Woke up to be greeted by this message:
“See? This is what your page does. It brings a conservative Orthodox Christian and a polyamorous feminist together in harmony!”
And it had. I’d gone to sleep while a conversation about the perils of modern dating was unfolding on my page. Overnight, two ladies had ended up comparing notes. One was looking for uncommitted play partners; the other for a committed monogamous relationship. On the surface, it looked as if the only thing they had in common was that they were struggling to find what they wanted, but that is far from being the case.
As far as I’m concerned, the most important trait they share is that they can play nicely. Although their religion, politics, lifestyles, interests, goals, etc. are completely different, they can be courteous to each other. It’s a trait they share with all of the people who hang out on my page, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s the direct result of me not being very nice.
I block people all the time. It’s hardly ever over what they are saying, though a very polite rape apologist did get defenestrated. The problem hinges on how they say things. It’s an issue of etiquette, basically. It’s so out of character it’s almost embarrassing, but I am apparently blessed with an inner Jane Austen heroine, and she can’t abide rudeness. People who act like boors on my page are shown the door. I don’t care if they’re well-informed. I don’t care if their views match mine. I don’t care if they believe that the sun shines out of my rectum. If they can’t play nicely, I don’t want them around.
This isn’t a reflection of my sensitivity; I’m roughly as fragile as a rhino. I don’t silence people who disagree with me because I’m scared of contrasting opinions. It doesn’t hurt my ego to realise that not everyone agrees with my views. I am not against free speech, even when it causes people to make giant fools of themselves in public – in fact, I see that as saving me a job. It’s purely a practical call: I can’t get what I want by allowing people to play nastily in my space. I enjoy being able to have informative, courteous conversations about controversial subjects. In order to be able to have them, those who don’t behave courteously can’t be allowed to participate.
You only need one troll on your page to stop everyone else playing nicely. Boors and trolls have huge tactical advantages over nice people. Not only they are willing to play dirty, but they often have all the time and energy in the world to dedicate to their bugbears. Nice people, on the other hand, won’t resort to certain strategies, so their arsenal is reduced. Moreover, nice people tend to have, well, lives; the amount of time and energy they are able or willing to sink into pointless squabbles is limited. If every conversation on a site ends up degenerating, nice people are likely to realise that their time there is wasted. Yes, they could stand and fight for what is right… by why should they? Why should they waste their precious time having unpleasant interactions with disagreeable people? They are far more likely to go looking for more conducive environment.
Trolls, on the other hand, relish rolling around in dialectical poop. The dirtier they can make an environment, the happier they are. Allowing them free reins results in an environment that will attract more of them. Sooner or later, you’ll end up surrounded by trolls and trolls only, and any attempt at a civilised conversation will invariably fail. And here’s the saddest bit: if the original goal was to allow for contrasting points of view to be expressed, it will have failed spectacularly. That type of environment selects for extreme viewpoints expressed in extreme fashions. Everything else is drowned out or chased off.
It is technically possible for a dedicated person to do damage limitation on trollish behaviour, but it’s exhausting. It requires constant monitoring and clearing up and pacifying. It’s an endless, joyless task, and its only upshot is that it allows the trolls to carry on trolling.
I’m a lazy person. I favour a harmonious social environment. I guess I’m a self-serving hypocrite, too, because I prefer the company of people who are ultimately nicer than me. But it works. It works so well that I can go to sleep during a conversation on a potentially sticky topic involving people with widely different backgrounds, religion, ethics, lifestyles, politics, and an age range of over 30 years, and have no concerns whatsoever that it might go south while I’m not watching. It allows me to wake up genuinely looking forward to seeing what has come up, what I might learn from their interactions. And if that’s not a good result, then I don’t know what is.