Let's Talk About Derailment
The reason a lot of conversations about certain topics always go bad on social media these days is because of derailment. Feminist posts always bring out those who feel the need to point out that not all men rape or how some men are victims to or a zillion other things that no rational feminist ever argued against in the first place. Vaccination discussions always have some anti-vaxer who has to point out how their uncle's sister's former roommate had a kid who totally caught Autism that way, even if the original thread had nothing to do with the supposed “controversy” of vaccines in the first place.
Note that “derailment” is not the same as “topic drift”. Topic drift is when a group starts out talking about one issue and that naturally leads to something else. Or perhaps a serious conversation may shift into some bitter humour about the whole thing. Those things tend to happen naturally/internally, not because someone came in from outside and said something off-topic. Some posters are more tolerant of topic drift than others, or it may vary by conversation.
Derailment is when someone demands that a given conversation cover a topic in a specific way, regardless of the relevance of that point. When people can't discuss law enforcement reactions to rape because someone always comes in to claim that rape statistics are fabricated or demand to know why the conversation isn't focused on teenage alcohol consumption, that's derailment. When people can't discuss fuel efficiency because someone always has to complain that climate change isn't caused by people, that's derailment. Anything that can be construed as, “You must discuss this element in order to proceed” is a derailment.
Here are some typical derailment techniques and/or statements make when it's pointed out to people that they're derailing. You can either learn and try not to do these things, or you can scold me for even making this post because obviously I am mean, I hate all men/conservatives/Americans/pineapples, and heaping scorn on me will totally fix all those conversations where people are yelling at you and blocking you.But What About [Polar Opposite Of What Is Being Discussed or Tangential Element Known To Cause Arguments]?
Consider this one carefully. Sometimes “but what about” is a legitimate tool for introducing concepts that should be part of the discussion, but more often than not it's a derailment tactic. “But what about men, they get raped too,” is a derailment not because people don't care about men getting raped, but because it forced the conversation to acknowledge that everyone knows that men get raped too, plus it comes across as “pay attention to meeeeee” which is whiny, self-serving, and unproductive.
Or screaming “BENGHAZI!!” in a conversation about health care. You're not doing that because you want a legitimate discussion of Obama's policies. You're doing that because you hate Obama and you want to make sure nobody can have a rational discussion about anything that might in any way be construed as positive about him.
Chances are whatever you're thinking about interjecting as a “but what about” is something that has already been discussed to death by those having the conversation. Constantly bringing up tangential topics forces posters to disclaimer the snot out of everything they say first, which is cumbersome and not very inviting as a conversation starter in the first place.
But if you're pretty sure that your “but what about” point hasn't been done to death, isn't going to change the flow of conversation, and will genuinely add to the discourse, then at least be sure to introduce it politely with reputably cited facts in a non-obtrusive way. And then if the OP or those already in the conversation say that's besides the point, don't keep shoving it down everyone's throats. If it's that important to you that that element get discussed, go start a discussion about it in your own space. DO NOT LINK your side post in the conversation. That's petty and immature. Those who follow your posts will discuss things with you. Demanding that everyone come read your take on it is rude. Further, it's a common troll tactic to post a comment full of crap in their own space and then post the link so that the troll can rile everyone up without being deleted directly in the OP.This One Small Part of the OP Is Wrong For This Reason
Yeah, probably. Sometimes an excellent blog post written by a human being can make a dozen awesome points but there's that one sentence in there that pushes it a little far, or not far enough, or has a small factual error. Or maybe an analogy someone has posed for discussion of a wider societal issue isn't 100% perfect.
And you're oh so smart
so you really want everyone to know that you caught the problem. That's derailing, unless you actually believe that that one small part eliminates the entire discussion. In either case, have you tried letting it go? Nobody likes a pedant, especially a derailing pedant. Forcing the discussion to change to focus on an inconsequential sub clause is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Ask yourself if pointing out the flaw in the linked article or the one way in which the analogy doesn't fit promotes the conversation or halts it. If it promotes it because you're legitimately bringing more in, then maybe it's okay. If pointing out that one flaw is going to put everyone on the defensive and have to define why the other 99% of the article is good, then you're being a pedantic derailer. Quit it.You'll Probably Block Me For Saying This But...
