The internet is a marvelous tool for showing the world just how clever we are. I failed to make much of an impression at school, but give me a keyboard and an online forum, and I become an intellectual titan – or at least I used to be able to. I’ve wasted so many hours arguing with strangers, and I’m so glad I don’t need to do that anymore. Here are 7 reasons why I believe arguing online is a waste of time:
It Creates an Attitude of “Us” versus “Them”
When I was 20, I went to live in Glasgow for a year. I got a job in a bar. The fact that I have a southern Irish accent meant that the Celtic football supporters adopted me as one of their own. I didn’t really care about football, but it felt so nice to be accepted by these people. I started going to matches with my new pals, and I got completely carried away by it all. I started to worship Celtic, and I hated anything to do with Glasgow Rangers – I even felt threatened by anyone who followed that team. I developed the “us” versus “them” mentality, and I see the same thing happening online all the time.
It Reinforces Unhelpful Beliefs and Opinions
My beliefs and opinions about things change all the time – it’s one of the things I most like about myself. The problem with arguing online is it interferes with this healthy process. When my self-worth is dependent on my ability to defend a belief, I’m not going to let go of it very easily. This is what leads to dogmatism and closed-mindedness. It becomes my job to not understand the other person’s point of view, and I can be very good at it.
Arguing Online Brings Out the Worst in People
The anonymity of the web mixed with the human need to be right is a terrible combination. I bet most of us wouldn’t have the nerve to speak to people in real life the way we do online. It is so easy to forget that the person we are arguing with has real feelings – it’s also more tempting to be obnoxious when you know the other person can’t punch you on the nose. If people behaved in the real world the way they do online, we’d be in a constant state of war.
Online Arguments Are Mentally Draining
I’ve walked away from online arguments feeling physically sick. It’s kept me awake at night. I already have enough challenges in my life without adding this type of unwarranted stress. These debates can be just so addictive. If we feel that we have been insulted or belittled, it is very hard to just walk away and forget about it. This means we can up wasting the entire night debating over something that is ultimately pointless, and we can end up feeling like a bit of a zombie the next day.
Arguing Online Causes Bad Feelings
We all vary in our ability to handle criticism and ridicule. Snarky comments can seem harmless enough at the time, but they have the potential to really hurt feelings if this person is dealing with low self-esteem. The fact that we can’t see them means we can’t judge how our words are impacting them. It can be difficult to draw the line between a forceful argument and bullying. Saying the wrong words to a person who is already feeling low may be enough to drive them into depression or even to suicide.
These Arguments Rarely Cause Other People to Change Their Beliefs and Opinions
It is nice to imagine that we are intellectual warriors feeding wisdom to the plebs, but this is just delusional thinking. The reality is that if you were me, you would believe in all the things I believe in, and if I were you the same would apply. These online debates are not about sharing knowledge and helping people to learn. These arguments almost always boil down to I’m right and you’re stupid – hardly the right way to win minds and influence people.
We Start to Believe That Being Right Means Proving Someone Else Wrong
I doubt there is one human on the planet who really knows what this life is all about. We cling to certainly like a security blanket, and this means we develop this desperate need to defend our beliefs. Instead of valuing beliefs on the basis of how much they improve our life – we judge them by our ability to prove other people wrong.
Recap – Seven Reason You Should Avoid Arguing Online
• It creates enemies in our minds that don’t really exist
• It makes it harder to let go of unhelpful beliefs and opinions
• It brings out our worst qualities
• It is a waste of our precious energy
• It hurts other people
• It is reinforcing our need to be right all the time
• We become less able to judge ideas on their own utility