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We’re So Sensitive: Topics That People Don’t Like You to Discuss Online

10

November 29, 2012 by Renee

Profanity doesn’t really rile people up anymore. I mean, sure on Twitter we have our moral police doing their regular rounds, scolding grown folks and whatnot for dropping f-bombs, but most of the time, we all accept that they’re just words for the most part. I think that’s fantastic. By the way, the more you protest over the usage of a word, the more power you give it and its user. Just saying.

However, it’s like we took one reason to be offended and replaced it with something else. I truly believe that the vast majority of people frequenting social media sites actually do so HOPING they’ll be offended. There’s nothing better than climbing on one’s moral high horse and tearing some deadbeat a new one, is there?

While profanity won’t raise too many eyebrows, there are topics are implicitly taboo no matter where you park your virtual ass. If you happen to introduce these topics into a comment stream, blog post, article, or general online forum, you’re gonna start yourself a shit-storm. Some people do this intentionally, and they’re usually fucktards. Other times, it’s an honest and innocent statement that just snowballs because there are other fucktards who just can’t wait to gnaw off a piece of some unsuspecting victim. Well, me being who I am, I’m going to introduce a whole offensive topic salad today.

Which topics? They tend to be issues that have little or no middle ground. You can’t remain neutral while discussing them because the topic doesn’t offer that option, or the folks on either side don’t offer that option. That’s why they send panties screaming up the asses of all involved. They’re topics where you’ve gotta choose a side. If you refuse, you’re simply blasted by both sides for being a pussy. It’s one of those “no win” situations.

All of these topics have been floating about forever. In polite conversation, we avoid them like the plague, but online discussions aren’t usually polite so we just go ahead and toss this shit out there. What are these topics you “cannot” discuss on the Internet? Get ready:

1. Sexuality
This cannot be discussed in a calm and rational manner apparently. For example, for some people, homosexuality is acceptable, but for far too many others being a homosexual is like lighting a baby on fire and then eating its charred remains. Discussing your sexual preference in mixed company (or more often someone else’s preference) lights a fire under almost everyone’s ass. We hear all kinds of arguments for and against any and all sexual orientations. It’s genetic. It’s a choice. It’s an illness. You can be cured. You can’t be cured. No matter what your personal position in all of it, it is extremely rare for there to be any middle ground. If you’re a live and let live kind of person who claims to have no real opinion either way, you’re usually perceived as “accepting” and thus attacked accordingly by those defending the helpless babies from the flames. I think what makes sexuality an explosive topic is that the idea of same-sex relationships and bisexuality is so much more mainstream now than it used to be. While for most intelligent folks, that’s a really good thing, to many, many others the increase in supporters of such things is a sign the apocalypse is surely coming and we’re all going to Hell. If you don’t want to get burned online, do not bring up or answer questions about sexuality. No matter what you say, you’re going to be considered an asshole by someone. Me? I think you all gotta do who you gotta do. It’s not my vagina you’re doing it with, so it’s not my business. Carry on.

2. Jesus Christ/God

Whether or not he really is the son of God isn’t the point here. I think the point is that this guy is possibly the most discussed man in all of history. And the mere mention of his name seems to divide folks quite decisively. Some say he was a good man and a wise man but nothing else. Others argue he was God in the flesh. Some suggest he never existed. Others wonder if perhaps he is the original vampire that started all vampires. Okay, so those discussions are possibly drug-induced. The thing I like about Jesus is that no matter what your opinion on him and his existence, no one seems to be able to discuss said opinion in a rational manner. All discussion devolves into name calling and nastiness once Jesus joins the party. You add his old man into the mix, and you get a two-for. Jesus or God = Shit-storm. Every goddamn time.

