T Nation

Differing Viewpoints: Online & Off


I'm curious. There is a lot of huffing and puffing in some of the forums (i.e. politics) these days. Actually, there always has been, but people seem to be getting more twisted about it these days.

So, there are three questions on my mind this fine Sunday morning:

1) Do most people not have to deal with opposing viewpoints in their life anymore? Is there no debate or discussion in the family, the school or the schoolyard?

2) Why is it such a horrible thing to confront a differing opinion these days? Is it because people aren't used to it? That would segue into question #1, but perhaps their is something else involved?

3) How come people let online conversations get to them anyway? There is a lot of talk about "act as you would in real life", but it's a simple fact that the Internet is not "real life". Like it or not, the rules are in fact a bit different. Why let faceless personalities get to you, whether or not they disagree with you?

Yes, I know, I'm obviously involved in frackas or fray as much as anyone else. I'm not trying to say otherwise. Maybe the forums were more one-sided at one point, without outspoken representation on both sides of the issues??


People let online personalities get to them because of how common place they are now opposed to just ten years ago. Many have lost the concept that they are not actually conversing with the person, rather, they are replying to one another's posts. This leads to post-baiting and bashing that we see now.


Whatever status held through appearance or title alone is lost in a world based on words. No one cares what company you are the CEO of or how you rank in a group of other guys to the teenaged girls on your high school soccer team. The privileges delegated to skin color, the car you drive, the suit you wear, or your nifty Abercrombie & Fitch polyester-cotton weave sweater tied around your waist fall by the wayside when your grammar and sentence architecture become the weapon of choice. No longer can you simply hold a point of view while hanging with those who look like you (leading matter of factly to those who think like you). Your status is based on how you get your message across. That means the victory lies in the hands of the wordsmith...and this royally pisses some people off.

Why? Because the rest of life is largely based on how you look, what you wear, who you hang with and the car you drive. You often see posters attempt to throw these titles back on through the overuse of labels or irrelevant stereotypes. This is because I truly believe some people are lost without them.

Differing viewpoints now come without neat little boxes to throw others into...thus some are left utterly confused. Yes, the internet is different than real life. Instead of speaking to your face, we now get to speak directly with your mind. How fucked up is that?


1) Kids are very open minded in 6th grade, and still capable of open mindedness in 9th, but by 11th grade they seem to get locked into looking for the right answer, rather than developing their own answer. I know its a backwards view of (moral) development, or critical thinking, but I think kids often lose it and then some get it back later in life.

2) The problem with online debate is simply that if you write a complex response or opinion, 9 out of 10 readers are not capable of reading it all and will tend to fixate on a small superficial point that they don't agree with-in other words, many are just fishing for a fight. I like to think out loud, and I change my mind a lot, but I don't like fixated, "headhunting" responses.

3) Because we care about each other.


3b) because paranoia is a natural human defense mechanism.

3c) because we're all still hypothetically competing for mates.

3d) because its frustrating to know that we will never be able to all agree, we can only agree to compromise and to what level.


The internet allows us to act more childish than real life. Childish in our reactions and responses. Road rage comes into mind. Everyone has a private little space that must be guarded.


I think there's a lot to that. It's easier to let a disagreement turn into a petty argument because there's a distance in the conversation. It's also easy to misunderstand things being said.

I've always found it frustrating to see so many political posts that turn into nasty arguments on this site. And it comes from both sides, right and left. There are people posting here who I doubt know anything at all about strength athletics they just see a public forum.

I think there should be a rule that you can't post a political post unless you preface it with your deadlift number of at least 2xbodyweight.


Personally, I feel the internet is no different from "real" life. People who are grumpy and argumentative on the internet are that way in a one on one conversation.

I have observed people I know well. i know how they react to things said over a beer and then i have seen what they write on the internet and it is basically the same.

If they are articulate and thoughtful in real life they are the same when writing. The only thing that changes is they sometimes tend to get braver on the internet - for obvious reasons.

Some people just like to argue - some people just like to be helpful and some people just think they know it all.


Lol. What does deadlifting have to do with political viewpoints?


Not a danged ol' thing. :stuck_out_tongue: It just drives me buggy to see political posts in the T-Nation forums when I'm looking for training tips. I'm just curious about people who seem to post only about politics on a strength training forum. They certainly have a right to post here, but I don't think they care about the actual intention of the site and I think I would respect their postings more if I knew they did.


I am pretty much the same person. I hate bullshit, and have no problem calling it when a person decides that it is okay to spew it around me. Respect me and I will respect you.

But I am also one of the most fun loving people you'll ever meet.

I do think that there are a lot of people that act way tougher on here than they ever would in real life, though.


I'm reluctant to post because the Prof seems to be getting somewhat of a fan club, but that was a damn good post.

Excellent questions, Vroom.



I would have to say that I'm not much different than I am here. I am very vehement in my political beliefs, and this is why most times I won't discuss politics. Hell, alot of my friends are conservatives, and they know just not to bother with me. That's fine. Politics is not what I have in common with them.

