Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ditching Online Discussion Groups - A Rational Choice!

Back in May I wrote a post explaining why I ceased to frequent any online discussion Google Groups. As I noted:

"Google groups is as beset by noise from trolls, morons and screwballs as Usenet was in the mid 90s. In fact, I'd say even more.  The JFK assassination is a case in point and shows pretty well that most of the numskulls who post aren't interested in serious discussion - but drive -by snark that would embarrass an intelligent 8-year old. But this was one reason that in 2001 I stopped forthwith with Deja news and never signed onto Google groups. Too much noise, not enough signal."

This was particularly to do with groups on the JFK assassination, which I found increasingly beset by noise and inhabited by that bottom feeder species of internet denizen known as the troll. After citing a number of examples of my own experience, and Richard Charnin's (about whose JFK book I'd written a review) I observed:

"This is why it's a total waste of time, mental capital and energy to attempt to dispense any pearls of wisdom regarding the JFK assassination (and I'd guess global warming as well) on Google Groups. It is simply not a venue conducive to intellectual exercise or exchange."

Well, it appears I am by no means the only person to have left these groups to the lower dregs. An article in the recent Mensa Bulletin ('Why I Quit Online Discussion Groups',  October, p. 32) by Bryan Lundgren, sheds even more light on why intelligent people are no longer inclined to waste time or intellectual capital in these over-hyped venues.

In Lundgren's case he'd signed up for eight Yahoo Groups, hoping to extract some residue of intellectual exchange via collegial and interesting discussions on a variety of topics.  What he discovered instead was more akin to an intellectual vacuum and worse, one inhabited by the usual breed of deranged and deluded assholes one encounters in such places. They know little or nothing, as in the JFK assassination Google groups, yet feel they are entitled to spout off on anything and even that their bilge trumps the contributions of experts.

As Lundgren noted, based on his experience, (p. 33):

"The first time I came across one of these nasty people online I called my Internet-savvy daughter and explained the situation:

'This guy throws out a post that takes five minutes, calls people names . Next the group goes into a five hour frenzy. What's up with that?"

His daughter then asks if he has never hears of trolls, with which she has to deal in her online work - mainly trying to screen their random eruptions as best she can.

Lundgren then cites the Urban Dictionary definition of "Internet Troll":

"A person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with over the internet over extremely trivial issues."

Lundgren then claims to have begun to research online communications, including diagnosing disruptive personalities that seem to pop up in these Yahoo and Google groups like random roaches searching for new feeding stores.  Lundgren also sought to try to learn why "these few bad apples behaved so negatively".  Ultimately, he was able to get to the point of recognizing the M.O. of most of these losers and being able to predict the obnoxious behavior of a certain subset.  Most of these dregs fell into one of three groups: trolls for their own sake, narcissists and depressives unwilling to medicate properly.

The trolls for their own sake are perhaps the bunch most on the loose in Google groups. The JFK assassination especially seems to draw them out, because they believe after they read a few short articles they are experts on it. Thus, they feel compelled to challenge more experienced contributors and authors simply because they can. (One reason I advised Richard Charnin not to waste his time on any of these groups any more, including mentioning his book, Reclaiming Science).

Narcissists, well they just like seeing themselves have fun at others' expense. They can also be especially nasty about it and often engage in character assassination - like John McAdams, a classic case. Meanwhile, depressives engage in this slimy behavior as a way to partially self-medicate, whereas if they'd just leave the keyboard alone and get a Zoloft or Paxil prescription they'd be going out for a jog, or reading a damned book.

Lundgren noted he finally gave up and left the online groups because the effort needed to create and sustain a useful online exchange was "excessive" relative to the rewards. In other words, like my experience with the JFK assassination Google groups, it more and more became a case of tossing pearls before swine and as I noted,

"this is what you get when you offer substantive fare for consideration to mentally deficient imps who are more at ease wallowing in their own verbal feces and hurling it at anyone who dares try to enter their 'den' for education purposes."

Lundgren's solution - analogous to my own - was to be much more selective in internet use. Now, instead of wasting hours and hours uselessly arguing with those not invested in the content or enhancing discussion, he spends more constructive time reading one or two blogs and making the occasional comment.  The time and energy has added more quality to his own life, but I am sure the trolls and narcissists are PO'd they don't have another person whose time (and talents) they can waste.

Lundgren like me, has joined tens of thousands of netizens who have tired of partaking in useless, rancorous online discussions that now are the hallmark of an intellectual wasteland.

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