Race

No, we can’t all just get along. Why? Because while things are better than they were years ago, people are still fiercely defensive about their race. It’s probably because race is such an integral part of our self-identity, and because the world is full of idiots who can’t just view humans as humans. Trying to talk about race or racism reasonably is nearly impossible online because with the mask of anonymity comes asshattery. The logical, calm voices are usually drowned out no matter what discussion you enter into. Sadly, even today, in this time when knowledge is so easily obtained, we have those ignorant fucktards who believe one race can be superior to another. You can’t explain to these guys that when you examine the issue organically, race is a mythical concept. We have ethnicities, but race is an artificial concept based almost entirely on the color of one’s skin, which is really just the amount of melanin in a person’s skin, and on the size and arrangement of the bones and musculature. No one is a single “pure” race of any kind. Of course, you can argue with me on that, and I respect your views, but knowing what we know about ancestry and such, we have to admit, the odds of anyone being a truly pure race are pretty slim. The problem is, when we start discussing this (as I am), discussion disintegrates into cries of discrimination and hatred from all sides and we know how it ends. The discussion is essentially over at this point.

Abortion

Pro-Choice. Pro-Life. Anti-choice. Baby. Fetus. Apples. Oranges. Jesus shit guys, whatever happened to “personal?” A civil discussion of abortion is hard enough in person, but online, it’s positively unheard of. That protective barrier we have between us and the other people make us bolder, more willing to sling shit at the other side. The reasons are obvious I think. Abortion is a topic that is naturally polarizing because it pits men against women, religion against religion, life against death, and freedom against oppression, victims against abusers. The most divisive part of it is that we tend to try to apply a black and white way of thinking to a subject that has way too many gray areas to fit comfortably in the pigeonholes we make for it. There is no right answer for you or me, unless we have to make the decision. Even then, right or wrong is so hard to define. I won’t get into my thoughts on the government’s involvement in this, because I really don’t want to debate this issue. Why? Rational people go from zero to batshit in less than a second, myself included, when we combine abortion and politics. It’s like banging a couple of bombs together. I think if you want to avoid shit-storms, abortion is a topic you should leave alone at all costs. Keep it the personal choice it should be. Yeah, I know I’m just asking for it. *takes cover*

Gun Control

I live in redneck country, and let me tell you, mentioning gun control is like…firing off a gun in the middle of church. There’s a lot of politics involved in gun control, but there’s also a lot of fear and passion. All three make a shit-storm stew of epic proportions. Even those who live in countries with very strict gun control or no gun control weigh in on these discussions. This is because it often boils down to one thing: civil rights. Do we have the RIGHT to own a gun? Sure we do. Do we have the RIGHT to use it? That’s where it gets all mucky and angry. I know you all think I enjoy a good argument, and sometimes I do, but even I avoid this topic in my real life. Folks bring it up all the time and I simply change the subject or bow out of the discussion because you cannot have an intelligent and rational exchange of ideas. It might start that way, but it spirals down into a nasty circle of meaningless jabs and insults. And if someone owns a gun…bad things.

Politics

Ah, politics. I truly have no opinion on this topic, and folks still want to climb inside my ass and rip shit apart. Why? How could I possibly not have an opinion? That’s why. Of all the topics I’ve mentioned, I think no matter where you live, or what political party you support, politics inspire the most rage. I’ve seen people get physically ill when their candidate loses an election. Just look at the recent American hoopla. The Republicans and the Democrats have literally polarized a country. Now, the US isn’t the only country to be so politically divided. Folks start wars over this shit. The saddest part of this polarization is the deadlock it creates in governments and getting shit done. Politicians are crafty fuckers, and they pull out all the stops to add steam to their camp. While these other issues are ones I can be pushed to discuss, I purposely and very intensely try to NEVER discuss politics. No, I’m not discussing it here. I’m just pointing out how we probably should just not discuss it at all.

Origins of Man

I wouldn’t have believed this if I hadn’t witnessed it this past week. The discussions over evolutionary theories and the origins of man are downright nasty sometimes. Perfectly logical folks, sci-fi writers in fact, essentially lose their shit and start calling each other names and behaving in a very non-intelligent manner, for daring to entertain an idea that is anything other than the popular one. Curious, I looked around the Internet and found no matter where you go, no matter the educational background, social group, or culture folks come from, this topic makes them all spitting mad. Where did we come from? Was it evolution or creation? Big bang or cosmic fart? The books written on this topic could fill a library or two. Each side has butt-loads of facts, support, and data to support their position. The bottom line, and the reason it’s such a touchy issue, is that nobody knows the real answer. It’s all theory. All of it. Mix in religion versus science, because it does play a significant role in the side you choose, and you’ve got shit-storm soup with a side of blind rage pie. The worst part is, again, there’s no middle ground. If you try to work out a position that agrees with all sides, they’ll rip you to shreds buddy. No joke. However, I do enjoy bringing this one up simply because the topic fascinates me. I’ll discuss it even if I get a new asshole or two. Hey, you can never have too many of those.

