Insulting Utes on Twitter

October 9, 2017    By: Geoff J @ 5:07 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Life

Hey look! I just noticed I still own this blog… nice.

Ok, I knew I still owned NCT. I just haven’t posted here in more than three years. These days I mostly get my online fix by talking BYU sports on Twitter. (See @GeoffJbyu) The thing about rooting for BYU on Twitter is it means I get to argue with Utah Utes fans a lot. Of course arguments in the 140 character format of Twitter mostly consists of taunting and insulting. I get a lot of Ute challengers appearing in my Twitter mentions these days because I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being highly optimistic about BYU (which infuriates and frustrates many of them to no end) and for being somewhat pugilistic in my responses to Ute antagonists who come after me. My go-to insult with most Ute fans is to call them imbeciles in one form or another. Some variations on that theme have included: moron, dimwit, stupid, dumber than a box of rocks, illiterate, fool, dullard, ignoramus, simpleton, pea brain, numbskull, and knucklehead. Such insults tend to get under their skins, which of course is my goal.

Not sure if I should feel bad about all the online arguing and insulting or not. I normally don’t. Although sometimes I get the feeling the rough-housing has gotten too heated and sort of feel bad when that happens.

Anyhow, in some ways the whole Twitter fighting process is kind of cathartic. I have long been a bit of a fan of evolutionary psychology theories that posit that we have all sorts of instincts that we’re born with as a result of the evolutionary history of humans. (And yes, I do think human evolution can square with a Mormon cosmology just fine with the right assumptions). So I kind of suspect this sort of raw tribal fighting is coded into all of our DNA. It sure seems to come naturally to us all.

If that’s the case, seems to me that the low stakes, almost ritualized sparring associated with this literal Team Blue vs Team Red serves as a useful and largely harmless outlet. It is undoubtedly a lower stakes fight than the ugly political fighting we see between Team Red (conservatives) and Team Blue (liberals) so many other places these days. Likewise, the religious fighting I used to do with anti-Mormons here and elsewhere online seemed to have higher stakes (even if that was just my impression).

I recently saw someone make a prediction for the future of humanity that went something like this: “Unrelenting Tribalism”. I tend to agree. I think tribalism is probably in our DNA. So I’m hoping that getting my tribal warfare fix via low stakes sports team rivalries is actually a useful pressure release valve rather than just an excuse for me to be rude to a bunch of anonymous Ute fans online.

If unrelenting tribalism is in our blood and inevitable, maybe finding a low stakes outlet like a sports team rivalry for it would be good for all of us. Especially if we could then let cooler heads prevail when it comes to higher stakes issues in society.


  1. I’ll take sportsball tribalism over racial, sexual, or creedal tribalism, but they tend to bleed over into one another.
    I am not sure I buy the “release valve” argument.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2017 @ 10:09 pm

  2. Yeah, the whole release valve idea is probably bogus. But maybe there is some value in recognizing and identifying tribalism for what it is at least.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2017 @ 8:49 am

  3. I miss this blog!

    I read a great book a while back that talked about some of these same ideas called The Professor in the Cage. I had often wondered why grown men playing a game of no consequence thousands of miles away could have such an effect on my mood as to ruin my day (or totally make my day).

    But you’re exactly right. Our caveman ancestors lived in a time and place when warriors were sent out to do battle against another tribe and the consequences absolutely did matter. The outcome could mean control of territory or access to food sources that would mean life and death.

    Over time men developed rules for engaging in combat that look quite stupid to us at first blush, the most well known example is probably the duel, where two men would settle their differences by taking turns shooting at each other from short range. As stupid as it seems, more often than not the alternative was you’d kill someone over a disagreement and then their brother would kill you, and it would ignite a Hatfields and McCoys style feud that was far more destructive in the long run.

    In light of this, a little beefing on Twitter over sports seems an evolutionary leap forward. Definitely way better than something ultimately meaningless than politics where these days it seems that people care more about winning or signaling their allegiance to a tribe than actually solving the important problems in our society.

    Comment by Mephibosheth — October 10, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

  4. Good stuff, Mephibosheth. And thanks for reminding me how nice it is to get a cogent, coherent reply that doesn’t have to try to stay under 140 characters

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

  5. Ute fans wear jean shorts.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 10, 2017 @ 6:19 pm

  6. Cougar fans boil hot dogs

    Comment by Ben Johnson — October 15, 2017 @ 3:55 pm

  7. I think overlapping and relenting tribalism is a more likely scenario. Technology has made tribalism of a pure sort so hard to sustain. At the small scale there are too many contacts with too many far-reaching tribes: economic, familial, regional, ethnic, educational, etc. It is mind-numbing. At the large end, weapons of mass destruction mean that the potential for rational and irrational forces to produce large scale conflict prevents a clear power hierarchy.
    BTW, what happened to Jeff G on here? Posting elsewhere or no longer interested?

    Comment by Martin James — October 17, 2017 @ 11:50 am

  8. Whoa! Geoff J posts at NCT?? Glad I’m up-to-date on my food storage, could be the end times.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 21, 2017 @ 9:48 am

  9. Yep, Jacob. Sign of the times.

    Martin — Fair point about technology affecting tribalism. But I don’t see tribalism slowing due to technology. Rather, I see same ‘ol same ‘ol fights in new online battlefields.

    Also, pretty sure Jeff G just wore out like we all do. I suspect he’ll be back after a hiatus. (Mine has been years).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

  10. I’m still here.

    I moved overseas to go back to school.

    Right now, I’m gearing up to start vlogging on Youtube about philosophical and economic issues that have very little to do with religion (at least directly).

