Gabriel Morris in India

Gabriel Morris in India
A mysterious cave in south India.

Monday, May 14, 2018

An Open Letter to Arden Leigh

I first learned about Arden Leigh about three years ago, when I randomly came across an interview with her on Youtube. I thought she was really interesting and unique and decided I wanted to interview her for my own Youtube channel. I contacted her and she agreed to be interviewed. Later we became friends on Facebook, and have interacted online sporadically in the three years since then.

Arden is a pretty amazing person. She is an advocate for women's rights, sexual empowerment and self-growth, she's wicked smart and perceptive, author of The New Rules of Attraction (a female response to Neil Strauss's book The Game), she has her own Youtube channel, a blog and various other social media platforms. She's also a musician and lead singer of her band Arden and the Wolves. Check out their new music video:

I've always enjoyed Arden's fiercely expressive posts on Facebook and been super supportive of her mission as a woman and awakening person hell-bent on changing the world and taking down the patriarchy. Despite an aversion to labels, I'm fine with being considered a feminist myself.

So I was pretty bummed, to say the least, when our online relationship was rather spectacularly torpedoed due to an online discussion turned heated argument that ended in my being unfriended and blocked with a fairly brutal parting message.

And that's what this article is about. I thought this could be a revealing analysis of how things can get confusing and confrontational with online discussions, even between two people who have the right intentions, due to misunderstandings as a result of not fully seeing other people's perspectives and situations.

Here's what happened (her posts on Facebook are public, so I'm assuming and hoping it's okay to talk about this):

The discussion started when Arden posted on her Facebook page about a traumatic experience in which she was being threatened online because of a video she had posted, this one:

Whereas most of her videos have a couple hundred views at most, this one has more than 3,000 currently and a lot of thumbs down as well as critical comments (I'm assuming that the worst comments were removed). This is relevant. The video was being seen by a lot of people beyond her subscribers, which draws in different feedback from people who already know who you are.

The video is addressing the "Incel" community. I hadn't heard of the term, but an Incel is an "involuntary celibate". In short, it refers to sexually frustrated dudes. And taken to the extreme, it can refer to men who take out their rejection from women and sexual frustration in violent ways, including sexual assault and worse. Apparently the man who perpetrated the recent deadly Toronto van attack (which targeted mostly women) wrote a chilling Facebook post right before the attack, lamenting his rejection from women and declaring an "Incel rebellion".

I didn't know about any of this. Arden didn't explain explicitly the whole situation with the video in her post on Facebook. Instead she posted a series of screen shots of the threats that she was getting from men because of her video, which she referenced. I looked through the screenshots and got the general idea, that she was getting some hateful remarks on one of her videos. I hadn't watched the video itself.

But as someone with two Youtube channels, including a pretty popular one, I get critical comments all day long and I've seen my share of particularly hateful ones. I've been threatened with violence and pretty much everything else you can imagine.

So I posted the following off-hand remark under her post:

There really needs to be a "stupid-jerk" filter on Youtube, lol.

And she responded (paraphrasing):

Yeah but the problem is that they would still exist.

What followed was a discussion in which I was basically trying to make the point that a good way to avoid the most extreme hateful comments was to consider not posting content that was likely to attract them. Obviously this isn't foolproof because it's the internet, pretty much anything you post will get some haters. And I'm not averse to critical feedback, I've posted a lot of pretty controversial stuff on my spiritual channel especially.

But if it's a video with the word "Incel" in the title, then it's likely going to get viewed by self-described Incels. And if it contains critical commentary of those who call themselves Incels, then they probably aren't going to like it and are going to respond with some pretty harsh comments. And considering that some of them support acts of violence against women, they might go to that extreme in their comments. Arden and I had discussed the MGTOW movement critically in one of our interviews three years ago, and the comments under that video were brutal and relentless. I involved myself in battling it out with some of them for a day or two, and finally disabled comments under that particular video. The discussions weren't going anywhere fruitful and I was tired of seeing the steady stream of anger and outright hatred in my comments feed. So it's worth considering what you post on the internet and weighing whether it's really worth the blowback you might end up getting from it.

The thing was, Arden wasn't asking for advice. That wasn't the point of her post. She was seriously freaked out by the harassing and threatening comments (and I didn't realize how extreme it was). She was genuinely worried about her safety in that moment and was expressing what was going on and simply seeking some support and perspective. So my giving advice wasn't helping her in the middle of what she was going through and, quite simply, I was coming across like an insensitive jerk.

She posted a couple videos on the thread (on my subthread, where this discussion was taking place) directly addressed to me, and imploring me to stop with my line of arguing because it was only making her feel worse. Finally, I got the point that she was trying to get across. I acknowledged that I'd messed up in how I was approaching the situation and apologized for my mistake.

