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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Contentious Online World

One of my favorite sections of the Washington Post is "John Kelly's Washington."

From John Kelly's recent essay "Why do nasty online comments get us so riled up? It’s literally in our DNA":
...Saber-toothed tigers are rather thin on the ground anymore, so we don’t need that reflex that enables us to instantly aim our pointy stick at an approaching threat or muster the quick burst of energy required to help us run to safety.

And yet that response is still there, buried deep in the recesses of our brains. But about the only time I feel those hormones surging through my body is when I’m about to send an ill-considered e-mail message or Twitter post. Someone trolling us on social media is as close as any of us get to the stress of a predator bearing down on us on the veld....

What effect does all this contentious have on those of us who spend so much time in the online world? John Kelly states the following:
At first, I thought that my analogy — Twitter flames are today’s saber-toothed tigers — might be a little far-fetched. Then I talked to Johannes Eichstaedt, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. A thought-provoking paper he co-wrote was just published in the journal Psychological Science. By crunching data, Johannes and his collaborators were able to show that areas of the United States that express high levels of negative language on Twitter — tweets filled with expletives and hate — correlate with areas of the country that have high levels of heart disease.

This doesn’t mean that Twitter trolls are dying of stress-induced heart attacks, rather that everyone who lives in a hotbed of negative emotion is affected by the overall angry vibe.

The link between stress and heart disease is well known. “We now think of chronic stress as a chronic upregulation of the sympathetic nervous system,” Johannes said.

When deployed only occasionally and as originally intended, the fight-or-flight response is a good thing. It improves your odds of surviving an attack or lifting a car off a trapped child. But being repeatedly washed by adrenaline and cortisone can damage the arteries.

Twitter, angry e-mails, noxious online comments: These can all raise the blood pressure. Of course, humans have been arguing with one another for millennia. What’s different about the digital age is that now we do it with strangers over the Internet....
So, why do we continue to spend so much time in the online world? As rational creatures, we must know that too much time in the contentious online world is bad for our mental and physical health!

Today is my sixty-third birthday, and I'm going to treat myself to some time away from the contentious online world:


  1. Happy Birthday!

    I hope the card has arrived on time in spite of the weather!


    1. Charlotte Tan said

      I hope it wasn't the race card! It wasn't, was it?

    2. Tammy,
      The birthday card arrived yesterday and was awaiting me when I arrived home from work. Perfect timing!

  2. Happy birthday my dear friend.


    1. Warren,
      Thanks you so much, avatar designer, blog template designer, and good friend in so many ways that I can't count them all. Hope that all is well on your home front!

  3. Happy Birthday, and I understand your need for a break. I declared two years ago that I was done, but here I am...

    Intellectual dishonesty is what really riles me. Hiding information, distorting it and willfully mischaracterizing the position of your opponent or smearing him/her. That and willful incomprehension.

    I strive to engage my interlocutors with intelligence, candor and goodwill, and I genuinely try to understand the arguments of others, and when they don't give me and mine the same courtesy, they get the flamethrower.

    1. SF,
      I rarely use the flamethrower. I've been known to do so once in a while, however. Intellectual dishonesty and willful incomprehension attempt to deceive oneself as well as onlookers. And the perseverating! Sheesh.

  4. Happy birthday, AOW ... my best wishes for a great day and a wonderful year.

    1. Mustang,
      Thank you, my first cyber-friend. We celebrate the 10th anniversary of our friendship this spring.

  5. Happy Birthday, AOW! You're my online inspiration. Have a wonderful break.

    1. Adrienne,
      Your online inspiration? What a nice thing to say!

  6. Happy Birthday! I hope you're having a great day! XXX Blessings, Z

  7. Happy Birthday! I hope you're having a great day! XXX Blessings, Z

  8. Thanks, all!

    I won't be taking much of a blog break. Back to the grind of regular posting on February 26th.

    Back to this thread later. Tasks to accomplish this evening.

    "And miles to go before I sleep."

  9. To Whom It May Concern

    For those in great pain
    Expressing disdain
    May oft prove a source of relief.

    Showing contempt
    Makes churls feel exempt
    From the tenets of righteous Belief,

    For those who lack humor
    Fixate on each rumor
    That tells them the mighty will fall,

    And steadfastly dwell
    On the hope of Hell
    For the clever, good-looking and tall.

    Pouncing on error
    They hope to strike terror
    Deep in the heart of their betters,

    Who’ve made them feel low
    By the virtue they show
    With minds unburdened by fetters.

