SCOT BELLAVIA: When Online, Bide Your Time

I scrolled across a few posts recently that didn’t need my comment. In saying that, I’m not peacocking virtuosity by declaring I’m saving the internet from yet another hot take. Rather, it’s that I was given the patience and wisdom to observe that I’m not in the intended audience, so I had nothing to say.

First, I heard a New York Times podcast where the hosts discussed (in so many words) whether whites should be allowed to write books from a slave’s perspective. In that episode was an abundance of hypocrisy I wanted to address–in the first draft of this article, in fact. But I should have known from the first joke, when someone was name-called a Republican, that they did not mean for me to hear the discussion. I don’t so strongly identify as a Republican that it offends me when it’s used as a derogation; the joke showed they were coming from a place as far from me as the left is from the right.

Second, a Facebook post tried to use photographs of same-sex couples embracing and wedding in the early 1900s to paint today’s conservatives as backwards. I wanted to point out a logical fallacy, but the argument they caricatured isn’t one I hold, so I had nothing to critique.

Last, a Facebook friend posted an open apology to women for not having done enough to stop Roe’s overturn. I wanted to ask what he thinks he could have done more of until I paused, thought about it, and recognized this was his way of coping with the loss of what he believes to be a constitutional right of the women in his life. He wasn’t reopening an abortion debate, as I wanted to assume.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard from wiser writers is to give your work time. The longer you chew on it, the better its quality—which is why the news should only report facts and save speculation for historians. I’ve found it’s the same for online discourse.

As I thought about a reply to these posts, I recognize they were never prompts for my opinion. What I heard and read was an inside look at the echo chambers on the other side of the aisle, a place many on all sides decry for its insulating effect and retreat to for the same reason.

My silence in those echo chambers is a more useful response than any comment I wanted to add.

– Scot Bellavia

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