As a long-time Steelers fan, writer, podcaster and social-media smart aleck, I’ve often found myself in long, drawn-out arguments, debates and discussions with people over the years.
Who are these people, you ask? Trolls, malcontents, habitual debaters, etc. Some might even call them meanie butts.
You might even say I’m one or all of those things. Touché, but to quote Stan and/or Kyle from South Park, I learned something today.
What did I learn? As cliched as it is to say, if you don’t feed the trolls, they will eventually go away. Same with the malcontents.
But it’s not just trolls and malcontents that can make for a long and rage-inducing day; even the constant debaters and habitual disputers, fans who are often well-intentioned and mean no harm, can wear on you over time.
I’ve always loved a good debate or even argument, especially when it involves our Pittsburgh Steelers. Also, I’ve been known to entertain myself for hours by engaging trolls in a Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd kind of way.
But as exciting as those engagements can be, there’s one thing more exciting—or at least more peaceful—and that’s not engaging with certain folks at all.
I first began to realize this two summers ago when SB Nation changed its layout and introduced some new features—including the ignore button, a function that allows you to put certain folks in what I like to call “Hidden Heaven,” and you never see their posts ever again. It’s like the mute button for Twitter, where someone can ramble on, criticize you and call you every name in the book. Yet, unbeknownst to them, you don’t see any of it.
It was tough to do at first, especially during the summer of 2020 when a bunch of stuff was going down in society and even involved the Steelers. I had the urge to Fight! Fight! Fight! But something occurred to me before long: I forgot about the people I put into Hidden Heaven.
I was happier. I was more content. I didn’t feel embarrassed by some of the things I said. Why? Because I said less of them thanks to BTSC’s Hidden Heaven. The ignore button came in handy again in a big way in early-2021 when I wrote an article about Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and his then-new girlfriend, the lovely Genie Bouchard. The premise of the article was that I was amazed that Bouchard, who is an accomplished professional tennis player worth millions, would “settle” for just a backup NFL quarterback.
I couldn’t believe the backlash from people, many of whom said I was being sexist for describing Bouchard as successful, independently wealthy, accomplished and beautiful.
I put several folks in Hidden Heaven that week and haven’t heard from them since.
This approach ultimately influenced my behavior on social media, specifically Twitter, where the mute and block buttons have become near and dear to me over the past year or so.
Yes, I still engage in Twitter wars with Steelers fans who say things like, “Three playoff wins in 11 years!” or anti-fans who bring up Ben Roethlisberger’s past for the zillionth time.
But I do that a lot less.
Facebook is another matter, specifically Behind the Steel Curtain’s Facebook page. I could block and mute people on that site, I suppose, but it would turn into a full-time job.
However, one thing I’m proud of is that I finally ignored a certain critic of mine long enough that this person doesn’t even bother to bash me anymore when one of my pieces appears on BTSC’s FB page. Even if he still does, I’ve disciplined myself to the point that I don’t even go looking for it—it’s like ignoring the bag of potato chips in my cabinet. It was a no-win situation with that person. Let’s face it, anyone who is willing to photoshop your face next to a fictional set of Mike Tomlin’s “parts” is someone you probably don’t want to engage with for very long before things get scary. I believe this person also created multiple online personas and used them to have "conversations" about me in the FB comments section.
I also find myself staying away from BTSC’s comments section more and more these days. Why? Who has time for that? Besides that, after spending two or three hours writing an article and sharing my firm opinion on a Steelers-related topic, what’s the point of debating what I said for half the day?
You like what I wrote? Great. You don’t like it? Fine. But if you don’t like it, I’m not then obligated to sit around all day and defend my article. For one thing, my article isn’t on trial. For another thing, I’m not Matlock. It’s a thankless situation, anyway. If you don’t come into the comments section to defend what you wrote, the readers think you’re too good for them. If you do come into the comments section to defend what you wrote, you’re viewed as, well, defensive.
I used to be like Diamond Dallas Page, the former professional wrestler who didn’t mind jumping into the stands and letting the people slap him on the back after he performed in the ring. But after 11 years of mixing it up in BTSC’s comments section, I now prefer to head straight for the locker room after one of my “matches” is published.
People are always going to be disagreeable, and it’s rare for them to give up the fight before you do. I wrote an article late last year where I congratulated the Pitt Panthers football team on winning the ACC Championship, and this Penn State fan on Twitter actually tried to mock the accomplishment by pointing out that the Nittany Lions had won the Big Ten title years ago. In other words, he was using the old “Been there, done that” rebuttal, and as we all know, once a college football team wins a conference title, it doesn’t have the desire to do it ever again. Anyway, I argued with this person for a few hours before giving up, but by that time, someone else had joined in and kept the debate going...for over a week.
Holy shoot, who wants to argue that much, and how often are they fired for doing so while on the clock?
In conclusion, does this mean I will no longer argue or debate folks? Does this mean I will stop feeding the trolls or occasionally being one myself? I can’t say for sure. You know how it is with addicts. There was a time when Charlie Sheen appeared to be a reformed citizen before going on national television and telling the world he had tiger blood in his veins.
What I am saying is that not arguing about the Steelers is much better than arguing about the Steelers. Those “gotcha!” moments that happen during arguments are rare, and even if you do feel like you “owned” the other person because of their lack of football knowledge, they likely feel the same way about you.
I now go in peace.