Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

The Surreality, Hypocrisy, And Futility Of The “Serious” Internet Argument

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There is a strange type of popularity that comes with being a well-known blogger. It’s almost surreal. While a (very, very, very, very small) percentage of the general population is very familiar with you and your work, an even larger percentage isn’t even aware that the medium you derive your popularity from exists.

You can be an obscure author, comedian, or rapper with a small but very passionate and very engaged fanbase. What separates blogging is that even if most people haven’t heard of that particular author, comedian, or rapper, they’ve at least heard of books, comedy, and rap music.

Let me put it this way: I’m sure many of you reading this have, within the last couple of years, had explain to someone what a “blog” was. If not, you were probably the person someone explained “blogging” to.

I’m not complaining, mind you. This surreal strain of “fame” is just a reminder that the internet world, while limitless, is very small—and very exclusive—and that helps keep things in perspective.

That said, when it comes to internet-based arguments and debates, this perspective tends to get lost pretty frequently by many people…including me.

To wit, Panama and I had a 1500 word long discussion last week about street harassment that led to over 800 comments. This discussion was prompted by a burgeoning national conversation about street harassment that doesn’t seem to be losing any steam.

But, I doubt the men who are online all day pushing back against the anti-street harassment movement are actually the ones on the street catcalling women. I’m also sure that the women arguing with these men are aware of that. What you end up having is an impassioned internet argument that doesn’t really serve any lasting purpose besides teaching people how to win or lose an impassioned internet argument.

You also see this whenever any internet conversation about dating starts to get heated. Despite the fact that many (if not most) people offline seem to have had good relationships and generally feel good about their relationship future, online the dating world turns into World War Z. I had a friend tell me a few years ago that she didn’t even know she was supposed to feel bad about being single until she got on the internet.

And please, don’t let the topic be interracial dating. Aside from Rick Santorum and Black barbers with bad haircuts, no one offline gives a damn about who you date. Online, though, you’ll find Black men who’ve had nothing but positive interactions with Black women offline referring to Black women as hoodrat bedwenches, and Black women who, despite the fact that they have Black fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, nephews, and friends they love and Black sons they’ve produced, consider Black males to be the bane of all existence.

Now, although these internet arguments don’t have much of a direct effect on or connection to what happens offline, they’re not completely purposeless. I was aware that some men catcall and randomly proposition women on the street, but I never thought to consider how dehumanizing it could be and how unsafe it could make women feel until reading a few pieces about it.

Also, I’m aware that I’ve led a (relatively) “easy” life so far, and these serious internet arguments—as hyperbolic as they can get—tend to increase certain awarenesses for people like me. Maybe things aren’t as bad as the internet would tell it, but extremes help reiterate the fact that different people have had different experiences, and these different experiences create different ways of viewing the world.

Still, the next time you find yourself in the middle of a heated internet debate about a topic that only 0.000000001% of the population would even consider discussing, do me a favor. Log off, take a walk, tell the first person you see in the street about the nasty argument you had in the comments section of VSB about passport stamps, and study their face when they ask you who and what the f*ck you’re talking about.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • Oshun

    “Log off, take a walk, tell the first person you see in the street about the nasty argument you had in the comments section of VSB about passport stamps, and study their face when they ask you who and what the f*ck you’re talking about.”

    DEAD, BURIED in transition to heaven, currently outside the pearly gates waiting for the Messiah to open the doors.

    • nillalatte

      All kinds of hilarity in that statement.

    • The Champ

      You’re going to Heaven?

      • Oshun

        yes???? where else does a saint go?

  • nillalatte

    LMAO!!! The only person I used to talk about this blog with I don’t talk to much anymore, but when I did tell him about the drama on this site, he couldn’t BELIEVE the silliness we argue about on here. I remember texting him once a question that TUK posed… Should a man or a woman get paid more for p*rn? He text me back, “Let me guess, you’re back on the blog?!” LOL… Where the heck is TUK anyways?!

