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
Do crazy people have a right to be heard? I think they do — as long as they’re American. But even with crazy people’s well known infiltration of the internet — appearing in any blog or news comments section or online forum they can access — they still have a lot of trouble getting people to listen to them.
In a recent column, I touched on the topic of conspiracy theories, which of course brought in lots of crazy people to the comments section. As I looked through the responses, I noticed how easy it was to scan them or just read the first sentence and say, “Well, this one is a crazy person.” And lots of people scan like this, because crazy people have this habit of self-identifying on the internet that allows sane people to skip over what they have to say before even getting to the crazy point. Thus crazy people never even get heard.
The advent of the internet should be a Renaissance for crazy. Crazy people used to have to try to spread their views through poorly photocopied newsletters with weird font choices that no sane person would read. But on the internet, crazy people can put their opinions right next to those of sane people. If they can just use a little self-discipline to not immediately identify themselves as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, they might actually get their ideas read.
Now, I’m not going to try to tell people how not to be crazy anymore. That’s a long, involved process of correctly identifying the internal things making them angry in their own psyches that they instead project onto external things. And it sounds hella boring. Instead, I’m only going to tell you how to conceal your craziness. I’m going to teach you how to take your freak flag and fold it up and put it in your back pocket. If you’re successful, people are going to have to really read your points before understanding that you’re crazy. They might even miss your crazy entirely and really consider what you have to say (e.g., “This guy makes some interesting points; maybe I should find out more about this ‘Ron Paul’ person”). Doesn’t that sound great, you social outcasts and conspiracy nuts?
I see some crazed nodding. Let’s get started.
TIPS FOR NOT APPEARING CRAZY ON THE INTERNET
Caps Lock Is Your Enemy
Look at your keyboard. On the left should be a button labeled “Caps Lock.” Now, there should be a light somewhere indicating whether the Caps Lock key is on. You want that light to be off. If you can’t find the indicator light, try typing on screen. Do you see lower case letters? If not, hit the Caps Lock key and try typing again. When you get your keyboard to the state where it normally types lower case letters, NEVER EVER TOUCH THE CAPS LOCK KEY EVER AGAIN! I can use it because I’m a professional, but you crazy people just need to leave that key alone. This tip by itself will make a lot of you look 100% less crazy.
There are basically two kinds of people who type entire comments with Caps Lock on: stupid people and crazy people. And no one wants to read what either has to say. Now, a stupid person just doesn’t notice or care that his Caps Lock key is on, and someone like that is probably not advanced enough to use the internet. Crazy people, on the other hand, intentionally put the Caps Lock on because they think the reason people haven’t been agreeing with their crazy is that they didn’t say it loud enough. This is crazy person logic, and it is wrong.
And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”).
Similarly, be frugal with your exclamation points! Not every single sentence should end in one! And never use more than one per sentence!!!!11!!eleventy11!1 If you have something useful to say, it should make just as much sense when said in a normal voice.
i can haz proper grammar?
Here’s another pretty basic one: no lolcats speak. Write actual English sentences using real words and proper grammar. Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Use punctuation. there is no reason ur comment 2 a blog or column shud look lik ur a n00b at texting. You’re not writing these things from a old cellphone with just a number pad that lacks auto-complete; there is a big keyboard in front of you.
You save like 0.1 seconds writing “u” instead of “you” at the cost of making yourself look like an absolute idiot. Is there any reason you’re trying to shave off this time? Are there wild dogs bearing down on you as you write why we need another look at Obama’s birth certificate? If so, run from the wild dogs and write your comment later. Your whole sentence shouldn’t scream, “I’m a useless idiot with nothing important to say.” You should never write like that unless you actually are a cat expressing your desire for a cheeseburger.
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!