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I Asked a Stupid Question About Instant Pots on Facebook. Then Things Got Ugly.

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I post a lot about politics on Facebook — so much so, in fact, that I suspect that even close friends have unfollowed me. That’s OK: The state of the world is important to me, and I want to share both the news and ways that people can get involved. And if people don’t want to hear it, that’s their choice.

But I’m human, too. And there are times when I am sitting at my kitchen table just before 7 a.m., amid the detritus of abandoned child breakfasts, and I find myself thinking about stupid things, like, “Where are the toenail scissors?” and “What exactly is an Instant Pot, anyway?”

I figured I’d ask my Facebook friends the latter (I’m assuming they have no more idea where the toenail scissors are than I do). I phrased the question something like, “Hey, guys, so I’m wondering but haven’t asked because I’m afraid people will think I’m an idiot: What is the difference between an Instant Pot and a crockpot?”

Simple, right? I had no idea that a mere 22 hours later, I would wake up the next morning to a barrage of furious texts sending virtual flames of hatred off my phone screen. One friend texted to tell me another one was a “real jackass;” yet another called a third party a “self-righteous prick.”

See, I didn’t think that would happen. Because foolishly enough, I thought I was asking an innocuous question about a kitchen appliance. (And a lazy one, at that! I could have just Googled the difference. But, oh, hindsight…)

By way of background: I don’t really have a lot of skin in the kitchen game. Many of my children have extremely crappy and narrow eating tastes. And while I am vaguely interested in expanding their palates beyond pizza, turkey, pasta, chicken nuggets, meatballs, and plums, I find that I seldom have the energy to explore the means to do so when it’s so unlikely that my efforts will be rewarded. (Truth, though: My youngest child is an omnivore’s dream, who eats stuff like cauliflower and asks for more. I don’t understand any more than you do.)

So, the idea of a one-stop-shop appliance that did the work for me sounded vaguely appealing. However, I also hate the following: Multiple Buttons On Things, Complicated Instructions, and perhaps most of all, Appliances With Learning Curves.

I just want to take a moment here to point out that my question was NOT “Let’s discuss the merits of each appliance, and how they will change my life for the better.” Or “Let’s talk about why the Instant Pot is a bane to home cookery in general and how purchasing one would unleash the fires of hell.” I just asked: What’s the difference between an Instant Pot and a crock pot? Because yes, as I mentioned before: I am lazy.

I did not realize that, when I posed my question, people’s feelings on this particular appliance are strong. Like, feelings-about-Donald-Trump strong. Like, “Do these people have their life savings invested in this company?” strong on one hand, and “Do these people have degrees in science, appliances, and nutrition?” on the other.

The first few responses to my post were benign, answering the question I posed. Apparently, the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. (I’m not going to admit here that I still have no freaking clue what that is. And I’m not even going to bother to Google it to find out because, as we discussed earlier, I am way lazy.) A crock pot is NOT a pressure cooker. OK, great. Thanks — that’s all I needed. Moving on.

But then, things started to turn into a strangely heated (pun intended, obviously) debate about whether the Instant Pot was a kitchen savior or a kitchen Satan. Once the professional cook chimed in — saying that things actually do not taste that good when cooked in an Instant Pot — we were off to the races. People became willing to stake their personal cooking reputations on the device. They started sharing recipes with insistent, Buzzfeed-like lead-ins:  “This One Instant Pot Dinner Will Change Your Life!” (Honestly, people: will it?)

As the discussion devolved, the side texts started pouring in on my phone. “What is UP with that person?” one friend texted. “Is she like the inventor of Instant Pot?” Another person: “GOD, I hate it when people tell me that basically I am a crappy cook!” Another friend: “Yeah, Jordana, you are TOTALLY going to go make your own yogurt in an Instant Pot. That is DEFINITELY SOMETHING YOU WOULD DO.” Yet another: “I don’t care WHAT she says, YOU HAVE TO GET AN INSTANT POT.”

Now, I admit I irritate easily in the context of my own home — I have been known to fling the occasional dish into the sink when the dinner table skirmishes get out of hand — but for whatever reason, I am less easy to fluster online. So, seeing some 50 comments over the course of the day didn’t faze me. I went on with my life. I served deli turkey sandwiches on rye with coleslaw and roasted vegetables for dinner because — as you remember — I’m lazy. And then I fell asleep reading in bed.

In the morning, I went to get my phone off its charger — and I was greeted by the news that, overnight, the conversation had wildly degenerated into a verbal hair-pulling, no-holds-barred fistfight. Partisans from each side sniped over how and whether the Instant Pot drained all food of all of its nutritious value and/or taste. The tone of the approximately 75 comments had taken a turn, and ranged from slightly judgmental to fiercely condescending. And let’s not even get into the side texts.

Somehow, my little Facebook family had gotten far, far away from my original stupid question. We were back into the familiar swamp (forgive me) of social media comment wars.

What has become of us, people? I wondered as I scrolled through the furious comments and texts. Are we now incapable of ever having a discussion about anything without degenerating into “Me Versus You… And YOU SUCK”? I’m not holding myself above this, by the way — as pointed out before, I, too, am human. I’m simply saying that I WAS JUST ASKING A STUPID QUESTION ABOUT KITCHEN APPLIANCES.

My takeaway from all this, ironically, had nothing whatsoever to do with said appliances. Rather, I learned three very important things.

1. Always Google things first.

2. Aim for civil discourse on all topics.

3. If people are gonna go nuts over stuff like this? Well, then…

I went back to Facebook and deleted the original post, sending all the comments and replies into digital oblivion, maybe to be found one day by diligent Russian hackers.

I then went to my status and wrote, “Yesterday’s instapot post was way too controversial, so I’m going to stick to politics. (I deleted it.) #truestory”

And this, friends, is why I don’t cook.

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