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Social Media Tip: Clarification Trolling

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  • CT Social Media Tip: Clarification Trolling

    So there's a particular kind of response to things on social media that I've had a hard time putting a name to, but now I think I have it figured out: Clarification Trolling.

    Related:
    Never Complain, Never Explain
    WhatAboutism
    Tone Trolling

    Clarification Trolling occurs when someone responds to something you've written with an implied or explicit accusation that you are not aiming your comments at appropriate targets. They will often expect or even demand a long list of situations in which your comments would or would not apply and why or why not. In essence, they demand unreasonable clarifications. When people demand clarification on an item beyond what a reasonable person would want given the context, they are Clarification Trolling. I consider this a kind of accusatory StrawMan fallacy.

    It's best understood in an example.
    I wrote about the 'Four Reasons Patients are 'NonCompliant' with Rehab'. I listed out the four broad areas and within a few minutes I had a Clarification Troll respond with 'I think people are more complicated than those four reasons.' Now, think a minute about why I would have written the Four Reasons item - was it because in all the world, in all the people and situations in it, did I imagine there were only four highly specific reasons someone would not comply with their rehab plan? Or was I writing four generalized reasons that clinicians could think about and try to apply to better serve their patients? Is clarification really needed here, or is someone applying an accusatory straw man argument?

    Like most cases of trolling, this exists on a continuum and there are valid reasons why someone would seek clarification on your meaning. Like the Tone Troll, there are valid cases of complaint - but they are extremely rare and heavily outweighed by cases of trolling and arguing in bad faith.

    Coach Nick Tumminello has a 'one clarification' guideline here - after writing an item, if someone has a specific issue and appears to need clarification he will provide one good faith effort attached to the item as an addendum or comment but then nothing further.

    I will go one further than Coach Nick and say I routinely ignore this sort of behavior and I think you should too. Much like other trolls, responding to this only weakens what you've written. If you've truly written a context-free, unclear item that appears overly broad to a reasonable person standard you should just take down the comment or item and rephrase it.

    If you're satisfied that a reasonable person would not require that kind of clarification, feel free to consider the comment trolling and move on. As with other cases of trolling, don't apply the label to anyone who questions or disagrees with you but think carefully about the situation and the 'reasonable person standard.'
    Jason Silvernail DPT, DSc, FAAOMPT
    Board-Certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
    Fellowship-Trained in Orthopedic Manual Therapy

    Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist


    The views expressed in this entry are those of the author alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.

  • #2
    Clarification Trolls would have you preface everything you say with a long list of conditions. I have even heard people say things like "Don't hear what I'm not saying, I'm not saying that _____" or speaking informally when they lead off with things like "In my opinion...."

    These are all attempts to head off clarification trolling.
    Jason Silvernail DPT, DSc, FAAOMPT
    Board-Certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
    Fellowship-Trained in Orthopedic Manual Therapy

    Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist


    The views expressed in this entry are those of the author alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.

    Comment


    • #3
      Unfortunate. I really enjoyed that post and shared it with the clinicians in my practice.

      Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk

      Comment


      • #4
        There are a subset of people determined to misunderstand you and misrepresent what you’ve said in the most extreme way just so they can disagree.


        The worst part is that most people don’t realize they are doing it. Much trolling behavior is done by people who are deliberately inflaming others or trying to. I think most clarification trolling isnt that deliberate - but it’s almost *more* frustrating as a result.


        I suggested that there are four primary reasons why people don’t follow through with their home exercise program. The only way to make that argument look bad is to respond as if I meant that in all the world for every single person there are only four very specific reasons for this, forever the end. And that’s what the clarification trolls did. I was bombarded with highly specific reasons not on my list.


        I suggested that when the laws in the US changed about so-called net neutrality that people who were upset about it without understanding what the law did and didn’t change probably could benefit from learning more about it. The only way to make that very fair point seem unreasonable is to suggest that I really meant no one is allowed to express an opinion about anything ever unless they knew every single thing about it at an expert level. And that’s what the clarification trolls did. I had one person say my point was ridiculous because cancer patients don’t need to understand chemotherapy to accept it. I’m not kidding - that happened.


        I said that educating people in evidence based practice doesn’t really change their behavior - that audits and compliance process checks were much more effective. If we want to change behavior we need to build systems and processes that check them. Now, if you don’t know, there is tons of support for this idea in the process improvement literature. There’s a famous bestselling book called Checklist Medicine that summarizes much of it. The only way to make that point seem unreasonable is to suggest that I really meant we should immediately stop talking to people about evidence or educating people at all forever the end and just use process improvement while never speaking a word about evidence ever again. And that’s just what a clarification troll did.


        This kind of thing makes discussing ideas exhausting and it is this kind of trolling behavior that is a major contributor to my slow withdrawal from social media.


        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
        Jason Silvernail DPT, DSc, FAAOMPT
        Board-Certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
        Fellowship-Trained in Orthopedic Manual Therapy

        Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist


        The views expressed in this entry are those of the author alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jason Silvernail View Post
          There are a subset of people determined to misunderstand you and misrepresent what you’ve said in the most extreme way just so they can disagree.


          The worst part is that most people don’t realize they are doing it. Much trolling behavior is done by people who are deliberately inflaming others or trying to. I think most clarification trolling isnt that deliberate - but it’s almost *more* frustrating as a result.


          I suggested that there are four primary reasons why people don’t follow through with their home exercise program. The only way to make that argument look bad is to respond as if I meant that in all the world for every single person there are only four very specific reasons for this, forever the end. And that’s what the clarification trolls did. I was bombarded with highly specific reasons not on my list.


          I suggested that when the laws in the US changed about so-called net neutrality that people who were upset about it without understanding what the law did and didn’t change probably could benefit from learning more about it. The only way to make that very fair point seem unreasonable is to suggest that I really meant no one is allowed to express an opinion about anything ever unless they knew every single thing about it at an expert level. And that’s what the clarification trolls did. I had one person say my point was ridiculous because cancer patients don’t need to understand chemotherapy to accept it. I’m not kidding - that happened.


          I said that educating people in evidence based practice doesn’t really change their behavior - that audits and compliance process checks were much more effective. If we want to change behavior we need to build systems and processes that check them. Now, if you don’t know, there is tons of support for this idea in the process improvement literature. There’s a famous bestselling book called Checklist Medicine that summarizes much of it. The only way to make that point seem unreasonable is to suggest that I really meant we should immediately stop talking to people about evidence or educating people at all forever the end and just use process improvement while never speaking a word about evidence ever again. And that’s just what a clarification troll did.


          This kind of thing makes discussing ideas exhausting and it is this kind of trolling behavior that is a major contributor to my slow withdrawal from social media.


          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

          You might be interested in this person who has called you out in their facebook live video post at about 24 minutes.
          https://www.facebook.com/mathieuboul...3008114480088/
          I think he identifies as a posturologist

          Comment

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