There Needs to Be More Disagreement on the Internet

I’ve had it up to here (FYI: I’m holding my hand up to my chin) with all you people agreeing with one another on the Internet.

Doesn’t anyone like to fight anymore?

Maybe not, and maybe we never did. According to this article, “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings,” there’s some research that shows human beings want to treat all opinions, even objectively proven false ones, as equally valid. They’ve named it “equality bias.” This research might explain why human beings give credence to the anti-vaxxers, climate change-deniers and flat-earthers.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I disagree with the study’s conclusion, as I’ve been known to disagree. Instead of believing that humans strive for “equality,” I think the experiment shows that humans naturally work towards consensus or accommodation, even with idiots, and especially when we are working/living in close quarters with them, as opposed to across a natural boundary like a river or a mountain range. When idiots live on the other side of the mountain, the idiots on one side gather sticks and stones and mountain climbing gear and then head over to take what they can.

Anyway, I’m not going to weigh in on the import of this new research. Long time readers of this blog already know my opinion: lots of supposedly “scientific” research just confirms the existing biases of the researchers. In a few months, there will be a new study that contradicts this one, and confirms the biases of a whole new set of researchers. Still, I won’t dismiss this research entirely, and I like to think of it as a starting point for argument debate discussion.

So let’s argue debate discuss.

I’m intrigued by what this new research might mean for something that has long puzzled me: why do people leave comments on blogs such as, “You are so right! Great post!” and “Is it ok if I re-blog this? You put the words to my thoughts exactly!” I mean, they leave those sorts of comments on your blog posts. I don’t get those sorts of comments on my blog posts, because no one reads my blog who wants to be seen endorsing porn, or admit they were Googling the best places to have sex in public or reading about, um, Miley Cyrus?

I'm terrific at everything!

Dunning-Kruger effect, unskilled version: Yes,  I am terrific at this!

Now let’s see what “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings” has to tell us about why people leave those comments. If you didn’t click on the linky-link to the article, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up: The article reports on an experiment examining the Dunning-Kruger effect. From the Wikipedia entry (despite what your teachers told you, Wikipedia is a great source of information on all things), here’s the definition, because I know you slept through Intro to Psych, on account of that was the semester you were dating the guy in a band who played a bunch of gigs out of town and what were you thinking when you signed up for an eight am class, anyway?

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

The Dunning-Kruger effect: I'm pretty good at this. Other people must be good at it, too, like that goofy guy over there holding his finger in the air.

The Dunning-Kruger effect, highly skilled version: I’m pretty good at this. Other people must be good at it, too, like that goofy guy over there holding his finger in the air.

So that’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. This new experiment looked at the behavior of those high-skilled individuals when they encountered the unskilled. To the surprise of perhaps no one except the researchers, the highly skilled folks worked toward consensus with the unskilled, even after the incompetence of the unskilled was exposed, time and time again. Instead of being discounted, the view of the unskilled was treated as being just as good.

Ok, I can’t be the only one who was reminded by this experiment of the various “teams” I’ve participated on in the workplace: the goal of the workgroup isn’t so much to come up with some great new idea or process (Yay, synergy!), it’s to control the PITAs. It’s not that we believe their ideas are “equal”; we just want to go home at 5 o’clock.

By now you’re probably thinking, What the hell does this have do with comments on blogs? Am I suggesting that you, or your readers, are idiots incompetents unskilled? No, I’m suggesting this explains why you got 274 comments (of which, 137 were your reply of “Thanks!”) on your last post, all of which said, essentially, “Great post! I agree with you so, so, so much!” and not one “You could not be more fantastically, historically, gargantuanly wrong!” There seems to be a human need to reach agreement, or at least the appearance of agreement, and the evolutionary benefits are obvious: if we didn’t mostly agree with one another, we’d rip each other’s throats out, and long ago the earth would have been over run by amoebas, who don’t have enough brain cells to form an opinion, let alone a cohesive argument. (I wonder what amoebas would argue about if they could. Perhaps whether  phagocytosis or  pinocytosis is a superior method of absorbing nutrients. Again, Wikipedia comes in handy!)

