(Note: I wrote this article with the Metalsucks comment section in mind, if you couldn’t tell)

If you’ve ever used the internet, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s the worst place in the world to try to engage in meaningful discussion. I don’t know what it is – does the veil of online anonymity encourage us to express our primal unpleasantness, or do we just get internet road rage from slow connection speeds, or something? Maybe online discussions attract loud and stupid people? It’s a mystery!

I think out of all the communities on the web, the ones that seem to harbor the biggest, angriest arguments are usually based around politics or art. Political catfighting, though embarrassing, is understandable – these are generally real-world issues with big implications being argued about. But I am baffled as to why the comments sections of Rotten Tomatoes reviews and Youtube music videos tend to be so rife with awful, gorilla-level bitch fits. 4chan’s popular /mu/ is also full of more unfun name-calling and smug sarcasm than productive discussion. Metal fans are some of the worst offenders. We bitch like nobody’s business about everything from bands selling out, to being out of touch with their audience, for changing their style, for NOT changing their style, for being sloppy live, for being too stiff live…but where the problem really begins is when we bitch at each other over our likes and dislikes! Yikes! That’s not what healthy discussion is made of.

This is what you look like!

I’m not Gandhi, but I like to think I’ve matured a little since the days when I was fifteen or sixteen and would engage in internet fights about how much better metal was than pop-punk or rap (ugh, I want to gag thinking about how much of a dweeb I was). Here are some tips that have brought me a great deal of success in keeping discussions civil and productive, no matter what they’re about!

  1. Say “I think…” If you trick yourself into feeling like what you’re saying about is inarguable gospel, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Preface your opinions with buffers like “I think,” “In my opinion,” etc. Not only does this convey a less aggressive message to other people involved in the discussion, it also helps remind you to consider your thoughts before blurting them out. Make sure what you’re saying is what you REALLY think, and not just what you’re compelled to say at any given moment. Do some self-evaluation about your own opinions before sharing them!
  2. Ask questions. If you find that the other person is coming from a place you don’t understand, rather than getting indignant, being sarcastic, or calling them stupid, just try asking them some questions to help clarify what their line of thought us. Not only does this help you to consider a perspective you might not have thought of before, it might also help the other person re-evaluate their opinion, too! Everyone wins.
  3. Give Specific Examples. Rather than arguing in the abstract, I think music discussions should come down to actual musical examples that illustrate our lines of thought. Don’t go on at length about why folk metal is dorky, boring and regressive without ever mentioning a specific folk metal song or album and highlighting exactly what makes you think it’s so bad! Don’t just tell the other person, “No, you’re wrong, folk metal kicks ass!” without talking about specific songs with elements that you like, or some such thing. If you can’t pick out examples in this way, the discussion might not be worth having for lack of grounds for debate. Who wants to hear two people who know nothing about politics rip each other’s throats out over whether Obama or Romney is better? No one! Well, actually, that might be pretty entertaining, but that’s beside the point.
  4. Don’t get mad, make jokes. If you find yourself in what you consider a worthwhile discussion, and some dick keeps insulting you, don’t belittle them or call them out for trolling, or anything like that, because that makes you seem uptight at best and like a train wreck at worst, depending on how many adjectives you type. Instead, just play along! Make a self-deprecating joke if someone calls you a retard with worthless opinions. “Yeah, I am pretty much a retard, I forgot to clarify that.” Something along those lines (preferable funnier) to nip angry swear fights in the bud before they get out of hand. It’s good not to take yourself or your opinions on these cosmically irrelevant issues too seriously. You don’t want to get laughed at for the wrong reasons!

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. Now it’s your turn! What’s the most embarrassing argument you’ve ever been in about music? What’s the worst one you’ve ever seen in the Youtube comments section? Let me know!

-Ben

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