Then don't say it in that conversation. It's like how sentences that start, “I'm not a racist but...” are always followed by a racist statement. If you think someone's going to get angry because you're saying something, then you're either derailing or outright trolling. You're doing something you know is going to cause a problem. So how about walking away without saying that? Or at least finding a way to say it that isn't going to make people mad? Not everything is worth saying at all times. Your voice doesn't always have to be heard in someone else's space.I'm Not Derailing, I'm Just...
At the point where you have to say that, not only have you probably already derailed the conversation (and that's why people are telling you that), but you're about to derail it further by making it all about you.I Just Want You To Educate Me
Have you tried Googling? Have you even read the article being discussed? Or maybe try posting something on your own to say, “Okay I am ignorant here and can't find answers, so here are my questions, someone please help me.” You wouldn't go into a physics class and demand the professor stop everything to teach you basic trigonometry, so why do you think it's okay to go into a topic thread and demand to have the basics explained to you?
Also, check yourself first. Most of the time when people come out with this sort of response, they've already been derailing the conversation and now they're demanding to know why everyone is mad at them. At the point where people are mad at you, what makes you think those people will suddenly take their own time to educate you on something you refuted five comments ago?I'm Just Being a Devil's Advocate/Making Sure You Don't Have an Echochamber/Someone Has To Say These Things
Uh...no. Nobody elected you to do that but yourself. You are not the Internet Police. And chances are whatever you're saying that is getting everyone riled up is something overly discussed all the time, used as a way of derailing conversations.
Any of these statements just make you look like an asshole because they are excuses for arguing, not licenses to derail. Plus for the most part those who accuse conversations of being “echochambers” are butthurt derailers who aren't able to successfully derail because they're being blocked/deleted by the OP and/or other commenters.The Other Side Never Wants To Hear My Points
That's because they have heard them. Over and over again. And your points are still wrong or being inserted in the wrong place.If You Don't Want Alternative Opinions, Don't Post Publicly
Again, you are not the Internet Police. It is not your job to go around and make sure everyone is having conversations that satisfy you. When people post publicly they do indeed want a breadth of opinion, but that doesn't mean yours
is valid to the topic at hand. “Public” doesn't mean “rule free” or “everyone welcome to do whatever they want”. As the analogy often goes, a public post is inviting the neighbourhood to chat on the OP's porch, but it doesn't mean they have to put up with someone taking a dump on the front step.
Freedom of speech is not a mandate to be heard.None of This is Fair, You're Not Letting Me Have My Say, WAHHHH!
Congratulations. You are officially a troll. Different people will have different levels of tolerance for you. Personally, I'm blocking you and making sure my friends have the opportunity to do so as well so as to spare them having to deal with you later. This isn't censorship; you are still free to speak in your own space. It's just that hardly anyone wants to listen to you, which is entirely your own fault. Go back to pre-K and learn to behave and maybe eventually you'll be allowed back into more grownup spaces.YOU SUCK! I AM BLOCKING YOU!
Good. Saves me the trouble. You will not be missed.You Totally Mean Me Because of That Other Post Over There, Don't You?
No. I periodically post things like this. I choose to occasionally use my space here to attempt to elevate discourse in general around G+. I fully expect to be ignored by most of the actual troublemakers, but hopefully others who have derailment problems will find some empowerment in this and be able to nudge their slightly problematic friends in a better direction.
In other words, just as with every point above, it's not all about you
. It's about building a better community. If you choose to take things personally and throw a fit, that's on you, not me.But You Notified Me!
I notified my "gender issues" circle because this is a common problem in gender issues conversations. I didn't notify anyone else. If you don't like being in that circle, it was opt-in so you can opt-out at any time by either politely asking me or by being enough of a jerk in comments here to get me to block you. The choice is yours.
Image source: http://tumblinfeminist.tumblr.com/post/12171070300/notaskingforpermission-derailment-bingo-by