This is a woe-is-me post, so take that into consideration before reading. I’ll completely understand if you choose not to.
I made a mistake the other day. It’s the third time I’ve made this mistake, and it got me especially down and discouraged this time. Now I’m feeling the need to vent a little bit. The first time I made the mistake was a long time ago. I don’t remember exactly, but it was before social media and smart phones were things. It was when the internet had chat rooms and forums. I was on an environmentalism forum. It was the first time I encountered the idea that we should adjust our eating habits based on the energy consumed by producing the food. (It takes much more energy to make a hamburger than an egg and much more energy to make an egg than a tomato.) I was fascinated. That’s the kind of information I’d like to see on labels. I don’t care about calories and protein. Being fascinated, I started asking questions in an attempt to learn more. I asked a series of questions along the lines of, “But it must make a difference where and when the egg is laid and the tomato is grown, right? In the summer, I can get a tomato and an egg at my local farm stand. But in winter, I can only get the egg at the farm stand. How does it affect things when the egg is fresh and local, but the tomato is imported from thousands of miles away?” I did not get an answer. Apparently, I’m worse than Hitler. (In the time since, based on my reading, I’ve decided that local and seasonal is more important than animal or vegetable. But I’ve never seen great data comparing the many sources of nutrition.)
The second time I made the mistake was years later on Facebook. A very political friend was posting about ending capitalism as a way of ending racism in a way that was equating capitalism and racism. I knew I shouldn’t say anything. I guess I was feeling reckless that day and I pointed out that racism is compatible with many economic systems. Wow. Apparently, that observation is a vicious (and racist) attack on the ancestors. That wasn’t my intent. I didn’t want to attack anyone. I wanted to add something to a conversation. You’d think that would have taught me my lesson, but no.
Earlier this week, on Twitter, I saw a post. I genuinely like and respect the person who posted it, so I won’t quote the tweet or anything here. The gist of it was that experts work hard to become experts, so do what they say because expertise is all that matters and you’re stupid if you don’t. I ventured that expertise is not all that matters, specifically mentioning trust, and that, perhaps, calling people stupid isn’t the best way to get them to do what you want. Again, I should have known better, but when people started saying I was justifying anti-vaxxers, I tried to explain what I meant. It did not go well. Eventually the original poster said I was just being contrary and suggested that people block or mute me, so I dropped it. (I did interact with a person who has never held an unjustified opinion, so that’s kind of cool, I guess.) I continued getting notifications of people telling me I’m wrong for the next day or so, but this time, I’ve really learned, and I let it go, sort of (I am writing this, after all).
I find this particular lesson extremely disheartening. I’ve been in a bit of a funk all week. But, I now know, never, ever, try to have a conversation about anything that matters with someone on the internet. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone I agree with or not. I won’t do it again. I swear I wasn’t trying to upset anybody. I’m just sad now. I’ve lost what seemed like a great opportunity to learn and grow and now I’m discouraged.