Winning indeed! So many of those who comment online seek virtual verbal victory but post losing and moribund attacks. It has come to the attention of the Knoxonomist that many individuals who post online are in dire need of instruction in regards to both style and content—in other words, both what to say and how to say it. The Knoxonomist lives to serve, so a brief primer is offered below for the health and betterment of our online communities.
Most people who attempt to engage in battles of wit via keyboard and Ethernet connection start from an entrenched ideology. Such persons are therefore impervious to arguments that do not deal in their particular form of conceptual currency. They are, moreover, also immune to arguments that trade in their currency but point to conclusions with which they cannot bring themselves to agree. At first, one might jump to the conclusion that there is no point in continuing dialogue with such a person. That, however, could not be further from the truth. The game is the thing, and the opportunity to joust and flail with all your metaphoric might—yet risk nothing—is one of the gems of the Modern Age.
Let it be said that the chief sin of those engaging in World Wide Web keyboard kerfuffle is to be boring. An entertaining adversary is worth a dozen sycophantic supporters. So if you are going to be a xenophobic mouth-breather, be a droll one. If your proclivities lean more toward the aging liberal weenie, let your posts be filled with levity in addition to the requisite scornful condescension. For visual learners, it is rather like doing a cannonball off the high dive: It has value, but only so long as you nail it. So just nail it.
Keep in mind that few posters are more universally loathed than the unsolicited proofreader. A quick review of most comment sections will quickly produce a response to a well-thought-out and coherent post that does little more than quibble over syntax. Mind, we are not discussing errors that could indicate that English is not the poster’s native tongue, such as subject verb inversions, a truly baffling misuse of punctuation, or the use of a backwards “R.” Rather, we are here discussing miniscule, tedious little objections—that speak more to the state of mind of the objector. These insufferable individuals actually expect thanks for taking time away from alphabetizing their canned vegetables to totally miss the point of a post. Nothing says, “I cannot grasp your argument,” faster than quoting Harbrace chapter and verse (though let it not be forgotten that the Knoxonomist’s appreciation for Harbrace, when employed to good effect, is unsurpassed—as he has demonstrated on many occasions). But what are readers to make of a compatriot who types, “How could we accept an argument on the topic of nuclear proliferation from a poster who does not understand the proper use of the semicolon?” If your frontal lobe is a wasteland, there is no pressing reason to share it with the class. Content yourself with reading what others have to say.
The only comments that contribute less to the conversation are the one-word posts (and do not ever, for any reason, let that word be “First!”). The excessively short post is often a gem such as, ”Great,” or “LOL”—or from the guy in the beer hat: “Whassaup!!!” Such posts would indicate the natives were friendly… simple, but friendly. Short posts of a hostile nature are typically profane and will not be mentioned here. Yet the Knoxonomist surmises that the conclusion that it is necessary to engage in the monosyllabic style of debate is akin to the mental process that leads one to turn to scratch cards for retirement planning. In short, if you found yourself on an ill-fated flight over the Andes Mountains, these are the folks you would eat.
One final group who should post less and read more: those we will call “campus dwellers.” With little life experience and a smattering of academic success, these posters operate under the illusion that something is true simply because they once received an “A” for saying it. A completely appropriate response to such an articulate—and completely non sequitur—post might be, “That is a fine dissertation on John Stuart Mill, but I think it insufficient to prove your point regarding the benefits of free range poultry.” Taking issue with the Bard, it does not “signify nothing”—it signifies the hazard of living out life inside the terrarium of scholarly navel observation. The fish doesn’t know that it’s wet, but it knows how to post online.
Chat boards and comment sections are great fun and occasionally informative, but that should not dissuade one from being quippish—or even offensive if the line is good enough. Ultimately, we post for the same reason we read: to engage others. The Knoxonomist welcomes all slings, arrows, roses, whatever—but he will not abide a bore.