Category: ramblings

The Perils of Groupthink

I’m a regular reader of Reddit. It’s a site with a bunch of communities, and you can pick the communities you want to be a part of. Those communities run from very specialized to very broad. There’s one on Video Games, and then smaller ones for individual video games, or types of video games. By joining one, you get to read a constant stream of updates from that community, collated with all the other communities you’ve joined.

There’s a lot to like about Reddit. It’s like an interactive Wiki, with specialists in areas there to offer suggestions and advice on just about any topic. It connects fans with each other, so they can talk about the things they love about a show or a book or a movie. And because of all those advantages, I keep going back to the site regularly.

But.

There’s a huge vein of groupthink that runs throughout Reddit, or at least throughout the pages I have frequented. People gravitate to a general consensus, and then anyone who disagrees with that consensus is publicly ridiculed by the mob. And so we see the general chorus of people who say Rings of Power “looks great, but has terrible characters.” Or that the Hobbit movies were blatant money grabs and a waste of time. Or that new Magic the Gathering foil cards are a complete waste of money. Or that Optoma projectors are bugged bricks that no one should buy.

On the one hand, this makes things pretty easy for someone looking just for a basic opinion on something. But the more I see it happening, the more uncomfortable I am with the whole thing. For example, I really liked Rings of Power (and the Hobbit movies). I have plenty of reasons why, but I feel no real desire to speak up about it on Reddit, because I know I’ll be overwhelmed by people telling me why I’m wrong.

It’s interesting to me that so many fantasy fans have become the very thing I didn’t like growing up. I remember getting made fun of for reading books that were a thousand pages long. Trekkies were looked at as nerds. One of the great things about fandom was being able to find acceptance for the things other people thought were odd. Now, there’s this same sort of ridicule aimed at people from within a fan base. That makes me sad. It’s not that I have anything against people having different opinions. I’m fine with people not liking Rings of Power. But that’s not what this is. This is a group of people deciding what The Right Answer is.

And these “right answers” persist over time. It’s gotten to the point that in many of these subreddits, I already know what the comments are going to be on a post the moment I see what the topic is about. There’s no real way to self-correct these answers. The loudest voice wins, and then all the quieter voices just give up and don’t say anything.

This sort of groupthink goes beyond simple subreddits. If a general topic comes up in almost any subreddit, I see the same thing happen. The moment anyone says anything about Latter-day Saints in any context, there will be a slew of people who show up to talk about how wrong the church is, how evil it is, how awful religion is in general, and on and on. It happens with authors. If anyone talks about Brandon Sanderson, there will be people who show up to talk about how awesome his books are. (Although interestingly, there’s a core contingent of people who will also show up to talk about how overrated he is. So perhaps if an opinion gets shared by enough people, it can exist even if it goes against the common decision.)

It’s even more disturbing when I hear people parroting back the same things I’ve read on Reddit, in person. The same arguments. The same justifications. The same criticisms.

There’s a disconnect there for me. That we can be in a world with so many different opinions, and yet the opinions feel like they’re getting more and more narrow. It happens in politics. It happens in sports. It happens in current events. I’ve never been the sort of person who’s just going to go along with something because everyone else has agreed on it. I like to question things and figure things out on my own, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I don’t like this. And in the end, it’s not like I have to like everything. But the more groupthink dominates a conversation, the worse conclusions that conversation can end up with. On Reddit, you’d think so many voices would make things even more diverse. In the end, it only makes them more constrained.

Food for thought.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Be a Jerk Online

Now that I’ve been blogging for so long, having withstood a number of huge technological waves, I have a fair bit of experience with interacting with people online. Often, due to the nature of some of my posts, some of those interactions are less . . . congenial than I would like. Certainly less congenial than I’d treat other people online. But I’ve been taking notes, trying to refine just how to be as big of a boor to random people, in hopes that I might share this with you, my faithful reader. I mean, you could potentially look at this list and note the things you should *not* do, but where’s the fun in a list like that? Instead, I think it’s much more enjoyable to try to refine the art of aggravating strangers and friends alike.

Ready?

First off (and this is important), ignore as much of the original post as possible. Yes, someone might have spent an hour crafting a multifaceted look at a complex problem, replete with concessions to the dissenting side, and admissions that their point of view might be limited. Don’t fall for that trap. Taking in the entirety of the message requires both higher reasoning and patience. Instead, cherry pick one or two (at most) parts of the piece that you think you can really dig into. Whatever happens, do not let the conversation shift to anything else. (Unless, of course, your argument appears to be losing. In that case, resort to some of the later techniques on this list.)