    • Epsilonicus

      I miss TUK too. I am a follower of his on Twitter.

    • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

      LOL. I bring up VSB debates in conversations, too. It always starts out, “I was on VSB, right…”

    • LMNOP

      I don’t venture into the comments section on any other blogs or websites, but I have read some, and learned that people are f#*king crazy. They argue about stupider ish then we do here. Also from the internet I have learned that there are some people who are against people having children, which is kind of a mind bogglingly bizarre and short-sighted stance. I’m glad they have the internet though, because that kind of ish wont fly ANY WHERE in real life.

    • Rachmo

      Ok I totally talk about our convos on here with my friends. They think I’m nuts.

  • TheOtherJerome

    Man, either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in these internet streets. I had to serve a internet troll just the other day…..

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      i dont even feed the trolls anymore, im mutumboing aything

  • minxbrie

    My typical response in my head if someone tries to pick a fight with me online: but WHO are you though?! If I don’t know you offline, chances are you are irrelevant to the bigger picture of my life.

    I just don’t understand why some people feel that because they’re behind a computer screen, they don’t need to be respectful or decent. Hence why I only comment occasionally here and refuse to even read comments in other places, because people are disgusting. And I don’t know if it’s just to pick fights and stir something up or if they genuinely feel like airing out all their repressed feelings.

    • Msdebbs

      People like that live on the web & have no real business.

    • Abu Husain

      I’d say it’s a little of both. People are 10 feet tall behind a computer screen and can say whatever is on their mind without fear of repercussions (most of the time).

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

      i was just talkinn with a friend about how our personalities dont change when we are drunk because we arent hiding/repressing anything. same as the internet. people who are deeply conflicted finally have the chance to open up. when i feel the vibes in their words, i can feel how deeply their souls ache. i cant engage, but i do my best to have compassion because they keeps me from being infected by their pain ..

  • Msdebbs

    Lmao… This couldn’t be more true. Offline people don’t care about Internet beefs.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      idk i done seen barbership debates almost turn into fair ones….but it wasnt over 200 dollar dates tho

      • Msdebbs

        $200 dates???? ???? Forgive me if I’m late but where they do that at?

        • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

          Twitter.

        • Rachmo

          DC

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            Politicians pay far more. Ask me how I know.

        • LMNOP

          I’m pretty sure $200 “dates” are a tactful way to refer to appointments with professional “daters”

  • Epsilonicus

    See I almost lost a friend on FB because of a debate about single motherdom on Fathers Day. I said it is really tacky for single moms to say “Happy Fathers Day” to themselves. My home girl got pissed at me. Needless to say, I did not back down and she unfriended me. It took me almost a year to realize it.

    We talked it out and she said she felt upset that I never considered how she felt when I posted that opinion. I told her I still felt I was right and that she needs to jut call me next time I say something. She stated that she just would ignore my FB rants (I bring up a lot of political/social commentary; one topic was about food stamps, another was about Lauryn Hill being a one hit/album winder as a solo artist).

    I never fight with folks I don’t know on the internet. It is always people I do know.

    • Msdebbs

      Some people are easily offended & can’t handle a good debate. I don’t think she should’ve unfriended you for that. It’s just a difference in opinion.

      • Epsilonicus

        Thats what I thought but I guess not

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        especially when she couldve easily just hid that particular status from her feed

        • Epsilonicus

          Especially when we been friends since before there was a FB

    • HRH Prince Farouk I

      Unfriending you was a bit of overkill in my opinion

      • Epsilonicus

        She took it personally, as if I was coming for her neck and I was not. And I felt that since we were friends for some years, she should have just said something.

        • Oshun

          it’s passive aggressiveness….might she be a virgo?! They cray cray as all hayle!

          • LMNOP

            I think some people defriend after one status they dont like because they have no impulse control.

          • SuperStrings

            On virgos…I second that.

