SparkLife is falling apart.
Have we had debates in the past? Sure! Most of them have taken place around the Auntie posts. They were heated, intense, and I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. Not once did I end on a sour note with anyone. The debates never carried on to the next post with any sort of venom. No one ever tried to change someone else's point of view. And everyone learned something, and came away knowing a little bit more about their fellow Sparklers.
Flash to the present. If we have an argument now, it smarts. I've seen people insulted, attacked, and bullied for their beliefs. They don't end. Instead it's groups of people trying desperately to change the point of view of all the other Sparklers who don't agree with them. I've even seen name calling. It's a war to the teeth, but the respectful language has been thrown out the window.
So I asked myself: what changed?
And the answer is pretty obvious. We didn't change. We still have the same views we had before. The argument didn't change. The amount of religion didn't really change. (Though some people would like to blame this on religion, that's not where the problem came from.)
What did change was the way we treated out fellow Sparklers.
That's really the only difference. We've split into teams. In the last few weeks we've lost most of the old crowd of Sparklers. All the people that welcomed me when I joined, all the people I grew to love, they're all gone. It would be one thing if they moved on in life. But they really don't feel like they have a haven here anymore.
There is certainly nothing wrong with debate. But there is everything wrong with the way we have been debating. So before we go further, please commit these ettiquette rules to memory. (And then look up how to spell ettiquette, because I can't figure out how to spell it.) You no longer have any excuse to be rude to your fellow Sparklers, because you have been taught.
1. Never, ever say that you're right for sure. (Even if you're having an argument about whether 2+2 equals four or five. In which case, don't you have anything better to do with your time?) Instead use phrases like, "It's just my opinion, but I believe..." or "I feel that... though everyone has the right to their own opinion. I'd love to hear yours too!" Saying that an opinion or belief someone has is wrong is never acceptable, but I'm afraid it's a trap that many Sparklers have fallen into. People care about their beliefs. Tell them that they're wrong, and you're being rude. In a way, it's cyberbullying.
2. Please oh please, THINK BEFORE YOU POST!!!! If someone's comment riles you, don't reply right away. I'm guilty of this. If someone is blatantly being rude I snap back with something that's pretty rude too. If someone insults another Sparkler I jump to their aid with a comment that stoops to their level. So I also need to work on this. But half of the mean, hurtful stuff on here wouldn't have been said if people had thought first.
3. Don't try to change peoples' views. Stop trying to convert people. Every time we present an opinion as fact to argue against someone else's opinion, this is what we're doing. I know that nobody intends it, but it's high time we stopped attacking other beliefs just because they're not our own.
4. Know when to stop. This is a skill that the Sparklers used to have perfected. If the argument was getting heated, we went with the old but good, "Agree to disagree." Think: is arguing about this on Sparklife changing it in the real world? No. Is fighting about something on here and hurting someone in any way helping your cause? No. If anything, it hinders. I get a dislike for opinions that are supported by rude people. This isn't fair of me, but it's the truth. And other people are the same way.
5. Admit when you're in the wrong. If I don't make something clear, I always apologize. If I make a mistake I try to straighten it out. I had (for the first time in ages) a really good debate with Medea the other day about evolution. Though we both had different ideas, we ended on a happy note. In fact, I think I learned a little something from it. She brought up questions that helped me, actually, to strengthen my own beliefs.
So keep these rules in mind if debating ever becomes safe on Sparknotes again. But I think we need to go back to the basics. Sabrina-the-Wise posted an article on here a while ago that I thought was a good one. Think: what is the purpose of Sparknotes? For nerds and geeks to talk about literature. That's what it is. This is not a political site, nor a debate site. In theory that would be okay to do on the side. But I'm afraid we can't handle it anymore. I'm not sugarcoating this. It's the truth. Somewhere we lost the maturity to have a debate without resulting to the petty, "I'm right and you're wrong so HA!"
And beyond books and nerdiness, there was one more thing we had in common. We were all silly. Werewolves with jetpacks, crazy Doctor Who fangirls, and snowball fights on the Open Thread. We made funny comments, and people laughed. We traded jokes back and forth. We used our sarcasm hand to bring delight and mirth to the world. That's why I felt at home here. That's why I sacrificed so many hours of sleep to spend time on here. I craved the fun and enjoyment.
How many people have we driven away? We might lose IM_A_POTATO. We lost LadyPegaSister. Has anyone seen JMK anywhere? How about Wendelin? There's nothing wrong with losing the old crowd and replacing them with new Sparklers. But that's if the old people left because they were ready. Not because they were being pushed out of their home. These people welcomed me into Sparknotes. They were my friends. They were my LIFE, my Sparklife. And I'm worried that it's a thing of the past. And what about Dan Bergstein? I think he and all of the other silly Sparkitors are kind of hiding out too. They don't know what to do.
So come on, guys. Cease fire. Can we all manage to be mature again, like we used to be? If we can't handle debating, then let's call it quits. Seriously. Let's go back to silliness and nerdiness.
I don't want to leave. Sparknotes has been my home in the midst of my crazy life. I'm seriously getting teary-eyed writing this. I'm not going to watch it blow up. I'm not jumping off this ship until I've done all I possibly can to save it.
It's time to take action. All who are willing to do this with me, sign your name in the comments. This means you promise to treat your fellow Sparklers with respect and to add to the atmosphere of love, not hate. This means you won't try to change someone's view or tell them that they're wrong about something they believe in. This means that you're willing to ask yourself if you're in the wrong, and to swallow your pride. I'm committing myself to this final battle for Sparknotes. This is the greatest battle any of us will ever participate in. If we fight amongst each other, powers worse than Gary and the Darklers will win. But if we ally ourselves with each other, if we join hands and promise to uphold our oath, we can save Sparklife. I believe it's still worth saving.
For the Sparklers!
Originally published on March 21, 2013.