Allow me to put forth a modest proposal: Let's all agree--for the sake of the children, or the pandas or the puppies--to do our best not to be flaming a*sholes to one another.
"Wait," I can almost hear you saying, "when exactly have I been an a*shole?"
Well, maybe you're the kind of person who reads an article or a comment on the forum that they disagree with and simply takes a deep breath and moves on with a Ghandi-like calm. If that's you, congratulations, you're already a step ahead of the pack. There are so many others out there, however, who are struggling to muzzle their inner wanker. It is to the rest of us that I make this pitch.
Have I alienated everyone already? First paragraph in and I've already plumbed the depths of the author-likeability index? Well, maybe it's me that's being the jerk here. Maybe. But I'm confident I'm not the only one. Click on just about any story on Pinkbike and scroll down through the comments section. Jesus. Friggin'. Christ. It's a political bloodbath in there. Admittedly, the Pinkbike forum has never been for the faint of heart. The whole blood-in-the-water ethos of the forum has always possessed a special allure for some readers. It's the cyber version of a car wreck. People slow down and look. Sometimes they stop to throw rocks for good measure. C'est la vie.
But during the past few months, our comments section has become a darker, nastier place.
KUMBAYA & RAINBOW PONIES
Before you suggest that I am being overly idealistic here, let me be clear: I am not
suggesting that everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya
while riding off into the sunset on rainbow ponies. It's okay to disagree. In fact, let me go one step further: disagreement is absolutely essential
. Sharing opposing beliefs, fleshing out your ideas, wrangling with one another--these are the lifeblood of a free society and any website lacking that freedom isn't worth a minute of your time.
I'm all in favor of our candidly and passionately disagreeing with one another. What I am
saying is that we can disagree without being douchebags to one another. And, make no mistake, the amount of name calling, flaming and general feces-flinging going on these days amounts to douchebaggery of the highest order.
Crystal Pony courtesy of mysteriouskaos
Perhaps an example is called for. Okay, here's just one: I recently wrote a review of a balaclava. A balaclava. Who can argue about a goddamn balaclava? We can. That's who. And I'd be completely cool with that had the arguments centered around things such as snot build up, venting, the merits or lack thereof of using magnets to connect the face mask portion of said balaclava, etc. The comment thread, however, quickly devolved from a debate about the relative merits of winter apparel into a shouting match about ISIS, Nazis, fascists, liberal hand wringers and knuckle-dragging white nationalists. Had the same discussion been conducted in a bar, someone would have lost an eye. No doubt about it. I had to scroll back to the top of the page a couple times, just to make sure that the comment thread was, in fact, still a response to a review of what amounts to a do-rag for snowy days.
To be entirely fair, this is clearly not a phenomenon exclusive to Pinkbike. Right now people on the Cat Fancy forum are threatening to disembowel one another over a post about the pros and cons of organic kitty litter. It takes all kinds and right now, the entire Internet is all kinds of crazy.
Dante and Virgil enjoy a pleasant cruise across the River Styx, which teems with the souls of those who failed to attend anger-management therapy. Just another balmy day in the fifth circle of hell.
THAT FIFTH CIRCLE OF HELL
How did we wind up here?
Well, I guess that's a rhetorical question. Brexit. The Orange Guy. Marine Le Pen. Polar bears eating one another because they can't find a decent patch of ice from which to bushwhack seals. The Great Wall of America. The recent American ban on Muslims... Take your pick. We live in unusual times.
People are pissed off on both sides of the political spectrum and I respect the intensity of their emotions. In fact, if you can look at what's happening around the world without feeling some flicker of anger, I question either your sanity or your choice of sedatives. I personally spend plenty of time banging my head against the wall whenever I turn on the news.
But here's the thing: We can disagree without being complete dicks to one another. Really. It's that simple.
Consider this an Internet Golden Rule of sorts. Before you type a response to someone who thinks SRAM Eagle is superior to XTR Di2 or who has the temerity to question your choice of rear tire ask yourself, "Would I say this thing that I am typing right now to their face if we met on the street?"
And follow that question with another: "Could I say this to their face without also getting my own face broken?"
If the answer to either question is "No," you're probably at risk of being an a-hole.
Stop. Breathe deep. We've all been there. Myself included. Many times now. This is a perfect time to rephrase your objection in a way that doesn't leave the other commenter in a pool of e-blood. Do that and move on. In fact, do that and go ride a bike. Every time I feel like reaching through my laptop screen and throttling one of my readers, I remember that, hey, maybe I'm the asshat here and maybe I should just stop typing and go for a ride. Because you know what? Riding your bike is about five million times better than arguing about riding your bike.
And politics? Well, when politics are germane to the actual article (and at times they certainly are), go ahead and talk about them. But remember, a lot of us are coming to Pinkbike to forget--for just a moment--about all the hate and vitriol bubbling up around the world. Even when we are debating politics, we don't need to insult one another to make a point.
Or if all that sounds too cerebral and mamsy-pamsy, we'll leave it at this: Let's agree to not be a-holes.