    • http://www.blackyodaprime.blogspot.com/ Black Yoda

      I’ve lost 3 or40 “fb friends.” The worst part is they always feel the need to tell me why they’re unfriending me. I don’t give a ish. Just go. I assume that at any given moment somewhere between 30-90% of the people hate what I say. They can’t usually refute it. They just don’t like it. Fair enough. I don’t have time to go through why each individual person can’t stand me. And even if I did have the time, why would I want to spend it going over why you don’t like me? To help you get closure? :-) When people pull that stunt, and by “people” I mean women, it just makes me want to f&%# with you now because you’re f#%&*ing with me. :-) By the way, you’re 100% correct about moms wishing themselves a Happy Father’s Day. It makes them look ridiculous. It’s like celebrating mental retardation.

      • Epsilonicus

        I feel like if your child’s father suck, just do not say anything. Or celebrate the other men who step up and play a pivotal role. Getting ratchet on Fathers Day is an inherently selfish act

      • Shamira

        I’m pretty sure this was a typo, but I burst out laughing at “3…or 40″ lmao

        • http://www.blackyodaprime.blogspot.com/ Black Yoda

          It’s not a typo. :o)

      • The Champ

        “The worst part is they always feel the need to tell me why they’re unfriending me”

        I guess a boycott doesn’t matter if people have no idea you’re boycotting

        • Keisha

          Kinda like that cell phone commercial where the girl calls to let the guy know she is giving him the silent treatment…. :-)

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      the fathers day debate yeah i just iverson step over that one..i had my facebook feed looking like world war z 2 years ago…

      ive had similar falling outs, most of the time it isnt what i said but just the cosigns made her feel some type of way even tho she dove in front of a bullet not meant for her.

    • LMNOP

      Shoot, I think its kind of tacky for FATHERS to wish themselves a happy father’s day. But every father’s day I do see facebook statuses wishing all the dads and single mothers out there a happy fathers day, and I think its kind of nice.

      • Epsilonicus

        It is a backhanded diss to men for single moms to say happy fathers day to themselves.

        Why is tacky for dads to say it? Never heard that one before.

        • The Champ

          “Why is tacky for dads to say it? Never heard that one before.”

          I think it’s in the same vein as wishing a happy birthday to yourself.

          • LMNOP

            yes. exactly.

        • LMNOP

          I dont know, to wish your self a happy anything seems kind of tacky to me. Like if its your birthday you just say its your birthday and wait for OTHER people to wish you a happy birthday, you dont wish yourself a happy birthday.

          I do make myself a nice breakfast for mothers day, but I dont go around saying “happy mothers day to me!”

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            Due to Facebook I don’t have to mention my birthday officially lol But I always make a point to say it’s my day of birth and spit a tidbit about how I’m grateful for the chance to see another year :-) I don’t troll people to get them to say it to me though. THAT is tacky.

            • LMNOP

              Exactly. That is the ideal way to do it, say you are grateful for another year. For your graceful way of mentioning your birthday, I say “Happy Tuesday to you, Afropetite!”

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                YAY! Happy Tuesday to you as well!!!

      • Oshun

        I LOVE it when I see Fathers wishing themselves Happy Father’s day. To me, it is an indication of how proud they are to be someone’s father. Shoo, when I get my dog, I’ll be wishing myself happy mother’s day every damn day, like yohoo, over here, happy mother’s day to me.

    • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

      I had a friend who holds the same sentiments about Father’s Day and single mothers. Needless to say single mothers went hard in the paint when he expressed those sentiments. I don’t understand though. You had mother’s day in May. You’re a mother, celebrate that day with all the other mothers. Father’s day is already watered down as it is, let fathers who are present in their children’s lives have their day. I’ve never ever heard of single fathers insisting upon playing “mommy” for mothers day even if they do fill that role because their child’s mother is absent.

      • Todd

        Siedbar: for some reason, single mothers are much more likely to want to be thought of as a mother AND father than single fathers wanting the same. I’ve thought about it, and I’m not quite sure what that’s about.

