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 frustrate 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

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