Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Signs of distress

Facebook is like crack to some people - and by some people I mean ME. I have tried to wean myself off it, set time-limits, go cold-turkey but all in vain. At this point I have decided to embrace my addiction and put it to good use. There are so many interesting articles and discussions about sexuality, drug use, mental health etc that I am quite sure I can write it all off as research for my interest in health promotion (more on this at a later date).

Meanwhile fb also provides some interesting insights into how people think and feel. A recent thread on a friends wall explored the topic of pornography. It started out as a discussion about pornographic images on t-shirts and the implications of that for young children. It soon turned into a debate over the perceived perils and/or pros of porn. Veeeery interesting reading. I have copied and pasted the 80 comments (minus names) into a document w/ I will edit further for names in the comments and then add a link here. The thread started on 01 March 2011 and the last comment (so far) was made on the 10th March 2011. What I want to talk about are some of the phrases that stick out to me as common things that Mormons seem to say when they feel attacked. Having read quite a number of ex-Mo friends fb threads I'd say that there seems to be some common themes.

One that really sticks out to me are the statements of 'being done with the conversation'. This sentiment seems to be expressed quite regularly by active Mormons (sometimes more than once by the same person). The ex-Mo's and non-Mo's seem to feel no need to announce their departure.

Anti-Porn Commenter 1 -  "I've stated my views and heard yours, so thankyou everyone, i'm done."

APC1 - (1 comment later) "i need a shower and life beyond this facebook discussion must go on :) please respect that."

APC2 - "I agree _______. I need a shower too."

APC3 - "Anyway people im pretty busy today, so im out. im hanging around my computer... and i really have too many other things to get done. im sure we're not going to sort out this discussion anytime soon, and i already know how i feel and how everyone else feels. Please don't see my leaving the discussion as my opinion having no credability, or back up, but i dont want my day to be filled with conversations or pornography. I hope you all have a nice weekend. :) enjoy"

APC4 - "Anyway clearly there is a massive difference of opinion here so I'm out now, this is getting too personal. I'll agree to disagree and leave it at that."

APC4 - "I agree _______ - this discussion has gone around in a circle so this will be my last post.......(rest of TBM4 comment here).......Anyway that's all from me."

APC5 - "that is all :-)"

Why the need to announce your departure from a conversation? The other commenters (non-Mo's and ex-Mo's) simply took breaks when life got busy and returned to the conversation when they had time for it. Why all the drama? It makes the commenter sound pretty full of themselves IMO. 


The next thing I noticed was a lovely term - 'you people' began to be used as a shorthand for referring to the pro-porn brigade. It was used several times before being questioned by 2 of these 'you people'. The question was ignored until brought up for a third time - "My earlier question - "you people" - what was that about? What kind of person am I?"

The response(s) - 

APC4 - "As for the 'you people' comment, I was merely commenting to a group of people - same as if you would use 'hey guys' as a greeting to a group of people. I didn't mean it as an offense."

APC6 - "Yeah that's what I meant by "you people" too I just couldn't be bothered saying all the pro porn peoples names."


The final thing that I want to point out are the Hi-5's. This time both the pro-porn and anti-porn brigades engaged in this hand slapping but I think you may also note the differences...

Anti-porn Hi-5's (all from anti-porn commenters to anti-porn commenters)

"Great points _____ " 

"________,  I support you 100%!"

"And ________  I thought your comments were friggen fantastic :)"

"I've just read all the above comments and, like _______, _______ I support your opinion 100%."

"Yeaaaah ______ Dawg! Represent! Haha"

"Good comment _______ Dawg!"

"I'd just like to congratulate ________ and the Mum quoted in the above article for the courage and determination they have in striving to make this world a better place." 
Pro-Porn Hi-5's (all from pro-porn commenters to pro-porn commenters)

"_________, you write eloquently and with great humanity.

"I'm with _______ and her comments on this one."

Look, having been in that environment myself I know where the (religious) anti-porn party is coming from. It hurts to discuss these things. The mental gymnastics that must be done in order to continue to believe are just HUGE. I personally have a lot of time for the friend who posted the link that sparked the debate. She has had many long and intense discussions with me and I think that she tries really hard to hear everyones view. The other commenters are a little newer to the confrontation and I certainly don't want to throw them under the bus for responding in perfectly natural ways to a discussion that gets to the very core of who they are. I just wanted to analyse the discussion a little and hopefully highlight some of the cultural barriers?? between people who have a set of religious beliefs to up-hold and those who don't. 


  1. I think announcing one's departure from a conversation is a way of giving up the argument without conceding the opponent's point. It's a way of saying "I'm quitting this debate now, but don't interpret that as me agreeing with you." I don't think this is peculiar to Mormons. If you feel strongly about a subject, you wouldn't want people misinterpreting your silence as indifference or, worse still, a change in position.

