the thick skin to not be completely destroyed by the blowback.

Personally, I just don't do conflict. I've tried making provocative statements and posing probing questions in the past in order to begin a conversation; I don't believe any of us has access to the whole truth, but I hope that by discussing issues in a civilised manner (that is, without recourse to name calling and 'rage quitting' as they used to refer to it on forums) it is possible to arrive at something approaching the truth, or at least a greater degree of understanding.

But the sort of 'conversation' I usually witness online leads me to believe most people who have the energy and thickness of skin to engage in online discussion in the first place aren't necessarily interested in productive conversation. Even where such people are not the majority, they are a vocal enough minority to ruin it for a lot of the rest.

Now that we have the option of forming our own communities of opinion by deliberately selecting those that echo our own. Within these carefully chosen and maintained echo chambers, communities with a position on any particular issue explode with passionate rhetoric about how right they are and how awful or immoral (or whatever label seems most insulting) are those who don't agree with them. Misinterpretation (sometimes deliberate) and misrepresentation are rife. I used to see it all the time, years ago, when I had a Facebook account. It's one of the reasons I left that madhouse.

So now I refrain from posting anything remotely controversial on the few venues with which I'm enjoined to interact with the cyberworld. This is one of the few on which I'm really pressured to say things. The trouble is, I don't want to get involved with the debacle that is most online discussion: Dominated by rabid typists with their eyes and ears bound and gagged. Mention of anything about which strong opinions are likely to be had seems to attract this species of commentator in droves. Besides, making significant statements about anything in my capacity as the English Coordinator over here just wouldn't be professional.

That leaves international events (of which there are few), seasonal celebrations (I milk those when I can), and the weather. I can perhaps say a few things about my garden (though the revelation of too much personal information tends to be disconcerting), and how the weather affects my garden. There isn't much else. I don't go anywhere to look at scenery. I prefer to stay home when I have any choice in the matter at all.

I've heard through the grapevine that a few humans in the world do read it, though I have no idea how many of them, if any, have agreed with the opinions I posted back when I dared to do. Now I'm constrained by respect for the rules of engagement and an awareness of the potential consequences. Perhaps I can flatter myself that this is the wisdom of age.