Every installment of “The Friendship Recordsdata” incorporates a dialog between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or extra buddies, exploring the historical past and significance of their relationship.
This week she talks with two former on-line adversaries who turned buddies. They met arguing within the remark part of a Fb discussion board devoted to selling science, the place every thought the opposite was misguided. After they began chatting privately, and ultimately met up in particular person, they discovered extra widespread floor than they anticipated. They talk about how they’ve shifted one another’s considering and the way they’ve constructed a friendship based mostly on debate and—generally—agreeing to disagree.
Colleen Diessner, 40, a stormwater-management employee who lives in Seattle
Drey Pavlov, 39, a doctor who lives in Seattle
This interview has been edited for size and readability.
Julie Beck: Inform me the way you first encountered one another.
Drey Pavlov: I was very lively on varied on-line boards. I received into Reddit, Fb. If you understand that XKCD comedian the place there’s the man on the pc and his spouse is saying, “Honey, come to mattress,” and he says, “However any individual’s incorrect on the web”—that was me.
Individuals imagine clearly incorrect issues, and I couldn’t perceive why. I used to be seeing a number of dangerous science and a number of bullshit pretending to be science, and I used to be combating in opposition to that.
By the point Colleen and I interacted in a science Fb group, I used to be on the downslope of my keyboard-warrior part and was beginning to really feel fairly jaded. She met me once I had good arguments however a nasty perspective. At first, I believe she thought I used to be simply an asshole. I used to be very blunt. Not derogatory or something, however I might say, “No, you don’t perceive this idea correctly.” She began interacting with me and saying, “I believe you’re incorrect about this.”
Colleen Diessner: As a response to the proliferation of misinformation popping out of the 2016 election, I sincerely thought I might assist by offering extra data. However in that individual discussion board the place we met, the politics gained out. I didn’t really feel like I used to be saying something controversial in any respect, however they have been making actually disgusting feedback. It’s turn out to be pretty poisonous, so we each disengaged.
I’ve been a vaccine advocate for a few years. Then there was a measles outbreak in southern Washington. I joined a gaggle of people that have been making an attempt to unfold science-based details about vaccine security. That subject blew up within the discussion board.
Beck: What have been your impressions of one another while you have been interacting within the discussion board?
Drey: She appeared consultant of somebody on the left—additional left than I’m however not loopy—who truly cares about science. I noticed her as being misled in a number of the identical methods I had seen in different individuals.
Colleen: Equally, he represented a sure sort of voice that I used to be used to seeing, and it pissed me off. I felt prefer it was uncaring and unsympathetic. I didn’t actually perceive the place he was coming from. We have been each incorrect about one another.
Lots of people’s political beliefs, mine included, have been emotionally knowledgeable. Trying again, I don’t even suppose that Drey and I disagreed on these issues, however I used to be coming from a spot of These are dangerous issues and I need them to cease and he was coming from a spot of Right here’s a bunch of knowledge; how can we develop insurance policies that can truly do what you need?
Drey: I’ve all the time been an enormous nerd, and I learn lots. I’m actually into science-based medication. Funnily sufficient, vaccines received me as properly. I keep in mind a commenter on some discussion board saying one thing about vaccines that was so patently absurd. To me, he would possibly as properly have been saying that water is dry and the sky is inexperienced. I approached it like Wow, this man’s actually ignorant. Let me share some data to enlighten this particular person. Once I did, I received what turned out to be my first anti-vaccine troll. You may give individuals all the data on the earth, and so they’ll nonetheless come to the incorrect conclusions.
The web turned this place the place I might attempt completely completely different personas. I’m like, Okay, let me try to be the dangerous cop, or the great cop, see what sort of response I get. It was a studying course of: If I phrase it this manner, it comes throughout higher.
Colleen: I’m additionally very data-driven, and I do take a look at analysis as properly. However he was extra debate-oriented, and I used to be extra discussion-oriented. I used to be bringing issues in—What about this? What about this? He was like, No, no, no. We have to isolate the issue so as to remedy it. Over time, our interactions have turn out to be a greater stability between the 2.
