[Note: This seems to be the next in an unplanned series about changes I’m making to deal better with the online world. You might want to grab a beverage, because it’s long.]
I saw a friend say “Not my circus, not my monkeys” on Twitter a few weeks ago and it made me realize how many conversations and issues I develop strong feelings about that don’t personally involve me. It’s human nature to be curious, to be social (in the human sense, not the Myers-Briggs sense), to have opinions. If you’re online a lot, that world is one that has many, many pieces of information about things that don’t directly bear on your life and a few that do. And that gives you an almost endless supply of issues to interact with people about.
Frequently people are wrong. Deeply, profoundly wrong. Everyone knows that; it’s why this xkcd cartoon is so widely shared. But increasingly I’m coming to the conclusion that in most cases people need to go on being wrong, without any well-meaning attempts by me to help them see the light.
Sometimes this is because they enjoy what they are feeling and to point out to them they’re wrong makes them feel worse. If the issue is trivial or one without ramifications for anything or anyone else, I’m not sure what is gained by showing them the wrongness of their position. At other times there are ramifications for other people, but it’s not clear that the person can be moved from the original wrong position (and this assumes that the wrong position is an objective one that can be proven). The resulting debate between the two parties can make things worse, not better, and at the end the person who is wrong doesn’t shift but lots of blood has been spilled.
If you stop and think about it, there really aren’t that many cases in the world of online exchange where, when someone is wrong and has that pointed out, they say, “oh wow, thank you. I will recalibrate and stop being wrong. You’ve done me a huge favor.” It does happen, but it’s rare. And so, I think, it behooves me to pick my battles. Even when I’m talking about books, all conversations are not relevant to me.
Is it my circus? Are they my monkeys? If not, let it go. And no fair widening the scope of monkey/circus possession to allow involvement where letting go is clearly the best option.