Religion

More people have died in the name of their god than any other possible reason combined. Whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Jewish, Scientologist, or whatever, bringing up religion is going to set some fires. The reason is really very plain. No matter what you believe, whether you have a religion or not, spirituality is the most intensely personal part of anyone’s being. This includes those who reject religion and spirituality altogether. It’s a very subjective thing too. You could have 100 people in a room, and all of these folks would have a set of beliefs unique to them, and not one of them would be technically right or wrong. This ambiguity opens the floor to a lot of shit piling. To make matters worse, some religions have as an integral part of their “structure” a command to proselytize. Those that don’t just seem to feel the need to “spread the word.” Then your intensely personal beliefs start colliding with someone else’s and there you have it: shit-storm. I’m telling you, folks come knocking on my door preaching “The Good Word” and I get all kinds of mean, and I believe they have a right to their beliefs. I just don’t want them trying to convince me mine are wrong. However, they’ve got the right to free speech. But on the other hand, I’ve got the right to sit in my home and not have strangers ring the doorbell with their pamphlets and whatnot. But how else will they spread the “Word?” I don’t care. And here is why this topic is so very delicate.

Parenting

Want to piss someone off beyond all reasonable proportions? Bring up parenting, or more specifically, discipline. Oh. My. Shit. You cannot even imagine the online brew-ha-ha I’ve seen when someone brings up parenting. I’ve even gotten caught up in it a time or two. The thing is, nothing is more precious to a “good” parent than their children, and nothing will set you off faster than someone implying you’re doing anything other than your best. Why? Because we all secretly fear we’re fucking it all up. Someone saying that we are is like, tossing a guilt grenade in our laps. Sure we can discuss parenting tips and whatnot, but the minute someone tosses a don’t, never, or should not in there, or anything that sounds the least bit critical, you got yourself a war.

These are the topics I find have gotten me or someone I know into the most shit online, but I imagine there are many more. Perhaps instead of discussing the merits of an opinion or why we take a certain side in these topics, we should discuss our inability to discuss these topics without starting a war. What do you think? Why can’t we respect an opposing view? Why is someone being “wrong” in our point of view a reason to tear them a new asshole? Will these ever be safe subjects to discuss online?
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10 thoughts on “We’re So Sensitive: Topics That People Don’t Like You to Discuss Online

  1. Vero says:

    That's a whole load of hot topics, and there are indeed many more. What's interesting to me is that even people who don't take clear sides, instead of being hunted as potential allies by the two warring sides, are mocked for not having the backbone to choose a side. This isn't necessarily my case, but I've seen it online often enough. Being skeptical and wanting more proof or better arguments before making up your mind, makes you look like an indecisive knob in the eyes of the fanatic side-takers. I find this the most troubling aspect.Picking a side equals making a commitment, if only to oneself. The need for psychological consistency (inner peace) pushes people to stick to their guns even as evidence against their opinion amounts, until a tipping point is eventually reached. But for people who have forgotten (or belittle) critical thinking and the weighing of evidence, this tipping point is practically never reached. Instead, the need for consistency drives them to become more and more aggressive to counterbalance the onslaught of counterarguments. I doubt that this way to handle things will ever change as long as we equate character with conviction, and not with flexibility.

  2. Renee Miller says:

    I think I agree 100% with all of that.