Drey: We’ve accommodated one another. You’ll truly debate some factors and get into the nitty-gritty, and I’ll acknowledge while you’re being extra discussion-oriented. You’ve seen me a number of instances being like, Oh wait, that was overly, stupidly pedantic. I didn’t have to go down that path. Let’s again up.
Beck: When did you begin speaking one-on-one?
Colleen: I used to be writing an article about reducing vaccine charges round the place I dwell, to undergo a neighborhood publication. Then I believed, I’m not a medical skilled, so the place’s my credibility in penning this? I knew that he was a health care provider, so I consulted him.
Drey: I gave her some good, trustworthy suggestions. She instructed me afterwards that humanized me and made her notice possibly I wasn’t only a flaming asshole saying silly shit on-line.
Colleen: After that, we went again to arguing fairly shortly—in non-public messages, as a result of that’s how I had contacted him to ask him to edit the article. There was a degree the place we realized that we have been speaking previous one another, and we truly held extra of the identical stances than it appeared. As you discover extra widespread floor with somebody, they turn out to be extra of an individual.
Beck: How do you establish politically?
Drey: I’m an unbiased. I have a tendency to think about myself socially and politically liberal, however I do have some conservative-leaning sides. My spouse is from rural Nevada. I am going searching; I’ve various weapons.
Once I go to Nevada and hang around with individuals carrying purple MAGA hats, I can get together with them simply effective. Then I come house to Seattle, and I can get together with individuals like Colleen simply effective. However there’s undoubtedly a spot there that’s exhausting to bridge.
Colleen: I’ve been a lifelong Democrat voter, and years again I in all probability would’ve been thought of extra progressive. I don’t suppose it’s any secret that politics have turn out to be extra excessive. Now I might contemplate myself to be fairly centrist or possibly left of middle.
Beck: Have you ever met in particular person?
Drey: She truly freaked out just a little bit early on, like, “Wait, are you actually who you say you’re? Are you making an attempt to stalk me and kill me?” At one level I used to be at work and he or she was messaging me like, “Show it to me. Take an image of your self proper now.” I took a photograph of myself in my scrubs with my hospital ID on, and I despatched it to her.
Colleen: I used to be undoubtedly paranoid. My husband would make jokes that Drey was actually a serial killer who was simply taking part in the lengthy sport.
Drey: To be honest, on-line relationships are extra regular for me. I’ve a great pal who’s welcome in my house at any time; I’ve by no means even heard his voice. For Colleen, that’s very completely different. At one level she was like, “Can we please simply truly meet in particular person?” I mentioned, “Certain.” So we met for espresso.
Beck: What was your response to seeing one another in particular person in spite of everything that point speaking on-line? Was it what you anticipated?
Colleen: He was manner nicer. We walked in, and we simply began speaking. There have been no bizarre pauses; it wasn’t awkward. Instantly we picked up the conventional conversations that now we have.
All of a sudden you’re interested by an individual who isn’t simply letters on a display however who has a life, a household, and a job. Lots of that’s misplaced on-line. You could be partaking with somebody, however you don’t know something about their previous or all the issues that occur to us that affect how we predict and really feel. Participating with somebody in particular person—while you’re their eyes, their hand motions, and their emotional reactions—makes the arguments lots softer.
Drey: I didn’t really feel like I wanted to satisfy in particular person, however was blissful to take action. I had just a little little bit of trepidation as a result of I wasn’t certain how she would view me. I’m 6 ft tall, and I speak very loudly, so I undoubtedly may be intimidating in particular person.
Colleen: It’s an fascinating friendship as a result of we’ve rarely seen one another in particular person, regardless of how shut we dwell to one another. Now we have utterly separate lives.
Drey: I felt an actual turning level in our friendship once we actually realized that we share just about the identical values so far as how we would like society to be and the way we would like individuals to work together with one another. We simply have a distinct strategy for get there. Even to this present day, we are able to get fairly heated, till we lastly say, “All proper, we’re going to maintain disagreeing on this, transferring on,” however that’s occurred much less and fewer.
