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:

FBquote

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.

2 thoughts on “Online debates

  1. Social media exchanges do tend to solidify already held positions, which I view as an advantage and disadvantage. It has given me more of an idea of what others feel and where they get their current information. On occasion, someone provides a link to an article, book, video or organization that has added value. Infrequently a person responds to news or an editorial with a comment that I pick through to truly think about, but it happens. Overall, others’ thoughts via social media have helped to clarify my views. I spend less time reacting now, though I still regularly skim what is being said. It gives me a sense of when the trolls are being fired up and what topics actually strike a nerve with people. As a progressive living in a red state, social media has moved me from fearful isolation to honing my support to what I believe are effective groups and ways to Resist a lot of what the current administration is doing. That said, as political divisiveness has grown, I still tread lightly on social media. I have lived decades surrounded and out-numbered by people with opposing views, and do not find that one-on-one discussion and listening solves much. Extending that to the nation, various stances and their nuances are well known. Brain research shows that Republicans and Democrats are “wired” differently. Yes, there is some hope because chemical pathways can undergo change, that someone, maybe even a group, could shift their opinion or attitude. That, along with one-on-ones, is a value in continuing to shout over messages of hatred on social media that I see (and contining to make more reasoned comments). The founding fathers made our voices matter, a means of peaceful participation in our government. Yet, many politicians refuse to go to town hall meetings, or pay attention to petitions, protests, letters and email, Plus, gerrymandering and other methods are being used in efforts to surpress votes. So, I also see value in people using social media to publicity signal politicians involved in such tactics and to show support of our legal system.

    1. Jamison

      Wonderful comment! Thank you for giving some insights into where you’re at and how you react to people on Social Media. Thank you!

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