        • Epsilonicus

          My thing is that no one can be both. I always say you have to fill in what is missing with other folks in your circle. That is how my mom did it at least

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            I agree. I’ve seen many people come from single parent homes have that mother/father role filled by other family members, mentors, etc.

          • Todd

            I think you and LMNOP have a piece of the answer. On one hand, LMNOP is right that sexism is real, and a woman stepping up into a man’s role is considered more impressive than the other way around. On the flip side, I think women are always more likely to think they can do something (vis a vis child rearing anyway) that they might not be able to do, so they don’t seek out help where they can. Good points.

            • LMNOP

              There is also a lot more of a stigma for women admitting they are struggling with aspects of child rearing than for men I think.

              • Epsilonicus

                There is!!! I have seen folks online say stuff about folks parenting I know they would not say online. Women are expected to do everything perfectly when it comes to children. No matter what. That pressure is immense.

          • LMNOP

            I have a serious question about this. Do you think gender is important in this? That it matters if you have mostly women filling in as the other parental type figures? And if so, does the gender of the child matter for whether/ how important that is?

            • Epsilonicus

              I think you you need other genders to fill that missing role. So if you are a single dad, there are things you need women for and vice versa. My reasoning is that men and women view the world in very different ways and thus a child needs both perspectives A single parent cannot provide that and must seek that elsewhere with other positive role models.

        • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

          societal norms

        • LMNOP

          Ooooh me! me! I know what thats about!

          In our society, we value men more than women, so for a man, to be acknowledged as being in a traditionally female role is an insult, while for a woman, saying they are in a traditionally male role is a compliment, and like “good for you.”

          • T.Q. Fuego

            In their minds it’s a compliment. In my mind it depends on how they ended up in that situation in the first place. Some things people would come out better keeping to themselves.

      • Epsilonicus

        Amen. Let folks have their day. No need to poo-poo on it.

        • LMNOP

          True. Worst case scenario, its just a Sunday in June, which is nice too.

          • Epsilonicus

            I love me some Sundays. Especially when there is NFL on

    • SuperStrings

      I don’t really have an opinion on mother’s wishing themselves happy father’s day. If they want to do that, then more power to them. As a single father, I’ve never had an expectation that people would wish me happy mother’s day. I’m a father only. I might have to do some things that a mother would traditionally do, or I might have to have some conversations that a mother might be more suited for, but that’s it. One of the most important things that a mother does is represent herself (in her speech, behavior, interactions) to her children as the definition of womanhood. No matter my superhuman fatherly qualities, I will never be able to do that.

  • http://www.WordsDontDoItJustice.com/ Ruthless Wonder

    I’m pretty sure you just argued that reality is a “U mad Bro?” poster for internet discussions. To a degree I have to agree with you, but how does that fall in line with the panel discussions, convention topics, and radio as well as TV punditry which bring up the same topics? Aren’t the internet versions of these discussions and the comments associated just a more accessible means of talking about it? As I said though I agree with you.

    • h.h.h.

      “Aren’t the internet versions of these discussions and the comments associated just a more accessible means of talking about it? ”

      i think the main difference is that the internet gives space and credence to those opinions, that, in real life, would not be given credence

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        like that post a while back on things you think but would never say out loud…the internet is full of those things

    • Obsidian Files

      RW:
      You make a very powerful point; just taking for an example, the numerous and neverending series of panel discussions on “Black Relationships” stands as stark evidence in this regard.

      I think the Internet is just an extension of the forums you’ve alluded to in this case (and others) and reflects the deepseated concerns many Blacks have along these lines; the Internet, and attendant “real life” venues, gives us the chance to “weigh in” with our concerns, to be heard, to be seen and recognized as significant. And I think that gives the Internet an inherent degree of value, even while freely admitting its potential downsides.

      O.

