Online debates

I love the power of social media, and how it allows us to remain in contact with people over long distances. I have many friends around the country, and being able to see pictures of their kids, and vacations, and heard about what is going on in their lives is amazing. It’s one of the truly great benefits of platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

However, they’re one of the worst places to have real discussions. On occasion I have had a few good debates, but those are far and few. Therefore, I’ve never been a big fan of trying to change people’s mind on social media platforms. If I’m feeling feisty and I want to just vent I’ll toss up a tirade, but I have no expectation that it will make any difference.

The reason that these online debates so often fail is encapsulated in the following screencap:


The underlined portion (“I don’t care what you think”) is the key phrase. In this debate that was going on about slavery and the reasons for the Civil War, it came down to a single, simple fact. The other person simply doesn’t care what others think. They don’t need to, since most of the time you’re never going to meet these people in real life. People often have hundreds and hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, many of whom they may have not even met in real life. Therefore, the desire to actually listen to what the other has to say is diminished or completely non-existent. If they don’t agree with you it doesn’t matter, you can just block them from your feed.

This results in a large echo chamber where everyone just shouts what they want, and no one is listening or open to discussion. So, I make a conscious decision to stay out of it. I feel like I have a much higher chance of success with in-person relationships, or at least conversations in “meat-space” than I ever will online.

Frankly, maybe we should just force Facebook be about funny cat videos and what you ate last night. It would save a lot of people a lot of stress.