The internet is like sitting around the dinner table with relatives on Thanksgiving after everyone has had too much to drink.
Comments get taken wildly out of context, everyone assumes the absolute worst about everyone else, and it doesn’t take long before the conversation has turned into a backbiting, passive-aggressive/actually aggressive reality TV show.
It’s like the Kardashians on expired anabolic steroids.
And the internet is even worse.
We’ve all had the experience of getting dragged into an absurd digital back-alley brawl, complete with low blows, bloodied profile pictures, schoolyard insults, and ridiculous accusations.
Afterward, we often look back and think, “What the heck just happened? How did I get sucked into that? I’m not normally that kind of person. WHY DID I GET SO FIRED UP ABOUT AVOCADOS?!?”
I can tell you exactly how it got started. In fact, these rumbles in the online jungle (I’m trying to make as many lame fighting references as possible) always follow a precise formula.
Let me break that formula down for you. For the sake of example, we’re going to use two fictional characters named John and Tim who have no connection to real life characters. The memes and emojis used are real and frequently show up in these arguments.
Step #1: John makes an innocuous comment
“Man, I really enjoyed that episode of Game of Thrones last night. WOW! So crazy! Can it get any more intense?”
Step #2: Tim responds with an ever so slightly passive-aggressive comment in which he tries to make a point without making a point
“I didn’t watch it. It got to be too much for me.”
Step #3: John fires back with a mildly snarky comment followed by an emoji which on the surface seems pleasant but belies a strong judgment underneath
“Doesn’t bother me! I guess I must have a stronger conscience! ?”
Step #3: Tim, feeling a bit riled, fires back his own question, also followed by a laughing emoji, indicating that he’s trying to be pleasant but is on the precipice/thinks the point is ridiculous
“Wait. Are you saying I have a weak conscience? ?”
Step #4: John doesn’t directly answer the question, but words his answer so that everyone clearly knows his answer
“Well, I’m just saying…it doesn’t bother me.”
Step #5: Tim volleys back with a cryptic comment implying something devious about John’s character
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t bother you.”
Step #6: John, still trying to maintain the upper hand, pretends to be puzzled even though he knows exactly what he means
Step #7: Tim quotes the Bible wildly out of context, mashing up several verses to fit his point
“It says in the last days people will want their ears tickled, like wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Step #8: John begins to feel his blood boil but also wants to stay out of the mud, so he focuses on Tim’s misquoting scripture instead of the fact that he’s watching naked people on TV
“Uhh, Bible much? I think you may have garbled that a little bit. ?”
Step #8: Tim is undeterred and shifts over to sweeping commentary about stereotypes
“It’s sad to see the church sliding into such ungodliness. I can only hope the Rapture happens soon and I can be lifted out of this smut. Maranatha.”
Step #9: John has had enough and resorts to pure character assassination
“What’s SAD is that the church is full of stuck up jerks like you who love to show off!”
Step #9: Tim quotes another passage of scripture, except this one has no relation to the subject at hand, and he uses all caps for no apparent reason
“LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME TO ME. LET THEM COME…”
Step #9: John begins losing control and veins begin popping from his forehead
“WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”
Step #10: John’s friend Andrew, who is not involved in this in the least, inserts the Michael Jackson popcorn meme
Step #11: Tim ups the stakes by bringing more nefarious references into the conversation
“This is what happened with Rob Bell. He started loving the culture. You’re slip sliding away from the truth.” ????????
Step #12: John, trying to regain control, begins making counter accusations and trying to use his theology brass knuckles
“I wouldn’t say you’re any better. You’re like the Amish, except more strict and with less gospel. And from what I’ve heard it sounds like you don’t understand your eschatology too well.”
Step #13: Tim semi-embraces the accusation, knowing that it will enrage Tim even further
“At least the Amish don’t love the world. And I don’t need to know what escha-whatever is because what matters most is that I love Jesus. Maybe you should think about that.”
Step #14: John invokes Hitler
“You know who else didn’t love the world? ADOLPH FREAKING HITLER. Things turned out great for him, right?”
Step #14: Tim invokes Satan
“Get behind me Satan, for you have not the things of God in mind.”