  • HRH Prince Farouk I

    Yeah the internet is never that serious…I think if you take internet opinions that most people put out as indicative of real life experiences then you might end up with a pretty lopsided perspective of life. Seeing as sometimes people make up experiences to win arguments on the internet (and yes, I bet somewhere on these here internets someone has made up a story about getting shot to get “street” cred”), I take everything said with a pinch of salt and realize for some people the internet is an escape from their boring desk job

  • http://vagabondaesthetics.tumblr.com/ Ricky

    Well the internet is a place for where a lot of people ONLY feel comfortable discussing their pent up microaggressions in their daily life.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      its kinda like advice, its easy to tell someone else what to do when you dont have to deal with any consequence….anyone can sit behind a keyboard and say who they wont date, their chex life, speak on current affairs theyre clearly not welll read on when they can log off and it has no affect on their lives

    • LMNOP

      Better to complain on the internet then keep it all pent up until you flip and do something crazy.

      Not that those are the only 2 options, of course.

      • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

        I wish people would find other options to release their aggressions. Online sword fighting seems so counterproductive to me.

        • LMNOP

          Boxing is really good aerobic exercise too. Kill two birds with one stone there.

        • http://esotericexistentialist.blogspot.com/ MPM

          I try to have discussions with people all day and the truth is that most people in our daily lives are not that interested in getting into deep discussions all the time. That is where the internet becomes helpful; you can seek out and find a forum where the discussions about the topics you want to talk about are already happening. And not only can you give your opinion, but you can be exposed to others’ opinions as well.

          • T.Q. Fuego

            Well said. People in real life are uncomfortable with discussions that go beyond being shallow, light, trivial, or funny. It’s starting to translate to blogs though (including this one). I think Panama and Champ started doing a lot more light topics because a lot of ppl here weren’t comfortable with the energy from so many commenters when confrontations and heated debates were more prevalent here (I wasn’t one of those people obviously). (For me) this site is worth the procrastination when people disagree about something that matters. I wanna see who’s perspective prevails, but it’s all Kumbaya in here most of the time nowadays. Which isn’t a bad thing perse but it’s not as exciting lol. We all have our (relatively irrelevant) preferences though.

            • http://esotericexistentialist.blogspot.com/ MPM

              True, true. But the good vibes in here are much better than the a$$holes that are trolling in some blogs.

              • T.Q. Fuego

                Now THAT I can’t disagree with. Good point. This is still one of the best blogs I’m aware of. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation lol

    • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

      This is true. I think its healthy in a way. Internet arguments have given me a skin so thick it’s like a platinum shield. And it works in real life, but only when I’m dealing with people I don’t care about. Internet arguments also sharpen my arguments to a point that when I get into an argument with someone offline, they are not prepared for the fact that I am already several chess moves ahead before they even get started. It just isn’t fair. But its funny.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

    i dont mind healthy debate on topics, what’s annoying are the qualifiers people always use to discredit arguments….u single u bitter, large following u have no life, small following ur irrelevant…like even a debate on cereal will turn into someone being called fatherless…peoples e egos are so fragile they cant fathom someone disagreeing with them

    • Obsidian Files

      Tristan:
      Agreed 100%!-and in many ways, and I freely admit to this, the Internet can indeed contribute to a “dumbing down” of people. The rush to resort to Ad Hominem as a first tactic, is a clear and present example of this.

      O.

      • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

        *stares at Great Grandpa Obsidian*

        so…..ummm…..were you admitting to your second point AND the first point or the first point only???

    • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

      you forgot the most powerful qualifier….”you GHEY!”

    • Shamira

      Listen… the whole “fatherless” stuff really grates my nerves. Nothing will make me lose respect for someone faster than them tossing around fatherless as an insult.

      • 321mena123

        You didn’t realize that everything can be attributed to not having a father? Do better.

        • Shamira

          Let’s continue to shame people for circumstances outside their control! Yay! lol

          • 321mena123

            I never knew that men wouldn’t date me because i don’t have a dad until i came to VSB. Because i could control him being in my life when was a baby.

            • Shamira

              And don’t forget that your mom is trash for driving such a good man away!