What I Learned Throughout a Three Day Long YouTube Comment Section Argument
Oh, how I love the Internet. Being able to talk to people halfway across the globe about anything from sports to restaurants is something we truly take for granted, even though it has affected our lives in so many ways.
If you’re one to do this actively on one of the forums or chatrooms on the Web, you have probably engaged yourself into the YouTube comment section. Even though it is widely regarded as one of the most enraged, argumentative areas on the Internet, the comment section can, from what I found in my latest online experience, also be very thought-provoking. Furthermore, it taught me the true differences between conversations online and in real life on a deeper scale.
So, without further ado, I present to you what I learned over a three day long YouTube comment section argument:
I’m not the most argumentative person. Usually if I can’t have my way, I’ll brush it off if the situation isn’t too important to me. I’ll admit, however, that when someone else feels the need to argue with me, sometimes I’ll follow along just to see where the conversation goes (in a polite way, mind you).
I’ve recently been hooked on watching videos from the Oddity Archive. It’s a relatively small YouTube channel, run by Ben, the host, about the small yet simple or even nostalgic things in old and new technology. If you’re into that kind of stuff, or even if you aren’t, I highly recommend you check his channel out. This article isn’t sponsored in any mean, by the way… I promise!
A common theme across these videos is the cardboard box that hides all of Ben’s face, but his eyes. There really is no particular reason, it seems to just be a running theme on the channel. Because of this theme, a few comments on the video were questioning why Ben hides his face, just out of curiosity. I saw one of these comments that happened to have no answer (despite being about eight months old), so naturally I chose to partially explain it to the commenter.
I won’t link the video I am referencing or mention the commenter’s actual username, just in case anyone thinks that attacking this guy is a good idea. Nonetheless, I have included a transcript of part of the chain below.
Commenter: And what's your supposed point of not letting us see more of your face than your eyes? Me: It's a running gag on his channel, probably to stay partially anonymous Commenter: I'm aware that it's a running gag, but the question really is why it is. And if he wanted to stay anonymous, then he shouldn't be using his name. It's obviously not about anonymity.
NOTE: Ben only uses his first name in the videos. Now that I look back on this thread, the entire “creepy” theme of the Oddity Archive videos probably contributed to his partially covered face, not as much because of anonymity.
Me: Well, you're right about that, but it's still possible to give *a* name out and not have anyone know part of your appearance. Commenter: That's not the same thing as anonymity, though. And then the question would be why he would not like us to know how he looks. Let's just see what Ben himself says, shall we? Me: Yeah, if you really want a completely accurate answer, I'm not the one to ask.
Here is where I attempted to compromise with the commenter about the idea of Ben’s anonymity. At this point, I wasn’t sure that my answer was completely accurate in the first place, and since the commenter sounded set on asking Ben himself for an answer, I made an effort to back out of the conversation and just forget this ever happened.
Little did I know, this was only the start of a three day long spiral.
Commenter: Then why did you even try answering in the first place? Me: Maybe because I didn't understand your initial questions?
And then I learned that no matter how obvious your comments are, some people still won’t get it. Case in point: that question I just asked.
Commenter: I don't know the answer to the question you just asked me; I'm not a mind reader.
At this point, most people would probably call this commenter a troll right off the bat. Once again, an obvious comment trying to prove a point such as mine isn’t the hardest thing in the world to comprehend. Yet, I continued the conversation just to see what would happen next.
Me: It's a rhetorical question; It's not meant to be answered. Commenter: Oh, really? Well if so, then what sort of attempted "rhetoric" were you trying to throw out there with that?
NOTE: There is a difference between rhetoric and a rhetorical question. Rhetoric is defined as “language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable” (dictionary.com), while a rhetorical question is “a question asked solely to produce an effect or to make an assertion and not to elicit a reply” (dictionary.com). I believe that the feeling I was trying to convey was honest and reasonable, so it isn’t rhetoric.
