Tips for Not Appearing Crazy on the Internet
How conspiracy nuts, basket cases, paranoid loons, and other half wits can fool the rest of us into thinking they make perfect sense.
June 12, 2011 - 12:00 am
No Long Screeds
On the other end of the spectrum from the lolcats speak is the guy who apparently has hours to spare writing pages of response as the 200th comment to some blog post. There are people who have long things to say, and they do it by writing columns or writing in their own blogs. But if you can’t get your column published and no one reads your blog, maybe you’re thinking you’ll get exposure by putting the long screed in the comments section of something people actually will read.
Sane people know that the only people who have hours to spend writing pages of text in a comments section are crazy people. And that’s why no will read what they write except other crazy people with way too much time on their hands. So keep it short. Pick one point, and write no more than a couple of sentences. Keeping it short also helps you police your crazy. I’ve seen comments where I’ve read the first paragraph and thought maybe the person was just a little over-enthusiastic, and then I started the second paragraph and realized, “Oh, this is a super crazy person.” So keep it pithy, and avoid the crazy.
Now, this is a problem even non-crazy people have, but crazy people seem to be the worst at it because they’re just so desperate to share their crazy with the world that they can’t pause for one second and read over what they wrote. I’m not asking for full editing — an error or two is expected to slip in on the internet — but insane people tend to have typing fingers that never come close to keeping up with their crazy brains bouncing around from topic to topic. Thus we get a single sentence with five glaring errors in it. It’s hard to imagine someone who writes like that has an interesting point. So after you write a comment, don’t listen to the crazy in your head shouting, “You need to share this now! Now! NOW!” Instead, take a deep breath and read it over before hitting the submit button.
Don’t Be Surprised When People Have Opinions Different From Your Crazy One
Now we’re getting into the more complex areas of not sounding crazy — not just superficial changes but actually adjusting the content of what you’re saying — so some of you extremely crazy people may want to jump off here and just concentrate on the first four tips I gave you.
Still with me? Anyway, if someone expresses an opinion that’s well known to be held by a supermajority of people, don’t act surprised by that opinion. For instance, I’ve seen atheists act shocked when they hear someone believes in God — even though surveys say something like nine in ten Americans believe in God, so there is no reason to be surprised by that.
And there are truthers who are so amazed anyone can believe the government’s story on 9/11, even though it should be pretty obvious by now that most people believe terrorists are behind it all and have moved on. Now, it’s okay to have an opinion that’s different from most people’s — on some occasions the majority of people are wrong — you just need to have the self-awareness that you hold a minority opinion. If you act surprised when someone expresses an opinion held by most people, it just makes it seem like you’re from Neptune. If 85% of people believe something and you honestly can’t even understand why people would believe that, that means you’re a crazy person whose brain doesn’t work like normal people’s. You want to hide that fact.
No Living Person Is Hitler, and the World Isn’t Ending
I think even crazy people are aware of Godwin’s Law by now; they are just too crazy to care. Fight it. One easy way to identify yourself as crazy is to have no sense of scale. To a crazy person, every little bit of nonsense is a crisis of epic proportions that has to be handled right now (e.g., “If it isn’t recognized that Obama doesn’t meet my obscure definition of ‘naturalized citizen,’ then the Constitution will burst into flames and society will collapse!”)! If you are really convinced your issue is of world-ending significance, then it is all the more important that you curb your rhetoric to get people to listen to you. You may think screaming about how important your issue is will get more people to listen to you, but it just causes more people to dismiss you as crazy.
Respond to an Actual Point and Not Just Something That’s Been Mentioned
Ever watch a paid partisan shill who, no matter what is said, will go to his couple of talking points? Now that has less to do with being stupid or crazy than just being soulless, but lots of crazy people are the same way, going back to the crazy stuff they really want to talk about no matter what subject people are actually on. And often crazy people will just read until they see a word or phrase that sets them off and then go off on a big, crazy rant before even reading the whole thing they’re reacting to. Often, then, they’re completely missing the point or missing that something is satire and taking it seriously.
Now, I know when people have crazy in their brains, it is really impatient to be let out. Still, you need to teach your crazy to wait and make sure you are actually listening to and understanding what you’re responding to. Like if someone mentions when Hanukkah is this year and you respond with a rant about Jews controlling the banks, you’re not actually having a sane person conversation. You’re just reacting to words someone is saying, which, despite the similarity, is leagues different.
Now, this is really advanced hiding-the-crazy. In fact, it’s at the borderline of trying not to look crazy and actually not being crazy. If you can actually read and understand what non-crazy people are saying and still keep your own crazy, that’s a really advanced state of crazy you’ve achieved. Be proud.
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So those are my tips for appearing less crazy on the internet. If you want a role model, try to be more like Andrew Sullivan. When it was revealed in 2008 that Bristol Palin was pregnant and thus couldn’t physically have given birth to Trig Palin, even the most hardcore conspiracy theory nuts gave up on that one, but not Sullivan. He stuck with it despite it being “the government is concealing the fact that 2 + 2 = 5!” crazy. And yet he’s still treated by many as a serious pundit because he has the discipline to make it so it’s not blatantly obvious to a casual reader that he’s Kleenex-boxes-for-shoes, the-squirrels-are-spying-on-me, kung-fu-fighting-invisible-ninjas crazy.
So give it a try in the comments, crazy people. Use these tips to try and make yourselves look sane as you argue that we still need to investigate WTC-7 or that there are many signs that Obama’s birth certificate is fake or that Ron Paul is the last hope for America. Get yourselves heard, crazy people!