Beck: Are there examples of issues that you simply’ve modified your thoughts about or shifted your considering on due to your friendship?
Colleen: I used to be actually ignorant on gun violence and simply weapons on the whole. For me, these matters have been clearly emotional. However Drey has weapons, and he is aware of shoot weapons.
Drey: I took her taking pictures for the primary time.
Beck: That was one in every of your few in-person interactions?
Colleen: Yeah, we met up at a gun vary.
Drey: With my suppressed AR-15. She did nice.
Colleen: You defined how these completely different weapons labored. Truly holding the gun and taking pictures it was actually highly effective and terrifying. It made me notice the immediacy of the hazard, but in addition that lots of people who advocate in opposition to gun violence don’t truly perceive which weapons work which manner. I can see now how there are disagreements, as a result of a number of the insurance policies that folks provide you with on the left, individuals on the best are like, “You’re referring to those weapons the incorrect manner.” There’s an actual data disconnect. Most individuals need gun violence and police shootings to cease, but when individuals don’t come collectively and alternate data, we’re not going to develop insurance policies that work.
Drey: Colleen brings in views that I hadn’t actually thought of. We talked lots concerning the #MeToo motion, for instance. She would deliver within the humanistic aspect of what it’s prefer to be a lady, or to fret about sexual assault. She allowed me the chance to take my very exhausting level and soften up the perimeters just a little bit, and perceive how which may work together with actual individuals as an alternative of simply the info in my head.
Colleen: That might be an instance of one thing that we each agreed on primarily. I used to be coming from an emotional standpoint of I simply need this stuff to cease. He was coming from a perspective of Proper, however what’s one of the simplest ways to try this?
Beck: How typically have you ever met in particular person? Was it simply espresso store, gun vary, finish of checklist?
Drey: One other time, we frolicked on Alki Seashore. There was one different time—I’ve gotten you into crypto just a little bit. We met so I might offer you my spiel about why I believed there was even any level in placing cash into this, and later I got here to your own home that will help you arrange your digital pockets. You not solely entertained that, however you listened and put some cash into it.
Beck: What have you ever discovered out of your friendship?
Drey: Individuals have much more widespread floor than we notice. Lots of forces—whether or not it’s the media or Large Tech—are aligned to assist us give attention to the variations. Outrage generates clicks and eyeballs glued to screens. This relationship was proof that should you discover that widespread floor, you’ll be able to even have a productive, fascinating friendship.
Simply because somebody has an concept you would possibly suppose is incorrect, that concept isn’t the one factor that particular person is. We scale back individuals to 1 snippet of 1 concept and extrapolate every little thing else about them based mostly on that.
I like becoming in with red-MAGA-hat-wearing of us, after which, once they ask me about one thing that they’re incorrect about, I stand my floor. The look on their face is priceless.
One time I went taking pictures, and afterwards I heard by a pal that somebody requested, “Is Drey a liberal?” We didn’t speak any politics out on the gun vary, so I don’t know what tipped him off. My pal mentioned, “I don’t know if he’s a liberal, however he’s a great man.” Breaking boundaries and understanding that individuals are extra complicated than only one view or one side was a giant lesson as properly.
Colleen: For me, the ethical of the story is that folks on the web are human beings, but in addition that there’s price in holding individuals in your life who disagree with you. It’s a bizarre friendship as a result of we don’t work together a lot in particular person, but it surely’s like having a sounding board—“Hey, I noticed this text. You realize extra about this; what’s your take?” We’re all uncovered to a lot data; it’s good to have people who find themselves it in several methods that will help you see issues from different views. I believe that’s one thing individuals ought to attempt to do of their households and their pal teams—to pay attention extra and be open to being incorrect.
In the event you or somebody you understand must be featured on “The Friendship Recordsdata,” get in contact at email@example.com and inform us a bit about what makes the friendship distinctive.