With that misunderstanding (and a little English lesson for you) aside, let us get back to the main course:
Me: I'm hinting at how the initial questions you asked me were ones that I misunderstood, which I inferred based on your rejection of my answers. That question needed no answer back and was to prove a point, therefore it is rhetorical. Commenter: Um, no, that's not the definition of "rhetorical," silly. Something that is rhetorical is used as an attempt to further an argument; rhetoric is parts of an argument. Therefore, if you can't show that your queston has a point in the argument, then it is not a rhetorical question. But even rhetorical questions can be be answered and should make sense as potentially answerable. So if you think you have a question, whether it's just being used for rhetoric or not, then you'd better be prepared to either expect an answer to it or for someone to tell you that they don't know the answer.
I’m not sure what the commenter was attempting to say about how it should further an argument (which mine did as stated before), and how even if they shouldn’t be answered you should still expect them to be (???), but I don’t appreciate the use of “um” at the beginning, or the commenter calling me “silly”. In fact, this is something the two of us got back to later…
Me: First: I was using my comment to further an argument. You asked why I tried answering in the first place and I had explained that I answered because I, perhaps, didn't understand the initial questions. Second: The last part of your previous comment has no relation to this argument. Rhetorical questions aren't meant to be answered, therefore I shouldn't be required to expect to have mine be answered.
Afterwards, I make an attempt to finish up the argument, but to no avail.
Me: There is really no sensible reason to continue this argument. I think we both need to relax and stop with this petty debate over whether my question was rhetorical or not. Besides, our first debate over Ben's "questionable anonymity" has already been completed. Commenter: No, you didn't answer because perhaps you didn't understand the initial question; you asked me if you didn't understand, and that question wasn't even used for rhetoric because it didn't lead up to any new idea that would make a point.
Once again, the rhetorical question did lead up to a new point (i.e. I didn’t understand his initial questions).
Commenter: And again, you think you know the meaning of "rhetorical" but you don't. You act like you were taught that "rhetorical" means "not meant to be answered." But that's not the meaning. Maybe you think that because you either went to a lame school with lame teachers, or you were half-asleep, or your misinformed parents tried teaching you at home instead of sending you out into the world. "Rhetorical" really means "of or used for rhetoric." Stuff isn't as simple as you think it is, Nick.
I’m rarely upset my YouTube comments. I’ve been called many rude things in the past, but the fact that this guy insulted my intelligence to satisfy himself and his ego is sickening.
Commenter: We didn't have a "debate" about Ben's use of a cover. I asked a question, and then you tried and failed to answer it, and then you went off onto all this other stuff, including "Well, if you want an answer, ask someone other than me," which was stupid to say because... helloooo, I did ask someone other than you, but you chimed in with some nonsense anyway. And it's still not complete because I still don't have the answer, which is why I said that we should see what Ben says.
This kid completely missed the point of everything I said. Maybe he was half-asleep.
Me: Yes, and then afterwards I said "I'm not the one to ask" to temporarily end the conversation in an acceptable manner. If you hadn't taken what I said the wrong way and continued this argument, we wouldn't be here discussing such a dead-end topic. I truly feel that you are putting words into my mouth and are being extremely offensive. I highly advise that we both end this conversation. Commenter: Well, you still haven't given me a real answer as to why you would even try jumping in with an attempted answer if you knew you weren't the one to ask. How about a straight answer now?
Again, I had no idea what his upcoming responses would be. How would I know I couldn’t answer them at the start?
Me: I surely made it clear that I did not understand your initial questions and I have the right to not answer them. You just don't know when to stop. Commenter: Yes, I do know when to stop, and that's when I'm done defending my replies from someone else's bratty ones. Thanks for trying to come up with an answer that might fill me in, though.
And thanks for insulting me, my teachers, and my parents.
Me: +Commenter +Commenter I really don't see how my reasoning is "bratty" if I'm simply trying to reason with you and finish this stupid argument. I'm getting tired of sending these back and forth as well, and I will gladly stop if you agree to as well. There is absolutely nothing to defend anymore and there won't be anything in the future if we just stop now. So please, have a good day and let us both forget about this. :)
Looking back on this, I can’t find anything that’s offensive about what I just said here. Apparently, however, “Commenter” managed to.
Commenter: What are you saying my user name twice for? Did ya think I wouldn't understand that you were talking to me if I only saw it once in the reply, even though somehow I already "magically" had before -- that this reply would somehow be "different"? What's up, man?
Sometimes I marvel at the people in this world.
