The world has become extremely familiar, more intimate, and smaller over the past decade or so thanks to the widespread availability of the internet across the globe. With a plethora of information at our fingertips, the world is quite literally within our reach. Tech savvy individuals become instant ‘experts’ mid conversation, with only a keyboard, high speed connection, and google at their fingertips. Laptops, tablets and smartphones keep us instantly connected and online. This can be a good thing, after all, knowledge is king..right? Well, sometimes, yes. Sometimes, these internet search engine champs know just enough to have it backfire.. ending with a foot in the mouth before they disappear with a stroke of the key.
Social media has become an enabler for this type of behavior; popular chat groups have become rife with trolls, and ‘wannabe’ experts alike. Armed with a limited arsenal of search engines, online encyclopedias, and the trusty copy, cut, paste option, these Keyboard Ninjas are ready and willing to take on the world. No matter the topic, and no matter the experience (usually minimal, or none) these Internet Warriors gallantly spout figures, statistics, beliefs, and opinions with no regard to investigating the legitimacy prior to posting them. For those with little experience, no humility, and a warped understanding of basic etiquette and respect, the internet is the perfect medium. Where else can a young inexperienced student, or an older, but mentally immature martial arts practitioner argue and be rude with a senior and more experienced practitioner, and get away with it? Face to face meetings would never happen, and when these meetings are suggested or offered.. poof! the internet ninja disappears with the stroke of key. It’s the online equivalent of a kid who can’t get his way, or begins to lose, so..he takes his ball and goes home. The same result happens, when after a series of opposing arguments, facts are proven to dispute the claims of the ‘internet ninja’ on a topic which was originated by said ‘ninja’..Poof! Delete. The topic, or post disappears, and so does the ‘internet ninja’.
How do we change it, or influence change? The answer is simple, but not always easy. We have to identify these types first, and then disengage from pointless internet conflict. It isn’t always easy because many of us, have a desire to help people, even if it means stopping the spread of misinformation, and lies that are spread by some of the folks..it’s a public service to the martial arts community in which many serious martial arts practitioners and researchers readily engage.
The first identifier: People that are always argumentative, although their original posting or question may seem legitimate, these types are rarely interested in conflicting opinions or ideas that differ from their own. Instead, they are seeking mass validation for an idea that they already believe, and have no interest in opposing ideas, or facts that prove them wrong. When facts (not opinions) are presented, these types often get defensive and lash out by changing the topic or personally attacking (verbally) the presenter of the opposing facts.
The second identifier: They love the bandwagon. Yes, these ‘internet ninjas’ will band together, regardless of personal knowledge of the subject matter, they love to jump on board in an attempt to lend credibility to the other ‘internet ninjas’. Their comments are the equivalent of the bystander during an argument that is contantly over the shoulder of one, shouting: ‘that’s right!’ ‘you tell him!’ No substantial content is offered during the conversation.
The third identifier: They are always right. period. If/When proven wrong, the ‘internet ninja’ refuses to accept correction. They live their lives with the proverbial ‘full glass’ with no room for even a drop of new information. They have it all figured out, and of course, they are happy to tell anyone that will listen. Rarely do we see these types post to legitimately ask for help. Often their inquisitive postings are simply disguised to draw others in that will agree with them. “What is your opinion of_________” As long as the folks replying are in agreement, the conversation is smooth. But when someone replies with an alternate opinion, watch out!
Does this mean that we should avoid these types altogether? NO. they are unavoidable. As long as ego is present in the human psyche, they’ll always be around. Don’t avoid them, but take steps to learn to identify them, and deal with them properly. They’ll argue all day long with you, and feel that they are right. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap. Be prepared by arming yourself with verifiable facts to prove/disprove an incorrect opinion. If you don’t have the facts, don’t fall into the trap.
My personal stance of internet etiquette: In general, I communicate with everyone online as if I’m speaking to them face to face. Good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, those are my personal rules. I should add, this means that I don’t type anything online to someone that I wouldn’t say to their face. I have one identity; I am the same in person and online. Mutual respect, proper etiquette, integrity, and humility are essential, either online or in person. Anyone that doesn’t live by and follow these guidelines have no place in my life, and I won’t waste time with them.