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Tuesday Musings: Past Gardens, Friendships and Brian Dunning

February 8, 2011

Drama is overrated. Way overrated. Our lives as parents to children on the spectrum and other special needs are stressed enough, even when things are going well. Add in the demands of careers, being the sandwich generation, and all sorts of other responsibilities and it can be overwhelming.

We need to get better at saying the hell with some of the drama. It wears us down. 

I’ve got some great friends, here on the blogs, on facebook, and some that are mostly the emailing variety. I’m grateful for them. They enrich my life, provide me a diversity of viewpoints, support, shoulders, no-nonsense advice, and laughter. And they don’t make me pass a litmus test for that friendship.

I’ve got friends who believe in all sorts of things, and while some of us can discuss these differences without getting heated, most of us don’t talk about those differences. We focus on the things that matter.

I wrote this weekend as a status “I don’t care what pages you like. My facebook friendship with you isn’t contingent on a litmus test and continual declarations of loyalty. If you want your friendship with me to be contigent on a litmus test, watch me join those pages just to be contrary.”

 I guess I could say it’s nice to have friends agree with me; litmus tests for friendships, pushing people to believe the way you do, not cool.

Now, some of my critics would argue that’s what I’m trying to do with Countering, telling people what they have to believe. That’s not the case. I’m writing about what I think, based on the scientific literature available, is true. You don’t want to believe it, no skin off my nose.

I’d argue the only thing I’ve ever asked for is honesty. I can handle a lot as long as I know you’re being straight with me. 

I still don’t care, even after this weekend’s facebook drama, what pages folks like. Crap, I don’t have the time to look much less get hot and bothered over it. I get it, people have the right to be friends with whomever they want. Friend, defriend, whatever floats your boat. You have the right to make your page about what you want it to be.

The behavior at facebook makes high school look nice. And it wasn’t. I’m actually lucky, though, on my facebook page and I rarely have drama. I don’t actually comment much on pages or groups, and I make it a rule to not challenge posts I don’t agree with.

Very rarely, I directly engage a friend with whom I have a difference of opinion. I try to be respectful.  I try to make it clear I’m not suggesting they have to agree with me, but maybe… I almost never do this. Ever. 

And then I am kind and gentle as a lamb and not at all the snarky person I can be on here who has no problem calling a dumbass a dumbass and then explaining why. 

I rarely do it because it rarely works out well. Brian Dunning, in Emergency Handbook: What to do When A Friend Loves Woo points out that most of the time, it’s just not worth it.

Dunning has a plan (and I’d submit if you start sharing the skeptoid podcasts about woo that you and your woo buddy agree on that you make sure they don’t see this particular podcast or you are screwed and need to go directly to his option 2: intervention). 

First, Dunning recommends you do nothing. Sure is the easiest way to go. Sort of like listening to Bobby go on about yu-gi-oh, just nod and go uh-huh. Smile some, too. That’ll work.

Dunning says that at some point it will dawn on your woo buddy that you’ve been leaving their woo alone, and he’ll ask what’s up with that. At which point you can be sappy and explain it’s important to you to show your friend how much you care by letting him believe silly shit. No, that’s not it at all; for gods’ sake, don’t tell your buddy that or call him woo buddy. It’ll piss him off and you’ll get nowhere!

Like Penny and Leonard on Big Bang when she asks him to see a psychic with her. Throw the sciency book away and go on. How else are you going to get lucky?

So, that’s what I do on facebook. Not the trying to get lucky part; I’ve got a no-woo husand for that. Seriously, even when I was experimenting, he was decidely non-woo. I thought he was a bit of a buzzkill, actually. The do nothing approach is what I do on facebook. Not for nefarious purposes, in the hopes that my skepticism will rub off on those who like woo, just do nothing, be there to be supportive, let the other stuff be. Some woo I like, after all. I’m not gonna yank anyone’s chain over mysticism, although if you believe in The Secret, I’ll snicker. I’m not going to lie, after all.

Dunning’s option 2 is the intervention. It’s risky, but if someone’s going to go off to get injected with stem cells, it’s probably worth it. Or drop money on a Deepak Chopra event. Nah, I’d go with you just to listen to him sound pretty while speaking rubbish.

Option 3, though, is a good one. It’s actively sharing the woo you agree on in hopes the critical thinking stuff will rub off.

There’s that problem, though, when your woo buddy starts scowering the skeptoid podcasts and discovers this particular one. Then you’re going to have to hope that he’ll believe you when you say Dunning is prolific, you totally missed it!

Sell it well, though, because if they think you manipulated them, you’re going to need to run for it or pull out Deepak Chopra tickets.

Garden 2004-2006

(The English teacher that I am knows every single error concerning pronoun agreement; deal with it. I can. Plus, students can edit this piece. Teaching tool!

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