It used to be that an argument simply meant the logical point-counterpoint sharing of differing views.
Now, thanks especially to the safe distance of online venues, it means stating my position (not as opinion, but as unassailable truth), then throwing down on each and every person who dares to call me on it.
There is no limit to the subjects people are not only willing but eager to argue over, and it rarely involves logical statement of views and positions with mutual respect for difference.
When I disagree with someone
Some things I need to keep in mind when a discussion ventures into disagreement.
- Not everyone sees things the way I see them, and that’s cool.
- Folks don’t always know how to separate their emotions from their views, so it’s on me to maintain whatever peace I wish to preserve.
- If I feel my emotional temperature rising, I ought to shift topics.
- If I start arguing, is my goal to show valid counterpoints to my discussion partner, or am I just on reflex and defense?
When I lose my balance I start reflexively arguing back. To regain a mindful balance I need to seriously ask myself it I am just trying to out-shout this other person so I can be right, have the last word, or rack up points on some ego-based imaginary scorecard?
Does their disagreement with my position threaten me or my worldview, perhaps making me uncomfortable by suggesting there are other valid views on something I considered black-and-white a few minutes ago? Does it really threaten me or the cosmic fabric if someone makes me question my own stance on a subject? Or do I just not like it when that happens?
When I see people disagree
In the real world, it’s impolite to join a strangers’ debate. Online it seems that such propriety isn’t that common. Sure, if a group has posted a viewpoint thread and invited comment, then the field is wide open.
Even if they don’t invite comments explicitly, one would think that anyone bold enough to plop their viewpoint into such a public forum as social media should also realize that they are opening the door for anyone to walk through. Of course one would be wrong, since many folks drop their opinions on the web rhetorically and could not care at all what I have to say on the matter; it’s all about them having their say, end of story.
If I see a flame war breaking out, I need to consider:
- Do I really have anything constructive to add?
- Am I ready for backlash when readers launch on me for commenting?
- Do I honestly think I’ll change anyone’s position simply because I add some airtight logic?
During arguments it’s necessary for me to mindfully consider how others view the universe, especially if they can’t or won’t. When people argue, emotions usually trump logic or respect for difference. This is particularly true in the illusory safety of social media.
I don’t get points for being right or outlasting someone in an online argument. But I do add to my reputation as a reasonable and respectable voice when I can let others have their views in peace.