Next, try to limit how much you actually say. This isn’t a chance to engage in meaningful conversation. This is more of a drive-by, where you pepper out a few pithy remarks and then move on, action movie style, confident that the entire original argument is even now exploding in spectacular fashion in your wake. Ideally in slow motion. The more you actually write, the more people might have to use against you. And besides, this first response isn’t really designed to continue a discussion. It’s designed to bait the trap.

Ideally, don’t do any of this with people you know well. Certainly not with someone you might see in real life. Yes, this means you can hop onto a complete stranger’s post and start bashing away, but the really nuanced jerks will use these techniques with casual acquaintances. People you’re friends with just enough that they don’t feel like they can wholly ignore what you have to say. There’s a fine balance, but you’ll get the hang of it in time. Arguing with friends of friends works well also. And don’t forget: if they unfriend you, then you automatically win.

Once you’ve got someone responding to you, fight fight fight! It doesn’t matter if they’re a complete stranger. It doesn’t matter if they’re a dear friend to anyone else in the thread. They are the enemy, and they must be destroyed. Luckily, if you’ve done this right, they’re no longer discussing the original topic. They’re discussing your slice of it. Don’t let the debate shift to different ground, unless of course your argument starts to lose. (Jerks don’t lose arguments. They just move the goalposts.)

When it comes to actual points you’re trying to make, remember: the more fallacies you include, the better. Think of them like earning brownie points in Jerk Paradise. (We don’t have any evidence Jerk Paradise actually exists, but that never stopped us from believing something in the past.) What-aboutism is great: don’t answer any actual critiques of your argument, just bring up some unrelated point and change the playing field. Or attack the intelligence or personality or virtue of the opposing side. (Remember: they are the enemy. They must be proven wrong, and you can have no mercy!) Strawmen are free! Trot them out whenever possible. And don’t think of slippery slopes as something to be avoided. Think of them more like slip ‘n slides: something that’s fun for everyone (until the grass cuts, of course.) And there’s always the trusty appeal to hypocrisy. Everyone’s a hypocrite but you. That’s a fact.

Don’t forget: there is safety in numbers. Almost always, there will be an ally or three reading through the comments section. Don’t let a fellow jerk fight alone. Rush in to talk about how right they are. You can even just Like their comment if you don’t have time for anything more. It doesn’t matter whose arguments are better, at the end of it all. What matters is who got the most Likes. Social media is like one big applause-o-meter. And applause-o-meters are much easier to win.

Finally, when all else fails, remember the laugh emoji response is your Big Red Button. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do any of the above, but it only takes a second to slam that laugh emoji in response to someone’s detailed, heartfelt post. It’s great! Facebook gave you this little tool to passive-aggressively ridicule anyone you want in less than one second.

And there you have it! That doesn’t cover every single aspect of being a jerk, but it’s enough for the intro course. It may seem like a lot to master all at once, but don’t let that get you down. You don’t have to use all the techniques all the time. As you gain more experience, a lot of this will become second nature. Soon, you’ll be traipsing from post to post, upsetting everyone in your wake and having a blast, secure in your carefully protected conviction that you are right while everyone else is wrong.

Enjoy!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Handling Rejection

Today in my psychology class, we talked about overcoming anxieties by repeated exposure to those anxieties. One of the specific examples used was the fear of rejection. We talked for a while about how people overcome that fear, and it got me reflecting on what experience I have with it.

Looking over the blog, I’ve talked about rejection a lot. I’ve written about getting rejected by schools, by girls, by libraries, by publishers, and by readers. (It was interesting to go back and read some of the posts I’d written way back when–before I’d had much experience blogging–about getting rejected for Vodnik and being quite down about it.)

Interestingly, one of the things I haven’t written about is the first thing that came to mind to me in class today. I might have been rejected now and then over the years, but there was definitely a time in my life when I dealt with rejection every single day, for much of each day.

Two years as a missionary. Going around asking people if they’d like to hear a message about Jesus Christ. As I’m sure you can imagine, you get many (many) more no’s than you do yes’s. And when that’s just a steady occurrence, the fear of rejection goes down dramatically. You also begin to learn how to handle it better. Here are a few of the takeaways I had from my two years:

  • Having someone to share your rejection helps. A lot. On my mission, I had a companion at all times. When someone was rejecting me, there was someone next to me getting the same rejection. Someone I could talk to about it after it happened. Someone who understood exactly what I was going through. More than that, I had a whole friend group (all the other missionaries) who were also sympathetic. I didn’t feel like I was alone. Sometimes, we’d even share stories about the most brutal (or funny) rejections we’d had. When rejection is normalized, it doesn’t feel so sharp.
  • I realized people weren’t rejecting me as a person. They were rejecting the thing I was trying to talk about. Maybe that seems like a small difference, but it’s one of the big ways that softened the blow for me. Those strangers couldn’t be rejecting me. They didn’t know me. Their rejection ultimately didn’t affect who I was or how I lived. (Though obviously it still hurt from time to time.)
  • You really can develop a thick skin, and it helps if you get in the right mindset. Just because I was getting rejected all the time didn’t mean it never felt bad, but I found that if I could just get that first rejection out of the way each day, the others weren’t really that bad.
  • Fear of rejection is largely in your head. For me, it came down to the fear of feeling like people thought I was foolish. Or the fear of looking like an idiot. If you have a strong self-esteem, that rejection fear drops significantly. I guess this is a no brainer, but the more confident I grew as a missionary, the less concerned I became about those no’s.
  • Fear of rejection also never really goes away. Even with all that rejection, there would still be times that it would really make me hesitate and want to avoid doing certain things. Acknowledging it and then moving forward anyway is a skill that gets better with time.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have any fear of rejection anymore. As far as I can tell, that isn’t going anywhere. But knowing how to handle it can make all the difference. How about you? How have learned to deal with rejection? Any tips?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Don’t Self-Diagnose

Yes, I’m still in my psychology class, and I’m still thoroughly enjoying it. Today we made it to the DSM-5, the “bible” of psychological disorders. And as part of the introduction, we had a discussion on self-diagnosis. To me, this has always been a pretty cut and dried topic: I don’t know nearly as much as psychological professionals do, so why would I think I’d be able to read over some symptoms and decide whether I had some disorder or not?

Interestingly, not all of the students felt the same way, and as I thought about it, I realized that I fall into that train of thought more often than I’d like to believe. I’ve blogged about this before: The Dangers of Easy Information. Three years ago, I wrote about how my car had been having troubles, so I Googled around to find out what was up. I was convinced it was something wrong with my car battery, to the point that I brought it to my mechanic and told him what was up. He thought I was totally off, but I insisted.

Surprise, surprise. I was wrong.

It’s hard for us to recognize just how far off we are from an expert opinion, especially when we don’t wholly understand the field we’re dabbling in. We just don’t get the complete picture, so it’s easy to think we’re at a 5 or 6 out of 10 when it comes to how much we know, when we’re really at more of a 1.

This is easier for me to understand when I look at an area I’m more of an expert in: evaluating and using information. To me, it’s typically simple to look at something, whether it’s a news article or a video or the claim of someone on the internet, and tell just how reliable that thing is. But I know from experience just how difficult this can be for many people. They assume that since they have access to information, they’re completely capable at evaluating that information and coming to conclusions.

They aren’t.

And so when it comes to things like diseases and mental disorders, it’s that much more important to not decide to take actions based on a limited amount of understanding.

Anyway–I wanted to say all that in class, but they just won’t let me talk in 15 minute stretches. Go figure.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Caring about Arbitrary Things

It’s the 22nd day of the 2nd month of the 22 year of this millennium. It’s also a Tuesday. And while part of me can see why this seems like a particularly cooler day than any other day, another part of me is kind of baffled why it should feel that way. Was this always a thing, or did it just wait until Facebook, so people could post about “today is a day that will never happen again for the next buhzillion years, because __________”?

It’s funny: there are some things that I end up doing that make no sense to the rational part of me at all. Knocking on wood to “ward off bad luck,” for example. Somehow I got in the habit that I need to knock on wood (typically my head) whenever I say something I want to happen, just so I don’t “jinx it.” On the one hand, I guess if I really believed in jinxing things, then maybe this makes sense. Except I knock on wood when I’m watching DVR’ed sports games.

Why in the world do I do that?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that jinxing things is possible. So do I somehow believe that the universe doesn’t just rearrange itself based on the random things I happen to say at any one point in time, but it will wait to see what I say in the future, and then go back to rearrange itself in the past to mess up whatever it was that I didn’t want to mess up. That makes total sense, right?

If I really did have this power, imagine the sorts of ways I could use it to my advantage. World leaders would just have to manipulate me to the point that I don’t want something to happen that they actually DO want to happen, and then as long as they can get me to say that thing, and then not be able to knock on my head, then voila! It would happen. While I wouldn’t be able to place bets around the skill myself (since I’d have to really not want whatever it was to happen, or else it wouldn’t work.), my friends could easily do it. Bet against my favorite team, and then watch the game with me, get me to say something, and then keep me from knocking on wood.

It’s preposterous. I know it. Everyone else knows it. And yet I continue to do it. This despite the fact that I like to think of myself as sane, and not too egotistical. So I guess the conclusion I should draw from this is that I should give a break to people who want to get really excited about a bunch of numbers in an arbitrary calendar system lining up in a certain way.

Happy 2-22-22 Tuesday, everybody!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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