  3. I unfriended someone today on FB specifically because he was so annoying with his opinions. Although I normally check people's timelines before I accept a 'friendship', this guy had it hidden.So I friended him and in less than 24 hours, unfriended him.His great sin: Posting too often with endless "proof" about how wrong the other side is on every hot button under the sun.The only thing he proved to me was that he was obnoxious–and clueless.I liked the pre-social networking world. You didn't know what the other guy was thinking 24/7 and I never felt the urge to smack a total stranger upside the head.

  4. L.G. Keltner says:

    This is a great post! I know how heated these topics can get, and I have my own opinions for sure. Yet I'm always amazed at how people will degrade each other because of their disagreements. Some arguments are indeed best avoided sometimes, and when I do get involved in them, I try to avoid the personal jabs. I think people result to name-calling when they have no convincing arguments to back up their own views, so they try to discredit the other person instead.

  5. Renee Miller says:

    Maria: I'm so with you on all of that. It's one thing to have an opinion. It's quite another to go beating someone over the head with it or belittling their beliefs or ideas. And you know, I don't recall wanting to smack people quite as often as I do nowadays. Could be as you said; we're inundated with EVERYONE'S thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, etc. It's exhausting. L.G.: Exactly! The name calling is usually when you've got nothing left to say that adds something to the discussion. I think when you resort to name calling (although I've probably been guilty of it a time or two)it only weakens any intelligent arguments you have made or might make. And yeah, sometimes the argument, no matter how passionate one feels about the subject, is best avoided.

  6. Adam Gaylord says:

    "…folks come knocking on my door preaching “The Good Word”" and I have fun with 'em. If they didn't question their faith before knocking on my door, they sure will after. When I was in the dorms freshman year of my undergrad a kid knocked on my door and asked, "If you found yourself standing in front of god, what question would you ask him?" I appreciated the different approach so I thought about it and answered, "I think I would say, 'Since I'm standing in front of you, that answers my questions about how I got here so my question is, how did you get here?'" Poor kid stood there for about a minute with this dumbstruck look on his face, then thanked me and turned and walked down the hall and out of the building. I think I blew his mind.

  7. Renee Miller says:

    I usually have fun with them too, but I've had them just walk in when I don't answer and that's not okay even for family. 😉 Actually, I like his question. The phrasing isn't pushy and it leaves it open for the person to answer whatever way they want…which probably didn't get him many converts.

  8. Mike Keyton says:

    I liked the pre-social networking world. You didn't know what the other guy was thinking 24/7 and I never felt the urge to smack a total stranger upside the head. Brilliant. In my opinion 'beliefs' and opinions should only be discussed with family or close friends. In those cases you may seriously disagree but know enough about each other's good qualities to offset against a different point of view.Offload them on others if ego demands it

  9. Renee Miller says:

    While I agree, discussing with family and close friends is the best way to avoid offending people and getting stuck in the middle of a shit-storm, sometimes in this world of fiction, these topics crop up innocently, and not as a matter of ego. For example, when you're discussing a book in an online forum, or a review of the book is published somewhere that they allow commenting, the discussion almost always ventures into theme. How do you not discuss a book's theme if you're examining its merits? Of course, all hell breaks loose if the author has explored any of these topics. It's sad that we're so sensitive that a mere book discussion deteriorates into mudslinging, but it does all the time.

  10. TJ says:

    This is why I have been avoiding the Internet so much this year. Every single topic is polarized that it is impossible the hold an actual discussion without it degenerating into name-calling and pissing me off. I can't count the number of well thought out blogs, articles, comments and discussions that I would have loved to join. Inevitably they degenerated into mudslinging, and accusations by the time the sixth person had joined in. I actually enjoy discussing / debating all of the topics that you mention. But discussion requires a willingness to hear the other person out, and withholding judgement. It also requires an open mind. Entering a discussion I am perfectly willing to adjust my thinking if someone proves me wrong, or at least study the topic better to defend my beliefs. I do not expect the other person to change their beliefs to match mine, merely to think about what I've said. This past year you can't even begin to express an opinion before you get labeled and ignored. "What does he know he's one of those damn liberals.", or "You must be one of those ultra religious bigots." It is much easier to ignore someone's opinions if you don't see them as a real person. It is easier to tear someone down than to reasonably debate them.

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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