    I think the same thing goes for "you people". It's not a uniquely Mormon tendency, it's something that most people do. We identify people with their positions, and then slap labels on them. Throw in a few sweeping generalisations about the group, and you no longer have to engage with specific arguments. You people/lefties/feminists/skeptics/mormons/accountants/hippies/etc. are frustrating that way ;)

    Praising people who agree with us is pretty damn common too. Again, I don't think it's a Mormon trait. Hell, just read some of the comments that people leave on your blog posts. We like people who think the same way as us - they always sound so clever and sensible.

    Devil's advocate out.

  2. Rockstar is the devil's advocate too, veeeery frustrating come argument/discussion time around here!

    I didn't mean to say that these things are peculiar to Mormons but that they are things that I commonly hear Mormons say in response to criticisms of their beliefs. I would like to add that I very much would expect to see this kind of behaviour displayed by other groups of people who perceive that they are being attacked.

    I recently gave up on a debate and didn't announce my departure. Part of my reasoning for that was really childish - I figured by not responding to a particular commenter that this would drive them a little bit nuts. So mean, I know. Sometimes silence speaks for itself. I'd hashed it out long enough, had said all I wanted to say so I let the other persons final comments go.

    I would have been fine with being labelled 'pro-porn' or something similar as it really does make conversation easier but the "you people" I felt was too easy to read attachments to, such as "you depraved people", "you evil people" etc etc. Obviously I'm reading that in but I think it is easier for your mind to go there w/such a thoughtless name as "you people" rather than some actual defining term.

    I particularly found the anti-porn versions of Hi-5-ing to be particularly interesting. I totally dig a bolstering up of your comrades but do I detect a hint of malice in the anti-porn hand slaps? or is that just me again?

    (p.s. long time no hear Calvalcanti, glad to see you here)

  3. I'm having issues with my google account, haven't been able to post for a while.

    I don't see any malice. I rolled my eyes at some of them, but I didn't see anything that stood out. Having said that, I didn't follow the exchange too closely- too busy paying out on climate change deniers. You know, those people.

  4. I have noticed those things also (there I go high-5-ing you for an observation that confirms my biases also:). I really hate confrontation so I chose to not comment on most controversial topics I see on FB, but I have to confess to lurking in on these exchanges just to watch the crazy that usually follows. I’m kind of a creep that way:). FB really is a fascinating place to observe sociology.

  5. I decided to briefly chart the patterns mormon commenters typically followed in the porn t-shirt conversation. This is what I came up with, taking us from the beginning to the end of a typical mormon commenter's contribution:

    1. Hi guys. YOU'RE WRONG.

    2. I'm offended. You people are offensive. I'm merely stating my opinion, and here you people go attacking me...

    3. Yes _____, heavenly high 5! God dawg is with us!

    4. Don't attack me you non-mormons!Ex-mormons, leave the church alone! Just 'cause you failed...

    5. I'm a victim here. This has got personal.

    6. I'm leaving. I have to shower.

    Of course, there are a couple people who have avoided this pattern, the one who started the debate being a great example.

    I'm being a little naughty here, a little tongue-in-cheek. I'll be good in any subsequent comments. Promise.

  6. Google goes seem to temperamental quite regularly!

    I really should stop using such exaggerations! Malice is over the top. What I detected was more a sense of "Ha! that shows those pro-porn people!" what would you call that? gloating? ... to me it turned the conversation into a bit of a battlefield 'us vs them' rather than a discussion of out various thoughts and ideas.

    Hahahaha, yes 'those people' - I read somewhere recently that if you call it climate change rather than global warming then people are much more likely to get on board and help.

    I don't think that's creepy TGW. Everyone knows that for every 5 people who comment there are another 50 who have read but refrained from commenting. I think that the readers/lurkers are integral to the whole thing! I find that the 'lurkers' tend to come out with some real doosies when they do eventually comment. There's plenty to be said for taking it all in rather than just blurting out (like I seem to do!).

    Ah, thank you Sim!!! I was going to keep going with my analyses but it got so late and I really wanted to press that juicy 'publish post' button!! I think that you covered the trends pretty well :)

    The ones that frustrate me the most are the accusations of 1. attacking 2. being offensive 3. getting personal.

    All 3 of these appeared, from my POV anyway, to be created in the minds of the anti-porn commenters. I thought that the discussion was bold and open and honest and I didn't think the pro-porn party attacked or got personal.

    We all have various limits and boundaries beyond which we feel offended. These boundaries change over time and with experience. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to experience feelings of offense, not at all, I think that it aids in our survival. BUT, I do think it is important to differentiate between what personally offends us and whether or not someone was actually trying to offend us.

    As for taking things personally, well that one pretty much explains itself. If you are taking something personally which was clearly not personally aimed at you then there is some need for personal reflection there.

    I'll get on to editing that thread so that the readers here can have a squiz at it. It has so many points for conversation in it :)