I like politics on here because you can argue. We can't get loud and frustrated and nasty in real life, so you do it on a political forum. That's what the forum is there for. I don't want the people I argue with to think I hate'em, or that I intentionally try to disrespect them. There is a very select few that I can't stand and have no respect for, and I make it pretty obvious. But I try to be civil to the opposing posters that show intelligence, no matter how much I don't agree with it.

Of course, online arguments do not show how smart you are. It's easy to pull up some website backing your views, or google something that you don't know about and then form an opinon after reading some biased stuff (this is why I prefer to quote from books and authors as opposed to websites.) Real life is alot harder to do than sitting there and being able to compose your thoughts, then post a valid response.

I have to say that I have learned alot from this forum, being as you pay close attention to what you read when you are trying to prove someone wrong.


Got a pic of you in that sweater? :wink:

\|/ 3Toes


As I do when I'm in real life face-to-face meetings, I try to keep my contributions positive and informative. As a result, I tend to say a whole lot less than what I am thinking. I try to filter out the static, petty squabbles and piss poor writing. Having said that, I can't wait until the Proof Gay Marriage is Wrong thread dies and I no longer see it in the Top 30.


I think the issue is that your avatar is rubbing off on people. People are putting their chin in their hand and thinking "what can I say to piss that damn Canadian off today?"


From its very beginning in time sharing days, and on into the earliest days of ARPAnet, as Internet once was called, we've noticed this real problem with the email medium. It's too low bandwidth, and doesn't carry enough emotional cues like tone of voice or body language, for even people who often work together face to face, always to 'get' what each other are trying to say in their email.

Language is very ambiguous: anything you say, there are at least two ways to take it. Emoticons barely scratch the surface ...

And as a writer of course you can't see the effect of what you're writing on the other party as you write it, and so modify your presentation dynamically, like you could if the two of you were face to face (and say, one of you started making a fist or something :wink:.

So email, just even private email, can never hope to be a real conversation, even though two people sling emails at each other furiously, all day long. The bandwidth is too low, and the feedback loop is too slow.

When long-distance networks came along, we discovered that when two people have really never met, they don't have decent internal models of each other to appeal to when trying to guess how what they write will be received, not even after months of slinging email at each other. So the writer is always going into the thing essentially feedback free.

When the email communication becomes public and has an enduring transcript, as it does in these fora, things start to get real strange real fast. The situation becomes essentially that of two animals sniffing each other out in public and establishing a dominance hierarchy over some shared territory. At this point the poverty of the textual email medium becomes glaringly apparent: most cues for preventing an intra-species fight are non-verbal!

There is a second problem, that can happen in any kind of discussion, live or email, that has to do with the nature of argumentation. This is the problem of ad hominem argumentation, first enunciated by some Greek or other thousands of years ago, but still very much with us today.

NO, 'ad hominem' is not about attacking people. Well, that is one kind of ad hominem argument, but not necessarily the worst kind since it is, after all, pretty obviously specious.

Ad hominem fallacies are arguments that attack or support a line of thought on the basis of who is doing the thinking. For example, woe betide the abstract concept that happens to alight first in the brain of a liberal. Unless said liberal scribbles the thought down and passes it secretly to a conservative accomplice to espouse for his own, among many conservatives the idea can never have any sort of hearing on its own merits. Works the same way with liberals too.

But of course, truly new ideas are rare, especially in these fora. So almost any idea that gets bandied about has had time to pick up its share of bad companions, regardless of what point of view you're coming from.

So now we're ready for some fun. Whatever is posted, mention someone or something repulsive that happened to reinforce that very position (Vegetarianism! Hitler was a vegetarian, didn't you know?)

Presto, the conversation is suddenly all about the beliefs and values of the poster and to whom he ascribes, and it is a small escalation indeed to move on to direct personal attacks. It's very easy to derail a discussion in this fashion. Some of you may know.

Which brings us to a third point: the regrettable fact that some people here actually seem to like this kind of rancid interaction. They will all say "Oh no, not me, my girlfriend says I shit flowers," but once you meet some pre-condition (e.g. their perception there is a .05% probability they have just been dissed) you will soon find them contentedly wrapped around the axle of some attack/defend spiral or another. These people love coming here, albeit they complain mightily about the quality of the company and the discourse after they get here. They come to play the "king of the hill" game. Or the "don't get me started" game.

Folks who just wanted to have a discussion and who might try to moderate the interaction, of course, learn to stay away in droves. But then, who in their right mind would go to a BB forum to have a quiet political discussion?

All of which explains why any thread on the polit board worth its salt has at least two of these attack spirals going real good and strong by, at latest, the top of page 3. Should we want or expect anything less from a forum that takes its name from a male sex hormone?

To post and yet stay out of these things 1) avoid trying to have a conversation, relax to the inevitability of disagreement, post what you've got to say the first time, and don't follow up unless there are significant questions; 2) avoid ad hominem argumentation, point it out where it is used and refuse to head down that track; 3) retain a sense of humor, the better to deal with the humorless.



What X and endgamer said, exactly.



Forgot to add this, because it's fun to watch vroom get his panties in a twist. :wink: