Fire by social media

troll_mode

I’m still reeling from my recent encounter with the feminarkies (an evolution of my original proposed ‘femi-archy’ for which I have my mum to thank).

A bit of further background. This whole argument kicked off as a result of one comment I made in response to the Pool’s article about the Dorchester’s staff grooming standards. I was by no means the only person to comment – hundreds of others commented with their views, but for some reason my particular comment appeared to attract the most scorn and fervent attempts to change my point of view at all costs.   By my last count, my comment had generated roughly 85 responses. This included about 5 comments in support of my views, and the remaining 80 were back-and-forth between myself and about 10 other Facebook members, none of whom I have ever met or heard of before.

The initial back-and-forth was all fairly civilized – them explaining why they found my views offensive and misguided, me pointing out either that they had misunderstood my views or that I simply disagreed with them, and eight of the original ten eventually either got bored or just decided to agree to disagree, and stopped responding.

But the remaining two just would not let it go.  They simply could not accept that I had found nothing in their arguments to make me change my mind about my original comment, and the accusations leveled at me became more and more outrageous as suddenly I found myself portrayed as the very embodiment of everything that is wrong and discriminatory about society. Just because – and let me remind you all of this – I had dared to suggest that a posh London hotel asking its female members of staff to apply make-up and shave their legs, is not that big a deal.

I, of course, was equally to blame – quite unable to leave any false accusation unchallenged, I kept responding to every one of them, seeking yet again to clarify my original comment. No, it didn’t mean I was okay with male bosses touching up female employees. Yes, I did agree that if an employer were to discriminate against somebody on the basis of a skin condition that would be unacceptable. Yes, I did post a video on my Facebook page during the Brexit campaign, of Nigel Farage explaining what he believes is  wrong with the EU, but I don’t think that has anything to do with this argument.  And so it went on. An attempt to simply leave the conversation late last night was met with so much abuse and scorn that I found myself compelled to respond, awakening the argument once again. I also tried on numerous occasions to encourage them to post their own thoughts on the original post, to encourage debate of the issue as they see it, rather than continuously responding to mine – but to no avail.

Eventually, when the abusive comments started becoming incoherent and arriving at rapid-fire intervals, I simply removed my original comment, which magically removed all the responses and prevented any further response. I had been reluctant to do this as I could see from occasional likes that were being added to both my responses and those of the other two, that other people were still following the conversation even if they were not still contributing. And I didn’t want to give the other two the satisfaction of thinking they’d beaten me. But the relief when the whole thing went away was enormous.

The closest I’ve ever come to this experience in the past, was during the Brexit campaign where I had some fairly fiery arguments with a number of friends, one in particular, who was as vehemently in favour of Remain as I was in favour of Brexit. Some of our arguments would go back and forth between us nonstop throughout any given day or sometimes even over the space of two days (needless to say I barely got any work done in the final few days before the referendum) and I would found myself spending the entire day crafting responses and come-backs. It was exhausting, and neither of us ever did manage to change each other’s point of view, though we did find a fair amount of common ground, and I think we both enjoyed trying to sway each other to our respective sides of the argument.   The difference was, being friends and wanting to remain that way, we made more of an effort to be respectful of each other’s positions than these two women were.

But I have a suggestion, which I think would improve the experience of such Facebook debates enormously.  Each user gets a maximum of three comments on any given post or thread. Once they’ve had three attempts to get their point across, it’s time to accept that they are not going to change the person’s mind on that particular point, and maybe it’s time to move on to a different thread or argument. Or even better, get off Facebook and go and spend some time outdoors, or with some real people. Let’s see if I can manage to follow my own advice.

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