POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Arguing on the Internet

In Point/Counterpoint, we debate a topic split between an equal number of participants, a subject that Syd has a storied history with. A long running debate in the Never Nervous community is the value in engaging in discourse on the internet, political or otherwise. We are of two minds on the matter, but think it’s a subject worth tackling. Read on to see how we tackle this dicey subject.

JAKE

I’m not going to pretend like their is never a reason to wax poetic about what you believe on the internet. No one would believe me, because all I do on the internet is try to be funny, speak my mind, or make sure you’re caught up on all the Never Nervous #haps. It’s certainly important to have feelings and opinions and to be open about them. If only to show others who may be afraid of being open that it’s ok to be who you are. I have nothing against that.

The issue for me is the thing we refer to as the “comment section.” It’s a cess pool of fragmented, misspelled, and hate-filled thought. I mean seriously,  You’re making a “comment,” and it’s probably on an issue that has plagued America since it’s birth. More often than not those comments are about the person they are reacting to rather than the issue itself. Those of you who are willing to spend the time to complete a thought on a comment section, well, I hate to brake it to you but nobody read all 800 words of your thought. These things never end, and they almost never change someones mind. So as a matter of self-preservation (arguing on the internet was seriously affecting my mental health during this election cycle), I  came to realize two important facts:

  1. People can’t see the sincerity behind what you’re saying on the internet. Having honest discussions in person are much more effective and much more important.
  2. Even more effective than an argument or discussion is the ability to show the value of what you’re fighting for. Show the community how refugees can be a vital force in making our country great. Show the community that these people that they think are so different, are simply human beings with families, jobs, and emotions just like them. It’s not always easy to do this, but when you can do it without words and makes a much larger impact.

I use those two reasons as motivation to get off of Facebook and look for ways to help. Whether it be through finding voices to speak on behalf of their communities for Never Nervous or actually putting in work for a good cause. Actions speak louder than arguments, especially internet arguments. The most important thing to remember is if arguing in comment sections is your thing and you can change someones mind that way, then have at it. If it’s affecting how you live your day-to-day life and treat people in public, then you don’t have to say anything on the internet.

 

SYD

I get it, I do. I get why folks want to bounce from any internet argument. Let’s get real: why would you want to sit around arguing with some rando chud on the internet about whatever wet garbage they believe when you could literally do anything else? Why am I arguing with some twit on the Courier Journal’s comments section instead of enjoying pretty much every other thing in the world? I could teach my daughter and son the power of air drumming to Bacon Industry. I could hug my wife, which is always the best move. I could channel that time to write more articles for more places. I could read all the comics. I could get ahead on my work and play some video games. But naw, here I am at 6:30 on the morning arguing with some nitwit about the historiography of the Civil War, or why immigrants are people or something. Who is this helping?

So a few things. First off, it helps me. It helps me to know what people different than me think and the cognitive dissonance necessary to justify those views. Do I see more often than not bald tribalism? Yeah, doy. That’s how it goes with politics, as if we’re all just playing dodge ball or something and not trying to put the most level headed person in charge of our nuclear arsenal. Sometimes you get lucky and encounter someone you disagree with, but who does so with logic and occasionally even some empathy. Gasp!

You can learn something. Sometimes, I sort through some stuff and renegotiate my views. Like, I didn’t realize that gypsy was offensive to some people. Not like I use that word all that often, but maybe reconsider it more now, huh? That’s the least I could do to make someone else feel comfortable. It’s not that big of a deal to me to just try and be cool to someone, you know. In some cases, I’ve been called out to act more than I have in the past. It’s always part of a lame argument (if you love refugees so much, why don’t you let them live with you?), but still one worth considering? Why not try and actually volunteer to help in some way? It’s not like I can argue empathy into someone that lacks it.

Last up, and I feel like this is a big one, but maybe I’m the one voice you see that gets you through it. I wasn’t born rich or anything, but as a straight white dude I pretty much hit the privilege birth lottery. Why not use that for good? Maybe this in and of itself seems like some White Knight thing too, like I’m just virtue signaling or whatever jerks use to feel better about their views. But seriously, maybe I’m the only person to stand up to ignorance and intolerance and maybe other people, folks that might be too shy or afraid to speak up, maybe it makes them feel better to know they aren’t alone. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s my ego just hoping that, and I need to check myself. All I can say -and take this or leave it- is that I absolutely want to make people feel better. I’m not out to be the keep-it-real police, but if someone is getting sexist or bigoted, etc., I’m going to respond, hopefully with a balanced and nuanced response that espouses thoughtfulness and consideration, but in some way for sure.

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