Forgetting We’re People

I’ve been mostly inactive on the social networks the last month because my wife and I had some pretty awful things happen.   We’re two people who think of our animals as children and we lost two of them this month really close together.  I did post updates and such here and there, and received a lot of genuine, sincere support for which I’m forever grateful.

During my time away from the social networks, I missed a few dustups in the skeptic/atheist community.  Nothing particularly new, and mostly just the continuation of battles for power hidden in the appearance other issues.  Despite all the fractures and factions, I continue to make new friends in the skeptic movement and have made so many I wonder if I’ll have time to say hi to all of them at TAM this year.

So on that backdrop of all that support I received, Stephanie Zvan of Freethought Blogs dedicated a post to trashing Travis Roy, a skeptic and one of the people who offered support to me during a tough time.  Travis was always nice enough send a quick message or like a picture, and I sincerely appreciate it.  I wasn’t shocked that Stephanie would write such a thing, because I’ve read her blog before.  I was just struck by how vicious the attack could be in contrast to the same person who was genuinely concerned and interested in what was going on in my life.

The post tries to insinuate that Travis doesn’t care about women’s issues (he does), doesn’t care about harassment at conferences (he does), and that somehow he has a weird obsession with some of the Skepchicks (he doesn’t).  She “accomplished” this by doing some thin research, getting some facts wrong, and then stating conclusions she couldn’t possibly make based on her limited information.  To her Travis is just an abstract concept of an “internet troll” and she found the facts to fit her case.

Now, we all fall into the pattern of what Stephanie did with this post from time to time.  We are all human, we all make mistakes, we all get angry, and we call lash out.  We also don’t have to all get along, especially if it turns out we don’t have the same goals.  However, we shouldn’t lose sight that we’re talking about people, actual people who are complex.  The internet can be great for lots of things, but one thing it is not great at is transmitting a genuine human interaction over TCP/IP.  Some things still require a phone call (at this time in history this really just a figure of speech) or even a sit down over coffee.

Rifts may or may not be healed, and goals may never align.  Just think of your “opponent” as a human first, and see if you can at least put some of the conflict to rest. Put that energy back into your favorite causes, or spend more time with your family.  As I’ve learned this last month, you won’t ever have enough time to do the things that really matter, and wasting a second on things that don’t is an expensive proposition.