Some of the fractious commenters on Facebook responding to my latest piece on the Darwin Awards (more on that coming in another post) took notice of my short bio in the right sidebar of my page and leaped to the erroneous conclusion when they read “ghost, monsters, paranormal”, etc. They misconstrued that my research into these topics of interest meant that I promoted such beliefs. It was almost funny (if it wasn’t so discouraging) that those who visited critical thinking-themed Facebook pages (where they found the post link) completely failed to actually be careful before blurting out their ill-informed responses. But, being Facebook, and social media in general, it is what it is. They didn’t click on the “About” page which details my prior work and gives it more than adequate context.
But I do think that I confound people. There are not that many of us who are focused on following methods of science and reason for these fringe topics, relying on the evidence to lead us in our pursuit of these subjects, sans belief. The major of commentators on these subjects are believers and promoters of paranormal and pseudoscience.
The few “Bigfoot skeptics”, as we’ve been labeled, see these subjects far more deeply and with nuance and, dare I say, approach it with a more open mind to the colors and shading than the way they are nearly universally portrayed in mainstream culture. For example, I don’t take ghosts at face value, but I am interested in what people say they experienced, the various explanations for that, and the effect of paranormal belief in the broader population. Also, I like to see how it plays out in other behaviors including the co-opting of scientific concepts aimed to legitimize it.
I’m thinking that is a bit too much detail to grasp for people just clicking in on the website for a second or two. Or, maybe they just quit when they found some keywords that they could use against me. (I’m not feeling too positive about internet commenters these days. They are a lazy and rude bunch, mostly, with a few being truly awful excuses for human beings. A positive comment is nice but a thoughtful, constructive comment is a lot of work.) In contrast to the time and effort it takes to run a decent website, podcast, blog, etc., it takes no time at all to speed read a post (or just the headline) and spit out a witty (or misspelled) remark in the moment.
Nevertheless, the mistaken comprehension told me I needed to change the short bio to be more clear. So I did. It’s minor but I hope it’s unambiguous.
One guy who misread it (though there was more than one) or wished for me to assume he read it, wondered why I wasn’t clear about being a “debunker” of ghosts and monsters. I don’t say that because I don’t do that. It’s simple in that it’s not that simple. I’m not out to strip you of your beliefs, I’m here to offer another viewpoint for what is promoted as paranormal options. You can take it or leave it.
It’s a fool, no doubt, who jumps to hasty conclusions, or reads too much or too little into what appears to be deceptively “simple”. Because we don’t value long reads much on pocket-sized digital platforms, social media necessarily oversimplifies. People demand full statements in 140 characters. As the digital age marches on, the world becomes even MORE complex and confusing but we are told to swallow it all even faster. Cultural ideas are enormously convoluted and multi-layered. We cheat ourselves in thinking otherwise.
Circumstances would be better if we asked more questions instead of delivering gut opinions. Or, how about this novel idea? DON’T COMMENT unless you actually know what you are talking about. Yeah, I know, I’m the fool for hoping commenters will become more thoughtful. Not gonna happen. But that would be a first step to a more civilized America and a more intelligence online discourse. I can dream…