Commenter: Your reasoning was bratty for at least two reasons: 1 That you thought Ben's not wanting his face to be seen means he's somehow "anonymous" even though he's free with his first and last name. Not true. 2. That when you tried making your point using a question as if asking me what was in your mind, you claimed that question to somehow be "rhetorical," and as if you think "rhetorical" just means "not meant to be answered." Not true.
I’m pretty sure that a wrong answer isn’t bratty just because it is, well, wrong.
Commenter: But it was nice that you wanted to try to give some kind of honest attempt at an answer. I'm not blaming you for that. Thanks for your willingness.
He has contradicted himself more than a few times. First he has a fit over me trying to give an answer, then he thanks me for doing so? Something isn’t right about this.
Me: According to dictionary.com, a "brat" is a spoiled or impolite child, therefore being bratty resembles such characteristics. I don't believe that my comments were either impolite or were written to make me sound spoiled. Just because my two responses may have been wrong doesn't mean they were bratty. Also, I don't know why I mentioned you twice in the comment. I'm on mobile, so when I leave the YouTube app while writing a comment I have to copy the entire comment so I can continue it later. It probably just copied your name the first time and I didn't edit it out because I didn't see it. There is no reason to make a big deal out of it. Commenter: Well, it actually does seem kind of bratty to insist that "UHH, a question that is used for rhetoric is just one that wasn't meant to be answered, UHH...", as if "rhetorical" meant "not answered," when that's really not true. And then that same kind of uninformed way of talking/writing being used to say something like that a person could want to be "anonymous" even though they're sharing their full name with us also just seems bratty to me. But it's more of a dumb brattiness than a rude form of it. Heh, you weren't being all that rude but kind of overargumentive. Oh well, at least you were willing to try to help. Don't feel very slammed. :-)
Remember how the commenter used phrases such as “Uh” and “silly” is actually bratty ways earlier? Yeah, I smell hypocrisy. And just because I write the way someone with a good education does in no way means that I’m faking it. “Oh yeah, I said your willingness to answer my question was dumb and your life is a dump, but don’t feel too slammed.” This guy and his big ego can bugger off (would use a stronger word but, you know, my site is pretty PG).
Me: Both of our comments made a tense conversation at first, but I still don't see how explaining my rhetorical question was bratty. Commenter: It's not explaining the question you called "rhetorical" that was bratty to me, like I said, it's insisting that your question even was "rhetorical" (why ask that specific kind of simple question when it makes no more point that way and you can just state it?), and insisting what "rhetorical" even supposedly means, even though it doesn't mean what you claimed.
I won’t go over how he’s wrong about the definition of a rhetorical question, again. The one thing he is partially right about, however, is how any rhetorical question can simply be a statement. Still, a statement doesn’t have the same effect on the reader as a rhetorical question.
Me: Well, I see the point you've made. Honestly, I can see that this conversation is just going around in circles (i.e. back to the rhetorical question) so I won't be continuing. Good day.
While it may not be the most dramatic end to an argument, that’s how the cookie crumbled as of now. Yeah, this guy might come back again, maybe even to tell me how worthless my life is (exciting!).
Of course, part of me wanted to write this to vent a bit, but I truly did learn a few things because of this argument. That doesn’t mean I’m thankful for some guy using me to stroke his big ego, but at least I can salvage something.
I could go the easy route and say that ‘I learned how easy it is to be mean online’, but first, I already knew that, and second, my blog is reserved for quality content only (in my opinion, that could be objectionable).
Taking into account that this argument lasted days on end, I learned that sensible arguments can be much more thorough and easier to write over a longer period of time. Not the most complex fact, but it’s definitely true. As you may have noticed, my actual responses to this guy didn’t acknowledge his insults. From this I infer that sandwiching rude comments between reasoning, even complete crap reasoning, makes subtle insults easier to pull off.
The most important reason, and the main lesson of this blog post, is that there is always something to salvage from anything, including bad things. And you should really think about the physical and mental commitments to starting an unintentional comment war.
I’ll keep you updated if “Commenter” replies again. Have a good week!
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a kudos, share this with your friends or family, and subscribe to The ESSAYER below!
Comments? Contact me! firstname.lastname@example.org