The Four Reply Rule
by Noah Lugeons
I started this blog several years ago and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t. Of course, for the first couple years it was up I was hardly posting and nobody was reading it, so I guess that goes a long way toward explaining it.
I started the podcast over a year ago and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t. Of course, the podcast audience is so small that you’d really have to be looking for atheist shows to find it, so it’s no surprise that the religious folks are still unaware of it.
I got active on Facebook and Twitter shortly after starting the show and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t. I suppose there are far too many prominent atheists on social media for any of the trolls to take time out to fuck with me.
I started putting the diatribes on YouTube to expand our audience and expected to get a lot of religious trolls. And it’s YouTube so of fucking course I did. YouTube is troll crack so of course, if they were going to show up anywhere, it would be there.
As the show grows, the troll activity has slowly grown on all our media and I’m sure it will continue to do so. And while I still see trolling as a badge of accomplishment, it gets tiresome pretty quickly. Because I can’t help but respond. I can out-troll most trolls and I enjoy arguing. Even arguing with an idiot can be good mental exercise, as you have to find ways of dumbing down what you’re saying and explaining why the thing they just said is horseshit.
But, as we all learn at one point of the other, there is no time limit in mom’s basement. Feeding trolls is an unending cycle if you allow it to be and once they’ve stuck their fingers deep enough into their ears there’s no real point in responding. Well… I suppose there’s virtually never a “point” in responding, but at a certain point is also stops being fun.
So to keep myself from falling into that infinite loop, I have a four-reply rule. It’s something I implemented after reading back over pages of stupid arguments I had over an entry on this blog. I realized that with the same effort I could have written a whole extra episode rather than devoting the time to one slobbering jackass.
I should note that I’ve been using the term “troll” pretty liberally. I’m actually referring to damn near anybody who leaves a comment that disagrees with me and then fails to articulate any rational argument against my point. If somebody leaves “FUC!K YOYU ASSHOEL!!!!!!!!!” I probably won’t respond at all, but if somebody says, “You’re wrong and fuck you, asshole,” I probably will.
And if the conversation or the point of contention is interesting and the discussion seems to be going somewhere, I’m happy to keep a thread open for days. But if I discover that it’s a pointless “No I’m right!” dick waving contest, I have to check out. My dick waving propensity makes that difficult to do, of course. Hence, the four reply rule.
It usually takes a little back and forth to determine whether somebody is engaging in a debate or an argument, but within four replies it’s clear. And if somebody is making no attempt to refute my point or defend the flaws I’ve identified in their own within four replies, I feel comfortable cutting the conversation short.
My ego hates to do that. My ego shouts “somebody’s wrong on the internet!” and tries to force me back into the void, but my more rational mind usually wins out and explains to my ego that just because this person said something last doesn’t mean we lost. It tells my ego to calm down, smoke a bowl and remember that the only real way to lose an argument with a troll is to spend time arguing with a troll.