    I’m just not sure that the ‘Thang is the right venue for the direction that my interests are heading.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 23, 2017 @ 9:08 am

  11. Jeff G, I’ll be interested to see what your vlogging looks like. Good luck with school and with the vlogging.

    Comment by Martin James — October 23, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

  12. Geoff J,
    Maybe the best way into what I meant by technology as a force for overlapping and relenting tribalism rather than “unrelenting tribalism” is to consider the number of tribes a person belongs to and how those tribes change in both size and direction over time.
    I think that technology transforms tribes in many ways: speed of dialog, geographical abstraction, economic and military risks from larger or more aggressive tribes.
    So how many tribes do you belong to? One? tens? Hundreds?
    Can you really call them tribes when many are effectively tribes of one where we pick and chose tribal allies depending on our shifting preferences and moods?
    Technology promotes choice, which can look like tribalism where people making similar choices cluster together but may not be much more than a name for a temporary preference rather that a force of meaningful power or change.

    Comment by Martin James — October 23, 2017 @ 1:43 pm

  13. I’ll be sure to let you guys know here, Martin.

    The biggest hold up is that I think I want to post the episodes on Steemit, but I’m having SERIOUS problems logging in to the account I created about a year ago.

    As kind of an overview, I’m basically trying to synthesize Darwinism, Pragmatism and Praxeology in order to provide a unified conceptual skeleton from which the meat of all human sciences and practices can hang.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 24, 2017 @ 5:10 am

  14. Jeff G, I’ve been doing more reading on how entropy, information and energy relate to evolution and cultural dynamics. Interesting stuff but still underdeveloped in my opinion.

    Comment by Martin James — October 24, 2017 @ 10:53 am

  15. Martin (#12),

    I don’t disagree that the number of tribes we belong to and the length of time we belong to those tribes has increased due to technology. However I see no evidence that our instinct toward tribalism or inter-tribal squabbling is relenting in the least. I think it’s same ‘ol same ‘ol on that front.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2017 @ 8:33 pm

  16. Geoff J,
    What is the difference between ordinary squabbling which breaks down into sides of an argument (presuming tha tat least some of these don’t break down on tribal lines) and tribal squabbling? What characteristics of “tribal” do you think are significant. To me tribal has a closer relationship to kinship and upbringing than other forms of solidarity such as economic, political or religious, although some of those are obviously influenced by “tribal” forces.

    Comment by Martin James — November 1, 2017 @ 8:50 am

  17. Here is an example: take sexual relations and gender roles, that is almost exclusively an “intra-tribal” rather than inter-tribal controversy.

    Comment by Martin James — November 1, 2017 @ 10:10 am

  18. Martin — Not sure it’s worth it to quibble over what constitutes a tribe or not. That wasn’t really the point of this post. Suffice it to say that for the purpose of this post, I am referring to silly and often transient things like favorite sports teams of the moment as a modern day version of choosing a tribe.

    Main point here is, we like to choose a team and get into fights in the name of our team. I think that is likely somewhat instinctual.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

  19. Thanks Geoff. The reason I didn’t see it as quibbling is that I think the shifting nature of teams is the biggest issue for people today.

    Comment by Martin James — November 6, 2017 @ 10:39 am

  20. So one good thing of BYUs losing ways is getting you starting the blog back up!

    Comment by Clark — November 6, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

  21. If anybody cares, I just put up my first video post on my new Steemit blog:

    Again, the issues that I discuss (at this point) are pretty orthogonal to Mormonism, so you guys might not be all that interested. Basically, I’m trying to clarify and solidify the foundations for many of the models of human reason and moral institutions that I’ve made here at the ‘Thang over the last few years.

    Either way, you’re all more than welcome!

    Comment by Jeff G — November 7, 2017 @ 10:30 am

  22. I do most of my blog comments when waiting for printers at work. So I unfortunately don’t do video stuff. If you do more regular posts I could contribute.

    Comment by Clark — November 7, 2017 @ 11:02 am

  23. I do include a transcript in the post…. if that helps.

    Comment by Jeff G — November 7, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

  24. I am planning on working a lot of Peircean ideas into the posts, so your contributions would be especially welcome!

    Comment by Jeff G — November 7, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

  25. Geoff, I first came across your website in 2004. We had one minor argument ourselves. It had to do with James Fowler’s theories–by the way he says that about half of all people are what you’re calling “tribal”, and the rest of us are not. My opinion is that we’ll all eventually see what a waste of time and energy it is and choose to stop giving into that way of thinking.

    Comment by Bill B. — November 24, 2017 @ 7:46 pm

  26. Hey Bill B — Time flies, huh? I guess the jury is out on deep-seeded tribalism persisting. In the meantime I am hoping the play-acting variety of tribal squabbling we do with things like sports teams can help people get their instinctual fix without getting out of hand.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 25, 2017 @ 9:25 am

  27. Very good blog post. I absolutely love this site.

    Keep writing!

    Comment by Brigitte — May 20, 2018 @ 1:31 pm

  28. Knowing “twitter Geoff (with a G)” and “NCT GeoffJ” I can say I like the latter more.


    I absolutely love the reactions you elicit from my fellow Utes. So entertaining.

    Comment by Riley — June 10, 2018 @ 8:59 am

  29. Well you remain one of my favorite Utes online, Riley. I’m a little surprised at how much I manage to rile Utes fans up on Twitter, but it is pretty amusing most of the time.

    (I’m not surprised at how much you rile folks up on Twitter — they don’t call you Riley fer nuthin’ amirite?)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2018 @ 12:31 pm