Meanwhile, two other women had jumped into the discussion between Arden and myself. Things got a bit confusing, especially with multiple people involved, and the thread was bringing up a lot of issues for the other two women. I did my sincere best to listen and respond to everything that was being said. But the reality for me was that it was a lot to try to process and dissect and respond to properly. And quite frankly, I had other things I needed to do in my real world life and didn't have the time to properly devote to this discussion that was getting increasingly involved, demanding and complex. I just wanted to clear things up with Arden and then get off Facebook and get other things done. But I ended up focusing on reading and responding to this thread for a good chunk of the day and into the evening. Finally we seemed to come to some sort of relative mutual understanding, and I went to sleep thinking that the discussion was resolved (as much as it could be) and over.

The next morning, however, I got up and there was a comment from one of the other women, criticizing me for my comments in the first part of the thread...the ones that I had already acknowledged as insensitive and had apologized for.

So I responded to her and tried to explain that yes, I had been off in my first comments due to my lack of full understanding of the situation and was sincerely sorry that I'd been unhelpful in the discussion, but that I'd gotten the message from Arden eventually and thought we had straightened things out. Something like that.

My attempt at addressing the woman's criticism wasn't acknowledged or responded to. Instead the discussion continued from all three women on multiple subjects that had been touched on the previous day.

I had things to do. A friend was visiting later that day and staying at my place for the next couple days. I had things I wanted to get done before he showed up. Online discussions can take hours and hours. The discussion at that point was essentially covering all three women's resentments towards and bad experiences with men. I just didn't have the time or energy or focus to devote to trying to solve or address or fully understand and properly respond to everything that was coming up. Despite this, I ended up engaged in the discussion off and on throughout the day, and it kept me distracted from focusing on other things.

Later that evening my friend showed up. I'd just posted a reply on the thread when he knocked on the door. I posted the comment and then closed my laptop, and he and I hung out for the evening.

Late that night when I was about to go to sleep, I opened up my computer to check if there were any replies. Although it had been several hours, one of the women had liked my final comment, but no one had responded to it. That was a relief, since I wasn't in the mood to try to write anything further on the issue.

I really didn't want to wake up the next morning to more replies to the thread that I would feel obligated to respond to, and go through a third day involved in the discussion. As important of a topic as it was, I really, really needed to move on. I was traveling to Hawaii the next week and had a long list of things to do beforehand. The conversation seemed to have wrapped up for now. And so I decided to remove my original comment on Arden's post, which would then remove everyone's replies to it and close the conversation.

The next morning I woke up, expecting a quick check of the general online situation and then getting on with my day. My friend was still at my house, it was a gorgeous sunny day in northern California and we wanted to get out there and enjoy it.

But when I checked Facebook, I saw that I'd been tagged by Arden in a comment under the same post where the discussion had been taking place.

Gabriel, did you delete your thread?

I got the general sense that she was pissed about it. So I wrote her a private message, explaining that yes I'd deleted the post, and offering more or less the same explanation as I detailed above. I thought the discussion had wound down, I had other things to do, I had a friend over, etc. and didn't have time to continue that particular conversation through a third day.

My friend and I then headed out for a hike. But the whole afternoon, in the back of my mind I was thinking about the fact that there would likely be a reply from Arden when I got back, and I sensed that it wasn't going to be very understanding.

It wasn't. She was pissed off about my deleting my comment and all the replies along with, and so were the other two women. They took it personally and felt that it was a sign of disrespect of the entire discussion and their efforts in communicating important issues. This wasn't intended on my part in the slightest, but Arden clearly wasn't interested in listening to me at that point. We exchanged a few messages, in which she delivered an ultimatum that I'd better not delete another comment from one of her threads. I wasn't going to agree to that. People have the right to delete their own comments on Facebook. It's just the way the internet works that if you remove your own comment on a thread, then all the replies to it get removed as well. It's not something I do very often, hardly at all actually. But I felt perfectly justified in deciding to remove myself and my comment from that discussion and still do. I just had other things to do. I understand that it might be frustrating for your own words to be removed by someone else. But that doesn't mean that I have an obligation to leave my own words on a thread that I've decided I want to withdraw from. I didn't want to be getting notifications of replies throughout that day as a result of more people responding to the thread, which would have undoubtedly included comments that were directed at me.

So I told her that I couldn't agree to never ever delete a comment in the future, unfriended her and very sincerely wished her well. I was really, really bummed out and sad to part ways, because I like her a lot as a person, I still supported what she was doing and enjoyed seeing her posts come up. But I couldn't see wanting to engage in discussions with her at that point with things left as they were and with an ultimatum that I couldn't agree to.

She replied to my message with a scathing response in which she accused me of treating women terribly, among other things, and then she blocked me.

The ultimate lesson for me in this is to be more conscious in responding to people's Facebook posts. There's a lot of random stuff in your Facebook feed, a lot of it pretty superficial. And so when something serious comes up you aren't always in the right frame of mind to respond to it appropriately. To the person on the other end who might be going through something difficult, a flippant response isn't appreciated. In general, listen and think more about how you're interacting with people, on the internet, and in life in general. Definitely something to a great extent lacking in our world and relationships.

And to Arden, I hope this might help to shed the entire interaction in a different light. There were never any intentions on my part to be disrespectful in any way. I'd love to be able to straighten things out with you if you feel that's possible.

Have a lovely day, Gabriel

No comments:

Post a Comment