Except, every once in awhile, a reader (like me) comes along and says, “Hold on a minute. I don’t agree with your blog post and here’s why.”

As a person who enjoys arguing debating discussing things, and, as the writer of a blog that occasionally veers from its stated goals of humor and sex to discuss the way we behave on the Internet, I often wonder why people bother to express their agreement in comments on posts.  If all I have to say is “Right on!” or “Word!” or “IKR” (depending on your generation), why bother? The blogger has already said what I wanted to say in the post, apparently, and better than I could have said it. Do I really need to give him/her a thumbs up in the comments?  Isn’t that why we have a  “Like” button? (Oh, man, don’t get me started on the “Like” button). Does what I will call a “cheer-leading comment” really add to the discussion?

Or maybe I’m thinking about it all wrong. Maybe it’s not a discussion. Maybe the comments section of a blog are just a bunch of human beings milling around, trying to convey a more primal message: “I’m not dangerous. Please don’t attack me. See? I agree with you. Now let’s go off and hunt a mammoth together.”

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I don’t want to go off and hunt a mammoth agree with you.

I’m sure if I were born out on the tundra somewhere 2 million years ago, I would have slowly starved to death because I pissed off the rest of my tribe.

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: Do you think this makes sense, what we’re doing? I mean, there’s an awful lot of walking.

My Cro-Magnon Colleague: What else would we do all day? It’s not like there’s TV to watch.

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: I don’t know. Maybe we should sit down on those rocks over here and we can brainstorm some ideas.

My Cro-Magnon Colleague:  That’s a waste of time! We only have eight hours of daylight to hunt this mammoth!

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: Is it a waste of time? Can you give me just five seconds to let me explain how it’s not a waste of time?

My Cro-Magnon Colleague: That’s it! No fucking mammoth for you. I’m tired of your bullshit arguing all the time about everything!

Anyway, don’t worry. Despite what this research says about me (I’m an anomaly? A weirdo? A jerk?) I’m still going to wander over to your blog to argue debate discuss. You’ll write some nice post about the dinner you had at Applebee’s, and then you’ll see my little gravatar show up in your comments and you’ll  think, “Oh, no, not this asshole again.”

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com

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41 thoughts on “There Needs to Be More Disagreement on the Internet

  1. Michelle at The Green Study says:

    I think there’s a sufficient enough disagreement on the internet, but the nature of the disagreement usually boils down to: feminists vs. MRAs, conservatives vs. liberals, childfree vs. parents, gun owners vs. those who don’t. Boring, bilateral arguments that eventually heat up to name-calling and stereotypes.
    I’ve seen some of your more argumentative comments and I think they contribute to the discussion, whereas many of the aforementioned don’t. I also think that how one regards any sort of comment forum changes the nature of it. I see it as conversation, but I get the feeling that many people just want to smiley-face things up (I see your irritation with likes against mine with emoticons).

    Like

    • Karen says:

      I’m so guilty of using emoticons (and their newer cousin, emojis), that when I die the winky face should probably be etched on my headstone, though I’ll try to refrain from using them in comments on your blog in the future (no guarantees, though).

      And you’re right, of course, there is a lot of disagreeing going on on (on on?) the Internet. I think I spend too much time reading comments on blogs. I probably should just read the post and move on. People want to say something, so they comment “good post!” for whatever reasons they have, which is plenty good enough reason to do so.

      Like

      • Michelle at The Green Study says:

        I’m guilty of using the ubiquitous Like button for everything from “Hey, I read your post” to “Good post”, so I don’t have to write lame comments. Although, I still seem to manage that anyway. I suspect my emoticon revulsion originates from the same place text speak does – I’m old and I like words.

