Let Me Google That For You is quite possibly the best thing on the internet. We’ve all experienced the moment when, during an online conversation, someone refuses to spend just a few minutes Googling information before lending their opinion. Perhaps it’s an anti-vaccine nut, bound and determined to prove (without any facts) that vaccines are killing our kids. Or that Bill Gates supports eugenics. Or a Fox News junkie claiming that the Keystone Pipeline will created hundreds of thousands of jobs. It’s all bull, and often they know it, but it’s your job to prove they’re wrong.
I used to do this. I used to zip over to Google, open a few windows, find links to factual articles, polls, or studies, and, feeling rather proud of myself, pop those links into the conversation. Guess what? The person with whom I was “chatting” didn’t care. They never do. If Alex Jones says juice boxes are “turning” our kids gay, and Wing Nut Daily (World Net Daily) states President Obama is a gay Muslim, born in Kenya, that’s good enough for them. What I’ve learned more recently is this whole “Google is the anti-Christ” theme isn’t just limited to the fringe.
Rick Ungar is a writer for Forbes, a lone liberal voice in a forest full of conservatives. He’s a good writer, and he covers a range of topics. Tuesday, Rick delved into the Hobby Lobby 401(k) fiasco, and as usual, his conservative followers decided to chime in. On his Facebook page, numerous right wing men defended Hobby Lobby, and “spoke” to the women on the thread as if we were petulant toddlers. I commented on the thread, pointing out that the four contraceptives Hobby Lobby included in their brief did not cause abortions, so, hypocrisy aside, they were simply wrong. And then, it happened.
A man named Michael asked me how an IUD works. The first thing that flew through my brain was, “Let me Google that for you,” followed by a few choice words. I did not type that. I wrote that I would not Google that for him, but here’s a brief written by physicians, explaining what contraceptives do. He responded:
Erin, first let me thank you for the reference. I read it and I see why you did not understand it well enough to state what it said. For others who might have the legitimate question as I did know that the IUDs in question work differently but essentially create an environment in the uterus that is hostile to conception. The only reason I can see that Erin did not just say this is because she didn’t understand it. Well Erin, live and learn. Now you know.
Now, a year ago, I would have lost it. My face would have flushed, I would have clenched my jaw, driven my fingernails into the palm of my hand, and spent the next twenty minutes copying and pasting portions of the brief into the thread, along with facts about IUDs. But I didn’t. I laughed, drank some more coffee, and played Bejeweled Blitz, because I get it now. Michael is at least two things: He is a conservative man who has no idea what contraception is or how it works (see Rush Limbaugh), and he presents his arguments as yet another a sexist asshat who thinks talking down to a woman makes him macho. Another man on the thread began gently challenging Michael, who didn’t like that one bit:
Jeff, you said, “Is Rick’s contradiction a form of hypocrisy?” but I’m not very bright (ask Erin) so can you clarify exactly how the contradiction you see is constituted because I’m not seeing it?
Super confused at this point, since I never even implied Mikey’s not very bright. But by turning himself into the victim, he’s hoping to draw attention away from the facts, and hijack the thread. When it didn’t work, he posted a passive aggressive smiley face, and exited the conversation.
This will happen almost every time you try and engage people on the far right (and the far left) in an online conversation. You have to have five windows open on your computer, you have to Google everything, you have to do all the work, and when you prove your point beyond any reasonable doubt, they just call you stupid. Or they’ll call you brainwashed, or a “sheeple,” or some other name, and storm off to spray the sky with vinegar. It’s a waste of your time, so stop it.
Learn from me, learn from my experience. The headaches, the swearing, the furious typing, the frustration – not worth it. You will never change their minds. Michael will never stop thinking contraception causes abortion, he will never stop be a condescending twit towards women, and he will never stop defending conservative causes. Anti-vaxxers will never admit they’re wrong, Keystone Pipeline supporters will never understand the truth behind the jobs numbers, and Sarah Palin supporters will never believe she’s a grifter.
You’re not the jackass whisperer, you’re not required to Google That For Anyone, and you can just get up and walk away. Understanding that will add years to your life, and life to your years. When it happens (and it will, possibly within the next five minutes), take a deep breath, smile to yourself, and paste the link to “Let Me Google That For You” into the conversation. Bookmark the page. Buy the t-shirt.