    These churls wax pedantic
    Whene’er they feel frantic
    To prove to themselves they have worth.

    What they do is invidious,
    So an aura quite hideous
    Soon blots out all traces of mirth.

    They take what’s euphonious,
    Then claim it’s erroneous
    With captious and petulant wrath.

    This conduct so odious,
    Shrill, unmelodious
    Irks even the stones on the path.

    Each animadversion
    Is a form of incursion
    That ruffles, then plucks out the feathers

    Of birds––especially the dodo––
    Who falls prey to the dragon Kimodo
    That strikes fear and dismay in all weathers.

    These attempts to assuage
    A fierce jealous rage
    Make it hard to find anything stupider.

    The stupidest folk nurse a grudge,
    Hold it long, squeeze it tight, and won’t budge,
    And that’s the sad truth, by Jupiter!

    ~ “Ogden Gnash”


    1. Charlotte Tan said

      Not a bad explanation why so many act so snarky on the net. You're a clever one, aren't you? How they must hate you!

    2. FT,
      One of my students wrote an ode dedicated to me. I now have a digital copy. If I can manage to redact my name without ruining the scansion, I just might post that ode!

    3. Please send it to me privately, AOW, if you'd like. I happen to be an expert at repairing broken scansion -- among other things -- hearts, Alas! not included. ;-)

      I might publish it at FT's blog with appropriate introductory narrative, if you'd like. I'm always looking for evidence of positive attitudes and laudable accomplishment to share in hopes of combatting at least some of the relentless negativity that characterizes this "The Debunking Age."

      Besides, if I toot your horn FOR you, then no one could possibly accuse YOU of vanity or excessive pride, could they? ;-)

  10. Many felicitous hopes on this celebration of another orbit around the sun!

  11. Happy Birthday, AOW! Your health must always come first, my friend. The stress has definitely gotten to me.

    1. Jim,
      I have somehow learned to discard from my spirit the corrosive effects of much that transpires in the online world. The news reporting current events is something else entirely! Ugh.

  12. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AOW!!!..lets do lunch! lol xoxoxox

  13. The only difference between what you are doing and the pamphleteers of years past is that today, individuals are able to leave anonymous snide comments. In the past, these vapid statements would be made in the company of like-minded people over good ale. What amazes me is that people who differ so significantly with your point of view keep coming back to leave comments that no one who share’s your view cares about —pretending as if they are engaged in a conversation or a worthwhile debate. They are not. Conversation is not screeching; debate is not mocking.

    1. Sam,
      Yes, some of us are 21st Century pamphleteers. Knowing that reality is what keeps me slogging along -- never mind the anonymous snide comments, which I ignore and which often cause me to guffaw.

      One can't hold a reasoned debate with those individuals: And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. -- Luke 9:5.

  14. Happy Birthday AOW!!

    “We now think of chronic stress as a chronic upregulation of the sympathetic nervous system,”
    Here's a tip to transition to a relaxing parasympathetic dominant state: Before I go to sleep, I put my legs up against the wall. Here's a perfect picture of it. It's best to elevate hips slightly so the release is more complete. http://www.doyouyoga.com/how-to-do-legs-up-the-wall-pose/

    This has truly been a lifesaver for me in a very noisome living situation the last 2 years.

    1. I'll vouche for that VERY VERY noisy living situation (and all night long, too!)



  16. Happy Birthday! Hope you enjoy your time away from the online jungle.

  17. Charlotte Tan said

    Happy Happy Birthday
    This is your birthday song
    Happy Happy Birthday
    We hope you will live long.

  18. Today, another celebration of my birthday with the homeschool group: seafood ravioli, sweet Kimchi, homemade carrot cake, homemade apple bundt cake. Outstanding!

    And a drop-in on the part of my favorite local police officer; he and I go back more than years than I care to think about.

    There were also gifts: homemade jams, Amazon gift out card, several dining-out gift cards, green money, and homemade meat loaf with all the trimmings to take home. I won't have to cook for a week. Yeehaw!

    Best teacher's birthday celebration ever -- in my 40+ years of teaching!

    1. Seafood ravioli, yum!

      Sounds as if you really enjoyed yourself.

    2. Duck,
      My Chinese clients are very generous -- and love to cook.

  19. How wonderful, AOW....you deserve it...FABULOUS FUN! They adore you!

    1. Z,
      Yes, yesterday and the day before were a great time.

      Now, back to the grind. **sigh**

  20. How wonderful, AOW....you deserve it...FABULOUS FUN! They adore you!


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