I have a favorite new internet trend. Maybe you’ve seen it: calling anyone who disagrees a bot.
This one has, at least on my feeds, catapulted to common use. I had a great chuckle at one Twitter user throwing the bot card to flee their back-and-forth with a well-known journalist.
Accusing a guy who’s regularly on news stations of not existing? Not an argumentative slam dunk.
Look, I’m not naming the journalist here or outlining either side’s argument, because that’s not what it’s about. At least, that’s not what it became about. This person was losing a fight, and rather than refuting any claims, they declared their opponent to be fake. I’m not saying you have to like the guy, but that doesn’t make him software.
I’m so entertained by the phenomenon because of its absurdity. In the past, we’d blame our losing battles on the brainwashing of our enemies or mysterious algorithmic forces that were hard to pin down. Wisely, these “grain of truth” accusations stayed in the gray, vague and impossible to disprove as they were.
But in 2023, those who differ in opinion are simply not real: “I can’t fathom that a human doesn’t see this my way.” Our discourse is malfunctioning, and there’s no sign of resolution.
The problem with being first to the party is that you have to wait on the others to arrive.
I don’t like being early. You knock on the door and the host welcomes you with their bravest face; they aren’t ready, despite the time on the invitation. You sit unobtrusively as they rinse dishes and set final pieces in order. Unknown faces trickle in to work through awkward introductions. No, I prefer to be slightly late. Music greets you on the speakers. Pizza is hot on the table. You arrive to a state of readiness.
When it comes to figurative parties, though, I admit that the story is different. I want to be the first. I want to be right. Some conceited part of me wants to feel that I’m more right than others, more often. To be ahead is my validation.
But as soon as I reach the conclusion, I’m out of patience. I’m logically incoherent, patting my back for arriving first, all the while bothered that anyone hasn’t. I desire things the way that you rarely get them: both ways.
Maybe I’m worse than the bot accuser. I expect more than alignment of thought; I want alignment of timing. How don’t you hold this belief I developed yesterday?
The thing we miss in disagreement—whether you pin it on algorithms, disinformation, or whatever’s new in 2024—is that outrage is emotional. The facts of the matter rarely merit our reactions. Because we’re human, we desire. Denied what we desire, we feel pain. The irony of calling someone a bot is that if we were all programmed, our discourse would be calm and analytical. As it stands, though, we’re people. We’re peculiar beings with wants and feelings and hungers that don’t make perfect sense. Managed correctly, these desires make human life special.
When I understand that my true pain point is not anyone else’s error, but my own waiting, it becomes a matter of patience: the ability to stay calm and accept a delay (oxford footnote), from a Latin verb meaning to suffer. In waiting, you will suffer. The choice is between the calm suffering of patience or the burning of anger.
Never in a debate have I questioned someone’s existence, but I have deprived their humanity, their right to navigate life with the freedom I’d expect myself.
To expect eight billion people on this planet to see things your way, on your timeline, effectively requires that each of them be you. Put in writing, we see how ridiculous an expectation it is.
We need to relax—suffer patiently while we desire. “Be the change;” “things take time;” “have a real conversation.” These are only cliches because we haven’t truly practiced them.
You may be first to this party, but stay calm. Pizza is on the way.
Disagree? I’ve got some bad news for you.
I’m not a robot👇
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Sometimes they're called trolls too. Very offensive towards real trolls! XD
Very Good Tim !!!