My original intention for this blog was to post only long(ish), article-like considerations of specific topics. Tonight, in only my third post, I’m deviating from that. Let’s talk about arguing online.
I often find myself getting too annoyed with and caught up in arguing with people online. Sometimes I argue for so long with alt-righters that I end up getting memes made about me (which is flattering, hilarious, and upsetting all at once). And other times I get stuck trying to convince people who are otherwise very politcally similar to me that so-and-so public figure is fine and we should support them even if their position on something like the NAP is unsatisfactory, which is what I was doing before writing this post. Was that time well-spent? Ehh… probably not, most of these debates aren’t.
But if nothing else, they can, in the best cases, expose you to ideas that you may have yet to hear. Even if those ideas are quite bad, you are still better for having heard them. That’s what we’re (yep, “we”… more to come on that soon) are all about here at Liberty Bias.
I’m an expert on very little, perhaps nothing. But if there is one category I might come close in, it’s arguing with people online. So, I want to take a few minutes here and quickly reflect on what I have learned in the process. (This comes almost exclusively from Twitter, but I’m sure it can apply elsewhere.)
- Remember every person you interact with online is a real human and the large majority of them would probably be enjoyable if you found yourselves at a real life party together. In fact, if that did happen and politics did happen to come up, you’d likely talk about the things you agree on and feel real nice about it (especially if you’re one of those pesky libertarians).
- Do your best to learn when debating online. It’s already a time-sucking pit, don’t let it erode your mind more than that. I mentioned earlier that I spend too much time confronting alt-right people. Yes, their beliefs are stupid, and I think they have the wrong diagnosis of pretty much every problem they find. Nevertheless, because of these arguments, I was inspired to look more into why they believe what they believe, where those ideas came from, and how better to confront them in the future. I firmly believe you have to truly understand someone’s position if you have any chance of getting them to question their opinions.
- Questions are probably the most useful tool you can deploy. For me, the types of online remarks I find most frustrating are inconsistencies that maybe even border on hypocrisy. If you ask a genuine question, that person is forced to think about what they believe and hopefully that process will be beneficial to them, so good job… you helped someone today. Also, none of us are exempt from this, so don’t get too defensive (except me, I’m perfect).
- Be quick to let things go. It’s the internet. Does it really matter? Probably not. If we’re on Twitter, there’s likely something far more productive we know we should be doing. Don’t let it stress you out. Not worth it. Log off and do the things you know you need to do. I’ve learned this one the hard way (see the link to the memes above).
- Something useful I’ve learned recently is that having a space elsewhere online to flesh out your beliefs/principles/thoughts is a great way to vary up your virtual life while also improving your thinking and writing skills, so thanks for being here with me. You’re a lot more likely to take pride in longer writing, you are less likely to be misunderstood, and interactions with thoughtful posts are usually much kinder and more useful. If you personally don’t have time to run your own site, follow some blogs and read what others are doing; mix it up, Twitter and Facebook are often hell holes of uselessness (for proof, look at my personal feed on the left column).
- A good tip that I constantly have to remind myself is the only person you will agree with all the time is yourself… and even that’s iffy. So give people a break and find allies in those who might disagree with you about certain topics, but still want the same practical results. (The NAP isn’t religious dogma guys; I’m bitter).
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a post from Alex Merced’s public Facebook profile. He outlined some really useful tips to make those of us who spend too much time online have a more pleasant and productive time here.
That’s it for now on this topic. I plan to stick to the article-writing thing more closely from now on.
Goodnight and Happy Twitter Fighting, John Osterhoudt
PS. That post I promised about the philosophy of rights and social programs is still coming (I’m only procrastinating a little bit).