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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Why You Don’t Want to Be a Guest Blogger on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please

Web Log.

Blah blah blah blog!

Frequently Occasionally That one time Sometimes bloggers email me (using my handy-dandy contact form, which you can find here) asking me if I would allow them to guest post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.  I usually don’t respond because I can tell from the email that the blogger has never read my blog (“I write about puppy dogs and kittens!  I think your readers will enjoy my post!”) but last week, I was contacted by a blogger*** I recognized and that email sat in my In Box for days while I tried to compose a rational thoughtful response. I wrote and rewrote that email until I was finally pleased with what I had produced.

 
 
Dear Blogger Friend,
No.
Yours,
Karen

I thought that would be the end of this episode in my blogging life and maybe I would lose a follower or maybe the rejected blogger would leave a nasty comment but then we would both go on with our lives: me, continuing to write posts that reveal too much information about my sex life, and the blogger continuing to write posts about dinner at Applebee’s (SPOILER ALERT!  The Savory Cedar Salmon tastes like paint thinner).  But instead there was a follow up exchange of texts, and I wound up feeling the same way I felt when I tried to explain to my high school boyfriend, Keith, why we were breaking up.

Me:  I just don’t think we’re a good fit.

Blogger:  What do you mean?  You mean because I don’t write about sex?  I’ve read your blog, you don’t always write about sex, either.  We’re both writing humor.  Have you read my post, “Dinner at Applebee’s“?  It’s really funny.

Me:  I did read that post.  It was very cute.

Blogger:  So what do you mean we’re “not a good fit”?

Me:  I just don’t think we have the right chemistry.

I found true love on chemistry.com (that's a real dating site, by the way.  Go ahead.  Click this picture and you'll find it)

I’m not sure what it is, but whatever it is, we don’t have it.

That line “I just don’t think we have the right chemistry” is the exact line I used on Keith back in high school, and I nearly flunked Mr. Jinkings class sophomore year, so I had no idea what I meant by “chemistry” then, and I still have no idea what I meant by that expression when I used it on this blogger.  However, it seemed to do the trick (on both Keith and the blogger), and the conversation concluded (or, rather, let’s say it appeared to conclude).

I got to thinking more about this encounter and after obsessing carefully considering how I might have responded to the blogger with more specifics, I came up with a list of reasons why you do not want to guest post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.

  • I’m afraid you are mistaken about the kind of traffic my blog gets.

I know it’s hard for bloggers who are just starting out and can’t get anyone but that one weird guy who desperately wants to date them to look at their blog. And then along comes this post from the good folks at WordPress, “Widen Your Circle With Guest Bloggers”, and they think they can widen their circle at Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.

Believe me, my blog is not going to widen your circle.

While I’m pleased (and mystified) by the amount of traffic this site generates, 99.99% of the readers who find my blog are searching for good places to have sex in public and, unless you’ve come up with a few new good spots, chances are they won’t check out your post on what to do with left over cranberry sauce or your recap of this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother.

  • I’m afraid that guest blogging is a little more social interaction than I really want.

I was absolutely emotionally drained by our exchange of a single email and a handful of texts. There’s a reason why I sit by myself each day staring at a computer monitor for long periods of time.  I don’t really want to invest in the (admittedly minimal) human contact that would come with orchestrating a guest blog post.

  • I’m afraid your blog post will suck.

I know it’s hard to believe that someone who wrote about Creepy Public Wanking (not once, not twice, but three times) could be critical of anything you write, but there you have it.

So there are the reasons why you don’t want to guest blog here at Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.  

Tomorrow, we’ll find out what happens when my blogger friend gets the bright idea that if I won’t allow a guest blog on my site, maybe I’ll agree to guest blog on another site.

***I’m hoping that the unidentified blogger referred to in this post takes this all in the spirit of good humor in which it is intended.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

Why That Sucky Blog That Sucks Has More Followers Than You Do, Part II

On Monday, the Daily Post asked the question:

Daily Post at WordPress.com

What makes a blog great? What makes you follow a blog or “Like” a post?

