My friend Josh is a really, really nice person. He writes and podcasts with such patience, letting his thoughts speak for themselves without feeling the need to debate and argue. He’s written a lot about how he wishes folks would engage in political discourse. We’ve gone back and forth on many an issue, from Islam and whether or not we should curtail freedoms to protect America (something I’ve come more to his side on, for the record), to whether or not Christianity was an essential foundation to secularism.
Whenever I speak to him, I come away feeling… admonished?
Not because he has told me “Hey, Stefanie, stop being such a b*tch to liberals.”
Far from it. As I said above, I have rarely seen him say an unkind word to anyone!
But because in his personality, I see a strange sort of parallelism with my own. Both of us are chronic thinkers, who spend way too much time just wanting to figure everything out about the world. We both tend to write about broad-ranging topics through a very honest and personal lens. We’re both rare (I’m rarer, though. Ha!) Meyers-Briggs types; I’m an INFJ and he’s an INTJ.
For whatever reason, he’s kind of like this weird internet version of my conscience.
I mean, it’s not every day that you meet the mirror into the darker recesses of your soul on Twitter, but stranger things have happened.
When I’m being a jerk to someone on Twitter, it isn’t my dad in my head warning me to cool it. Nor is it my own conscience, who becomes a huge slacker whenever I have a chance to unleash the snark.
It’s Josh. Nicely reminding me that though this person may be dumb, and I may be winning the argument, that there is a point where it becomes a waste of time.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the Josh Conscience ™ (See what I did there?) appear more and more. The other day, another good friend, Dave, shared a video about how violent and toxic the discourse has gotten. He told me it wasn’t about me being too mean, but I still took it to heart.
Despite my reputation on Twitter as a cat who likes torturing mice (feminists and Islam apologists are my specialty), I do actually posses a soul.
This morning, at Starbucks, here in my left-wing town, in my left-wing province, in good old left-wing Canada, I ended up in a conversation with two older American Trump supporters travelling to Quebec. It started off as usual – with them pointing out my Halsey News and Right Millennial laptop stickers and asking about what it was.
“It’s my website, I’m a… commentator.”
“Left or right?”
Most don’t get this far, so I told them: right. I’m always a bit nervous when people approach me like this in public, because I have a good relationship with the Starbucks employees here and the last thing I need is a raging debate about Islam in the middle of the store to turn everyone against me.
Instead? We had a great conversation, including an in-depth chat about abortion and personhood rights and the tough cases surrounding the issue. We actually debated the topic a little bit. It was nice.
And, sadly, it’s a rare experience for me. Apart from my father, I have exactly zero people in my “real life” who I can have a civil political conversation (or, God forbid, a passionate debate) with.
My mom is always telling me I live too much of my life online… but is it any wonder?
It is the only place I can go where I am not tiptoeing, where I am not in the tiny minority, where my ideas are challenged instead of dismissed out of hand as too vile to even consider.
Josh and I had a conversation about social media a while ago that gave me pause (Apparently even my DM’s are not safe from articles):
For me it just gets exhausting doing the same dance over and over every day. Feeling like you’re constantly in conflict with adversaries you’ll likely never meet and having those conflagration steal minutes and hours of your life for no productive outcome…except to circle jerk it with those of like mind and telling ourselves we “won”. But even that gets less rewarding over time.
Maybe other people have a higher tolerance than I do.
See that line I made bold? Yeah. That hurt. Big time. Right in the ego.
Not because Josh was saying it to tell me how I’m wrong – but because it’s true.
I totally do that.
With my growing Twitter following, growing name recognition, and connections I’ve been making in the independent media space, I’ve found a home for my deepest passions.
It’s not even about the right-wing ideas, necessarily. It’s more about the ability to talk, openly and freely, with other people. The ability to write, and make videos, and engage. I’m an overthinker. I can’t help it. My brain never shuts up (sometimes, this sucks). I literally cannot remember a single day where I didn’t ponder huge questions. I don’t say that to sound high and mighty or that I think I’m super smart or anything – but because I’ve always been like this.
And my entire life, I haven’t really had an outlet for it.
Now, I do.
The fact that I am well-liked by my readers for my articles and in-depth thoughts should be enough for me. I really am honored by just how many people take the time to listen to what I have to say and read what I have to write. It’s humbling.
I’ve written about my internal struggle with wanting to be popular before, in fact.
But Josh is right – the satisfaction of an epic Twitter smackdown gives me a total high.
So, that leaves me asking myself: where is the line?
I figured I’d ask my Twitter followers what they thought.
Am I too mean to leftists and assorted idiots?
— Stefanie MacWilliams (@StefMacWilliams) October 6, 2017
Currently, 90% of my followers do not think I’m too mean to idiots.
This should be reassuring, but it’s not. I am fully aware that epic smackdowns are entertaining. I enjoy reading them. I enjoy doing them, when I can. I suspect my followers feel the same way. They follow me for different reasons, but I suspect many like seeing me make people look stupid.
And I’m not sure how much of that I really should be doing.
I genuinely don’t know.
Now, in my own defense, I have to say, I’m quite civil. I very rarely swear directly at people. I don’t attack people for their weight (with the exception of pro-obesity types putting others at risk with their idiocy) or their looks. I try my very best to stick to the facts.
I think that a lot of the time, my “smackdowns” do serve a purpose. I am giving a short response, but using logic, even if it’s in only 140 characters. That can be educational:
The function of government is protecting the inalienable rights of it’s citizens.
— Stefanie MacWilliams (@StefMacWilliams) October 5, 2017
I am a firm believer in debating, and in the idea that you debate to change the minds of the audience, not necessarily your opponent. But there are other times where I realize I am just attacking for the sake of winning. I’m not sure how often I do that, but I want to try and be conscious of it, because I don’t think it’s the best use of my Twitter feed.
I’m human, guys.
I admit I enjoy winning. And, as I said, after a life time of never feeling like I have a “place” (ugh, I sound very much like a 15 year old today), the approval of my peers is a force I do care about, even if I wish badly that it wasn’t.
Am I going to stop the smackdowns? No. My sassy streak is a part of my personality that I don’t want to lose. I especially would never want to lose my passion and vigor for things that I think are important.
But maybe, just maybe, I need to internalize the Josh Conscience ™ a little more.