When good people disagree

I kind of fell into a heated argument between well-intentioned people. While I actively do not want to become involved in every disagreement in the fediverse, enough people ended up participating that I wanted to offer my outsider’s take on events.

What happened

A new user, Pat, joined Free Radical a few days ago. They were active on birdsite but had heard about our growing community and wanted to check it out. I had a few chats with Pat about what makes the two networks different, and they were eager to get started exploring.

Some time last night, Pat found another user, Jan. Jan believes that people in Pat’s demographic have caused a lot of political and societal problems for people in Jan’s demographic. Pat, fresh from birdsite, saw this as an invitation to debate the point.

Things got a little heated.

At 3AM I woke up because our new comforter only has one temperature – “infernal” – and I thought I’d drop in to see what was happening online. Turns out quite a bit was happening and I was hearing about it. Pat and I had another chat about the social differences between birdsite and Mastodon. I went back to sleep.

This morning I woke up to more, ahem, discussion and a request from Pat: “Mastodon isn’t the place for me right now, please delete my account, and best wishes”.

I deleted their account.1

Observations

I’ve received no moderation reports on either party, and this post isn’t my reaction to anything external to my own thoughts. I’m just piecing together the implications of an unusual situation.

I read what Pat wrote. I think they’re a good person with good intentions who ended up in a disagreement. They felt like they were being attacked and responded to it. Their mistake – if you can call it that – was engaging in an argument with someone who wasn’t offering to argue with strangers. Pat came in from a network where such random arguments are much more common and accepted as normal.

I read what Jan wrote. I think they’re a good person with good intentions who ended up in a disagreement. They felt like they were being attacked and responded to it. Their mistake – if you can call it that – was accepting the offer to argue instead of ignoring an unwanted message. I truly understand that it’s easier said than done, though, especially when Jan had no intention of talking directly to Pat in the first place and almost certainly had no wish to have someone explain how they were “wrong”.

Mastodon truly isn’t “birdsite but on a different server”. This was largely built by and for minorities who’ve had a raw deal and want someplace safe to hang out. “Safe” does /not/ mean “echo chamber”! I’m continually exposed to opinions I don’t share, /and that’s great!/ It means I’m reminded that decent people I enjoy talking to sometimes have opinions significantly different from my own. It does mean that when you hear something you dislike2 that the best course of action is usually to try to listen, understand the speaker’s point of view, and then move on.

Even though Pat made the first mistake, in my opinion, I think they left on a high note by realizing that they weren’t in their element and bowing out gracefully. I would welcome them back as long they were willing to act within Mastodon’s social mores.


  1. I didn’t really delete their account because Mastodon doesn’t support that. I did disable their login and delete all their toots. 
  2. I’m talking about run-of-the-mill political disagreements, etc. I don’t expect anyone to keep quiet when they experience harassment, oppression, or other speech that actively seeks to make others feel unwelcome.