AB_LOGO_webready

Right now, attorneys are drafting a Cease and Desist letter with my name on it.

Yesterday, in Part I of Why That Sucky Blog That Sucks Has More Followers Than You Do, I made you all quite a bit paranoid about the readers of your blog by explaining the reasons why people Like/Follow your posts.  Armed with that knowledge, how can we explain the fact that the dumb post that stupid blogger wrote about his dinner at Applebee’s where his wife ordered this dish and he ordered that dish and that was it, goddammit, they didn’t even take pictures of the food, and not one thing happened that was memorable, let alone bloggable, and I just wasted ten minutes of my life reading that post and now oh my God how did this post get 114 Likes and 278 Comments???????

How can we explain that?  What is there to Like about a dinner at Applebee’s?  What is there to even say about a dinner at Applebee’s?

And yet there are 114 Likes and 278 Comments.

I consider myself to be a member of the Seinfeld School of Blogging, meaning I blog about nothing, so in and of itself a dinner at Applebee’s isn’t automatically disqualified as material for a blog post.  In fact, I envision a future post on this blog about dinner at Applebee’s, because I’ve eaten there (unfortunately), and I’ve rather a lot to say about the experience.  I consider myself to be a bit of a gourmand (or at least a foodie.  Or at least a person who eats), but I’ve decided I’m an abject failure as mother because my daughter wants to go to Applebee’s for her birthday because it’s her favorite.  I blame her father.  His favorite restaurant is Red Robin.

My point is, I don’t think it’s the content of an individual blog post that attracts Likes and Followers, which is why we so often see craptacular posts get a zillion Likes while our best work is ignored.  Think about it.  Isn’t there a post on your blog that got a ridiculous amount of Likes for no reason that you can fathom?  Here’s mine: What If You Had to Marry the First Person You Had Sex With.

Instead, I think we can attribute these mega-Like posts to the following:

  • The Lemming Like/Follow:  A blog is Liked/Followed because other people are Liking/Following.  When I first started blogging, I remember following a blogger for the simple reason that she had 1400 followers and I thought, “Wow!  She must be good to have so many people following her!” so I started following her.  It turned out she is an absolute psycho, and my original reason for following has morphed into something else (see: Trainwreck Like/Follow).
  • The Catch 22 Like/Follow: Similar to the Lemming Like/Follow but it also works in the reverse.  Your blog gets Likes/Follows because it has Likes/Follows and it also doesn’t get Likes/Follows because it doesn’t have Likes/Follows.
  • The Social Like/Follow: Packs of bloggers who roam WordPress in gangs and Like one another’s posts because they’re mafiosi friends.  I actually should do more of this, but I just can’t bring myself to Like that awful post you wrote about Applebee’s.  You’re better than that.  Really.
  • The Are They Fucking? Like/Follow: I’ll confess that there are at least a dozen bloggers I follow because I think they’re having affairs with one another (they aren’t.  Well, they probably aren’t.  I mean, they couldn’t be, could they?)
  • The Trainwreck Like/Follow:  The posts on these blogs are just so bizarre that you can’t look away.  This explains every single Like/Follow on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.
  • The Freshly Pressed Like/Follow: The least valuable Like/Follow, it’s the result of WordPress editors using the random filter (which is no filter at all!) on all the gazillion blog posts published each day.  I’ve been Freshly Pressed twice and while it does give a momentary spike to your stats, you’re left having to respond to a shitload of comments like this: “Your blog is very nice.  Can you please come over to my blog and follow me?”

So there you have it.  Those are the reasons Why That Sucky Blog That Sucks Has More Followers Than You Do.  I wonder if WordPress has any more questions for me to answer . . .

You can join me in mocking Applebee’s with images, like the one in this post, from their media page, Applebee’s newsroom.