As more people engage in forums, comment on blogs, and create Facebook and Twitter profiles, the way that we converse and debate is changing. I think that healthy, intelligent, and vigorous debate over everything from important issues in the news all the way to if in fact Aldo is a better store than Steve Madden (Aldo is better) is completely ok. I love to have exciting conversations regarding things that matter to me at a variety of levels.
However, some people simply cannot debate fairly. Their emotion always precedes their logic, even when there is no reason for that to occur. Certainly when discussing extremely passionate topics emotion will be displayed. This does not mean that logical and fact-oriented thought should be gagged, bound and locked in a closet. All you have to do is swing by a CNN article’s comments to see what I mean. If you really want your eyes to burn and to see the worst of the Internet, stop by any YouTube video that does not have comments disabled. No one likes to lose, but sometimes it is easy to see who is losing a debate by some of the actions mentioned below.
1. The person reverts to ad hominem fallacies. Ad hominem attacks question the validity of an argument based on an irrelevant characteristic of the person advocating the premise. This one is pretty obvious. For example, if I am having a debate with someone about the President (who I wish the best for and support in general, though have some differences in thought on some policies) and they have to revert to discussing my race or gender, or infer that I support him because of race, the conversation is over. What has surprised me is that generally intelligent and educated people have made such assertions ... not the usual internet trolls. I remind them that I also voted for Gore and Kerry, who are very much White. I vote based on beliefs and that most closely match mine, and even in smaller elections, I tend to vote for candidates registered as Democrat or Independent.
2. The person cannot stay on topic to save their life. If I write a blog about my passionate love affair for the colour blue, some people will post comments asking me why I hate the colour red so much. Normally, incorporating other tangents can be a great way to broaden a discussion. However, some people simply want to pour gasoline on a fire that does not exist in the first place. They often have plenty of matches to spare as well.
3. The person tries to close the argument before you’ve responded to something they’ve said. I have had so many interesting online conversations where a person started interjecting statements such as the bottom line, all I know is, the final analysis, and well the truth is long before I have even had a chance to reply to their statement. This one seems to go hand in hand with number two.
4. The person reverts to religion though not appropriate for the particular discussion. I have had some passionate discussions with people who ran out of facts after presenting one or no facts and reverted to adding what God told them, even if it had nothing to do with the discussion. I see their reasoning—perhaps if they present God in the discussion, I will be so afraid that I will waive the white flag and state that they are correct even if they are not. Sorry. Not going to happen. I am a strong believer that intellect does not have to be the enemy of faith.
5. The person starts handing out inappropriate compliments. Basically, this is the reverse of number one. In many controversial or intense conversations that I have had with men, once they ran out of facts or legitimate points to add, they commented on the sexiness of my avatar or told me that I am smart. I am not flattered. Honestly, I loathe flattery. To me, respect is better than flattery any day of the week. I realize that I am supposed to blush, soften my argument, and for some it would seemed that they wanted me to proceed down the path of annoying inappropriateness. Not interested.
6. They cannot agree to disagree. There are some debates where people will not see eye to eye. Both can state very strong arguments, moved by both logic and emotion and still not reach a consensus. Both sides should be respectful and accept that they will not see eye to eye. However, some people will continue to argue for the sake of arguing and have nothing new or relevant to add once both sides are at an intellectual impasse.
7. The person unfollows/removes you from friends. First, to be clear, neither of those actions bother me. I have written several posts on my views on friendship and how the word is misused and abused in social media. Also, if someone felt offended in a conversation and felt the need to unfollow or remove someone from friends, that is completely ok. However, there are many people who do this simply because they cannot handle a conversation that goes beyond the scope of LOLs. It’s true that many people simply want to be online for good laughs. That is ok ... I personally love good laughs, especially the kind that makes me shed tears. However, many of these people are the same ones who actually start controversial topics but quickly realize that they have nothing to contribute to the discussion, feel flustered and have to run. Some people start controversy for the sake of controversy and often will resort to number two before the final unfollow/removal from friends occurs.
The truth is, most passionate discussions shouldn’t even be about winning or losing, but more about sharing viewpoints and interesting ideas. When I am involved in an interesting conversation, I look forward to hearing others’ viewpoints, even if I disagree with them.