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When to Walk Away.

10 July 2013

I’m doing it wrong. AA is a place full of catchphrases and mantras, aphorisms. One of our basic sayings is: “We have ceased fighting anyone and anything.” Because when alcoholics battle, alcoholics die. We cannot win the fight against alcohol, or against alcoholism. I was born an alcoholic. I drank like an alcoholic. I will die an alcoholic. I am no less addicted to alcohol than I was on February 16th, 2008. I lost the battle, and I gave up fighting. That’s why I’m free.

I think my last post was deeply emblematic of how I’m doing it wrong. I stand by the core content of it. I think people online are too quick to judge. I think there’s too much vitriol. I think it’s both ineffective and unbecoming. But you know what? It’s none of my business.

I’ve been getting involved in way too many arguments that aren’t my business. I’ve been focusing on problems and issues that only make me unhappy. I have no hope of influencing the timbre of the online debate. Not even in my own tiny little corner of the internet. And it is neither my role nor my responsibility to do so. The only effect I can achieve by wading into that water is to rail against a throng until I am hoarse and miserable. I cannot change the course of the crowd. I can only choose to be a member of it, or to step out to the margin.

I’ve written so many times here about the wonderful community on twitter. And there is a wonderful community there. And I’ve lost my footing in it somehow. I don’t feel like I’m participating the way I used to. I’m arguing more. I’ve been violating my own principles of being measured and circumspect before talking. As a result, I think I’m connecting less with people. Yesterday’s post is a great example of me doing exactly what I was complaining about in others: telling other people how to behave.

I’m realizing that I don’t know how to state an opinion without trampling on someone. Or at least, without someone feeling trampled. I don’t know how to assert my own beliefs and desires without feeling like I’ve crossed someone else’s boundaries. And I hate that feeling. I hate feeling like I am in eternal, irreconcilable conflict with others. But humans always conflict. There’s no way around it.

And so, as I attempt to participate more, I feel like I’m contributing less. I feel like I’ve been a negative in the community that I care so deeply about, and that has given so much to me. So I’m going to take a step back for a while.  I need to readdress the rigor with which I adhere to my guidelines for myself, which have led me to peace. I’m not leaving forever. It may not been all that long. But for the moment, I need to walk away. Infactorium will proceed as usual.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 July 2013 08:01

    Sadness. A “negative in the community??” Holy smokes, did I contribute to this? (LIke all self-centered egomaniacs, I think this is all about me!) Lord, I hope not!! You must have gotten some other feedback besides my comment to bring this on, (I hope!) but I feel compelled to tell you publicly how much you have helped me and how much I love you, man!! You have been a force for good in my life, and thank you.

    That said, I’m taking a bit of a step back too. I’ve been thinking, and I’d like to suggest to you that core relationships are good, but that e-communication has inherent down-sides. I’ve had some painful communication issues myself recently, and have been meditating on the “costs and benefits” of hyperconnected communication. (Yes, twitter, I’m looking at you!) But I am remain dedicated to the community of friends I have discovered here. I won’t, and I hope you don’t step too far away.

    • 10 July 2013 08:11

      No, it wasn’t your comment! I’ve been feeling this way for a few months. I’ve just been gradually becoming more argumentative, and I don’t like it about myself.

  2. 10 July 2013 08:40

    It is easy to become, or just appear, argumentative on the twits. But I for one have never thought of you as a negative contributor. Quite the contrary!

    Opinions are opinions. There will always be someone who disagrees, and some who will feel “trampled on”. But if you pay attention you’ll notice that the latter also tend to be very opinionated themselves.

    We’ll still be there when you (and @Mtomasson!) decide to fully engage again.

    • 10 July 2013 09:45

      I tend to agree. It’s about me. I don’t like how I’ve been engaging. Until I sort that out, I should step back.

  3. 10 July 2013 09:42

    I hear ya. I, too, am very opinionated and tend to think I have the power to change people’s minds by engaging them… But I feel like I often come off (especially in real life) as a snotty know-it-all. I’m working on it. It’s hard.

    On Twitter, I tweet things and jump into conversations head first without thinking about how it might spiral into an argument. I admit when I’m wrong but I’m more close minded than I think on some subjects. It’s worse on FB where I’m not speaking in an echo chamber most of the time.

    I’m sending you a hug and want to let you know that you don’t come off as the asshole you think you do. We all have our moments.

  4. Isis the Scientist permalink
    10 July 2013 10:29

    When you’re ready to come back, we’ll be here.

  5. 10 July 2013 19:28

    I see a lot of good you do on twitter through supportive comments, and if you want to take some time to reset so that you are making more of those and less clever snarky stuff, it’s not like the world will or your blood pressure will suffer for it.

    On the other hand, conflict is pretty valuable. Conflict between people who have already built up enough of a reserve of trust is particularly valuable. It’s not always comfortable, and everyone has to strike their own balance, but it can tell us a lot about what’s important.

  6. Oh.emgee permalink
    10 July 2013 22:10

    Don’t walk away. Know that what you say is important! Be yourself…live out loud. This cannot be under stated. It’s the freaking Internet. Don’t let that get you down. You didn’t chose this path to be accepted by those inside our little circle, you chose this path to be heard by the world at large

  7. psycgirl permalink
    11 July 2013 05:43

    Hugs from me too!

  8. sciencegeeka permalink
    11 July 2013 17:22

    I had a similar situation, well, sort of. When I got my industry job, I was suddenly lost. I got the thing that I always wanted. I was so excited. My divorce was final. I remember walking home one day and actually recognizing that I was happy for the first time since I could remember.
    Then, the thing that had helped me through writing my dissertation, through job interviews, a defense, a divorce, a job search, everything (Seriously, the first 2 people I told I was getting divorced were people I have never met, but still talk to.) became the thing that I didn’t know how to do. I can’t write about what I do, or people I work with, or papers I read, because they are all considered confidential information. I had all of these experiences that I couldn’t really share. I still think that I’m finding my way, and I just celebrated 3 years at my job.
    So how do I fit in? I try to offer my help, I’ll help troubleshoot experiments, I’ve tried to help people find jobs, I goof off. I try to follow a ‘there are assholes on the internet, you don’t have to be one’ rule. I *very occasionally* will enter in a debate with someone, not because I don’t think debates aren’t worthy, I have learned to choose my battles wisely, and how to recognize the drama queens/kings. I read way more than I tweet (this is how I get my news and find out about cool new science). I know that there are people out there that will help me answer a question if I need it, but I don’t abuse it.
    I miss the socks. 🙂

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