On one hand, social media is second to none in how it’s brought together people around the world, bridging generations, continents, and ideologies to move society forward, connected by the sharing of information through this ubiquitous medium that’s reshaping how the human race interacts with each other.
On the other hand, however, social media can at times also be considered the rotting cesspool of the Internet where communication goes to die in the name of uninformed, political bantering and general bitchiness, fueled by anonymity and a lack of face-to-face accountability where the quick and the pointed comment far outweighs the good-intentioned and well thought-out.
As someone who sincerely believes in the idea of growing one’s knowledge by surrounding yourself with smarter people who disagree with you, I take exception to the degenerative nature that social media has come to be known for because through connecting more people around the globe than any other medium before it, social media has a tremendous reach to better the human race through discussion and the informal exchange of ideas.
The challenge, really, is in weighting each of these exchanges to the benefit of those involved as well as everyone else who’s listening in because although I’d like to think that any dialogue is a good dialogue in the grand scheme of discussion and debate, it’s probably safe to say that some conversations are better off not having at all when one or more parties are close-minded to the ideas of the other, often devolving to rude comments and expletives anyways…
And mind you, I don’t single my opponents out in a fair number of these exchanges, either, as there are definitely certain topics where I personally feel perfectly comfortable being close-minded in general discourse:
- Discussions about basic human rights and the equal treatment of our fellow man.
- Bigotry and slander without any perceivable justification.
- And being a writer and editor – plagiarism.
Much like someone who has their feet firmly planted in a particular religion or political affiliation with little room for debate in their head, it’s fair to say that those are three topics that best not be discussed with me in any sort of debate manner because I will never change my mind about the ideas that people should be treated equally, they should be decent to one another, and they shouldn’t steal from each other creatively.
It’s that simple, and yet I still find myself in arguments with those that oppose these beliefs, perhaps in the mindset that I can somehow change their minds, but admittedly more so just in the name of trying to defend these steadfast beliefs … which in hindsight seems a little silly because I don’t need those beliefs proven to others to know that they’re important to me personally. I came to these positions without insight or opinion from the faceless masses of the Internet and honestly, I’m perfectly ok with where I stand today, so why do I still waste time arguing about these things on the Internet with people who don’t prioritize them in the same manner that I do?
Or in some cases – and let’s be honest, probably more than a few – where the antagonist just wants to stir the pot because it’s amusing to them!
I think that discussion, particularly when it becomes heated like so many do online, needs to be one of those things where you pick your battles, which in this case is done simply by taking a look both at your own argument as well as those around you…
- Am I likely to change my view about this topic?
- Does this person have something to offer that might give me new perspective on it?
- Or are we admittedly both pretty steadfast in our ways and just arguing from towers that neither of us are likely to budge from anytime in the near future?
Because we have such a limited number of hours in the day and it seems to be easier than ever to find ourselves sucked into these endless, winner-take-none battles with a friend of a friend or even a complete stranger online, we need to train ourselves to evaluate the quality of the discussion before we allow our precious time to be wasted spinning wheels on subjects that are noisy and angered instead of ones where – quite frankly speaking – we might actually have a chance of making a difference!
If I sit down and really think about how I want to spend my time, I’ve had some lively debates on Facebook or Twitter about climate change or raising the minimum wage and there’s definitely been value to those because they’ve helped to further my own views on those particular issues, but the ugly ones … the ones where you know that you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing???
Seriously, what’s the point?!
If each of us is confident enough in our views that there’s really nothing anyone else can say to change our minds, then maybe for the sake of everyone that time arguing would be better spent talking about something else. Or really, anything else.