This is a bit of a left turn from my normal musings, a look into the wonderful world of social media. If you are reading this in print or online, please don't turn the page or tune out. This has as much to do with the real world as anything you can physically touch. In my lifetime, I've never been one to shy away from confrontation, verbal or physical, but I am starting to back away more and more online. Now I still subscribe to the old adage that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me, even as I watch more and more progression to the world where words are violent. No word has ever given me a black eye or a bloody nose. I concede that words can hurt. They can be downright piercing, but only when we let them. My concern online isn't the words of malice but the sheer ignorance of what is thrown around.
I was in a "discussion," I use the term loosely, in a group online the other day. The topic was about automatic transmissions in trucks, which, as you can imagine, deteriorated quickly. I was shocked then as one of the commentators went into a rant about how anyone who was pro-manual transmission was only doing so because the advent of automatics proved that trucking is "unskilled" labour. He went on to say that in every situation, an automatic does a better job and that anyone who could fog a mirror could drive a truck. So as you can imagine, this got a lot of banter started, but I wanted to know what this guy himself did for a living. I asked, and the answer was, "Certainly not trucking!"
Me: Ok, what profession do you have that makes you infinitely better qualified to ascertain how much skill it takes to drive a truck?
Him: I have seen truckers, met them. All idiots, the lot of them, right-wing loonies who have nothing better to do than bitch online.
Me: So, from your large and very scientific study, you have not only been able to figure out our inherent lack of skill and intelligence but also know where our political allegiance lies. While I am a mere neophyte, my intuition tells me you must have a massive amount of education and a big I.Q.
Him: You're just mad you threw your stupid life away to drive a truck; it takes no skill!
It was about this time I logged off. Not because any of this was hurtful but because it was even happening at all. I was in a group on a social media site where it is supposed to be just people from the industry constructively talking about our work. Instead, I was in a no-win less than intelligent argument with someone who either has an axe to grind or is just trolling for people to engage for fun. Either way, it's an utter waste of time. More and more, I find these trolls in my online adventures for work and my hobbies, making me miss the coffee shop or the local bar. That used to be where you could meet people and have random conversations about trucks, hobbies, sports, and even politics! Face to face out in the open, agreeing, disagreeing and sometimes even fighting about our point. Trolls were relegated to fairytales because there were real consequences of engaging in conversation. I don't mean the threat of actual violence but also the social ramifications of randomly yelling at people.
Anyway, the point of it all is that real in-person relationships are still the best. I am eternally grateful for all the people I have met on and off-line in this industry. While I won't completely shut my bandwidth down, I am no longer engaging in conversations that go nowhere.