        Like

        • Belladonna Took says:

          I don’t agree with the anti-like griping that keeps popping up. I think the like button is a useful tool. If I “like” a post, it pops up in the sidebar on my blog – so it’s a way of sharing without actually reblogging. And I like getting “likes” too … as someone who has yet to break the 200-followers barrier – which means maybe 30 actual human followers who regularly read my ramblings – I find it affirming. Much as I march through life saying “Screw you, I yam what I yam”, it gives me warm fuzzies to be liked. Just not that evolved, i guess… 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          • Karen says:

            I’m not sure if you’re serious with the comment or not, but I’m just going to go ahead and respond as though you are–

            First, 30 actual human beings regularly reading your blog is nothing to sneeze at. 99% of my followers are people who only signed up in the hope I’d go over to their blog and purchase generic Viagra from them, and the other 1% are just weirdos. 😉

            And my issue with the Like button is kind of a running joke on this blog–I’ve written about it several (probably too many!) times, and some of the commenters know it’s a way to get me going.

            Comments are hard. Sometimes there’s nothing to say. I read a lot of blog posts. I “Like” some (way more than I used to), and I comment on a few more. But mostly I come and go, and you never even know I was there. I’m not a cheerleader, hugger or hand-holder here on WordPress or on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please or in real life, for that matter. I don’t believe that has anything to do with “evolving” or feeling superior–it’s just my personality.

            Like

            • Belladonna Took says:

              Bwah-hah-hah … Karen, I was just looking for something to be argumentative about, as per your demand (request? It’s in all caps, so I’m going with demand!) that there be more disagreement on the internet. I do actually like the “like” button – for comments just as a way of saying “I hear ya, why not pop on over to my blog and get acquainted?” and for posts because it’s a way to share – I’ve noticed that people do click on my “posts I’ve liked”, so it’s working. But I don’t feel strongly about it. Yeah, I get a kick out of people liking or commenting on my posts, but I’m going to keep whacking away here regardless.

              For what it’s worth, I do greatly enjoy your blog, which is why I stepped in to play today. I’m sorry if my way of doing so discombobulated you! I think I do tend to be somewhat of a “cheerleader and hand-holder” – some of the bloggers I follow are going through hard stuff, and it makes me feel good if I’m able to say something that gives a different perspective that maybe helps. But it’s not something I particularly look for for myself; I’m more interested in engaging in discussion or play.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Allie P. says:

    Hmm, if your group brainstorming sessions are anything like mine, you are looking at least a two hour meeting and that is assuming that at least one Cro-Magnon colleague was nice enough to bring dinosaur doughnuts. Now assuming that you didn’t allow the team to get sidetracked by the dinosaur donuts either being fossilized or completely mismarketed, the herd of mammoths you are hunting could be up to fifty miles away (if they were running) by the time you break for lunch. Considering a person on average can only travel 26 miles by foot in a day, you just potentially starved your clan (dinosaur donuts are empty calories), but at least you stuck to your principles.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Karen says:

          You know, I dropped a couple of F-bombs in a comment on your blog once, and after I hit “SEND” I realized (don’t ask why I didn’t realize before) that sort of language might not be appreciated on other people’s blogs. Sometimes I forget we’re not all longshoremen hanging out at the docks all day like I am 😉 Anyway, since I made that comment on your blog, I’ve been trying to watch my language when I “visit” other blogs. But this is my blog, so fuck, shit, and goddammit. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea says:

    There’s plenty of fighting on the ‘net – mostly on facebook. Sadly, these arguments turn into the electronic version of my dick is bigger than your dick, quickly followed by vague insinuations about your mother, your questionable parentage, and bacon.

    And what about the cats?

    Can I get a side of bacon with the aforementioned dinosaur donuts?

    Like

  4. Belladonna Took says:

    Right. So in the interests of scientific inquiry, I disagreed with every commenter on here. I then clicked the like button. It’s official: It’s easier to click like than actually think of something to say.

    Like

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