I had a pretty trying day in social media world. What I experienced in one day sums up a lot of what I have been witness to and played a part in ― thus prompting this piece. You’d think after a decade on social media, I would have learned important lessons about behaviors and patterns of thought. Alas, it seems that is no less true today than it was in 2006. I have matured slightly, though, as I am more conscious of my mistakes and miscues, I stop commenting a little earlier than I used to, and I try to think about the perspective of others.
Some days, though, I fall right back into the abyss of debating, arguing, and exhausting all tactics to prove my point. But, why, though? Why do I engage, and allow myself to be engaged? I scold myself when I think about how much time and energy have been wasted on days like these.
Instead of being too hard on myself, I took that realization, and came up with nine reasons to step away from the keyboard during an argument on social media. There are probably many more, but in a mad scribble, this is what I came up with:
1. Time’s wasting away. According to NBCNews, 55 billion hours have been logged on Facebook alone since 2009. Imagine how much of that was spent in debate. That time will not regenerate; it is gone forever. There were at least 13 other things I could have been doing, but I chose to spend that time arguing a point.
2. Your thoughts are yours alone. It is important to understand that everyone doesn’t think the same. More times than not, there are many on your lists who do not agree with your stances. It is not reasonable to think you share the same thoughts with everyone else. Know that while using social media, and employ this info when approaching posts and comments.
3. Does it really matter? The answer to this is almost always no. There is rarely a need to engage with someone else on social media, because the occurrences there are seldom germane to your life in real time and real existence; which leads me to the next reason why we do not need to argue with someone on social media.
4. Unwarranted stress. In the world we inhabit today, who needs extra stress? Children, jobs, finances, and personal matters already lend to that. There seems to be no incentive to pile on more on top. One psychiatrist ― Dr. Quinlan ― warns of debate and arguments increasing your levels of stress, and recommends revisiting posts after you have had time to cool off.
5. Some want attention. I am the social media user who will congratulate you on your new baby, or wish someone a happy birthday, or like/love pictures. I do share lots of posts on plenty different topics, but if I see a post from someone that I already know I fundamentally disagree with, I try my hardest to keep scrolling. There is no need for that potentially negative attention, so I steer clear.
6. Trolls and devil’s advocates. If you are an active social media user, chances are you have committed one of these actions before. There is a difference in being a troll once or twice, and targeting members to only comment on their subject-specific posts. Like I said earlier, I know who to avoid on my lists, so I make it a point not to comment regularly on their sites. I share most controversial posts without comment, to lessen the negative feedback I may receive. However, my trolls find me. They almost never comment on anything except for political posts, and then ― from nowhere ― they appear with their opposition. This can be dangerous, as you will find yourself wasting the most time arguing with them. Remember, everyone does not think the same way, and chances are you will not change their mind with Cyberland banter, so it is best to abandon the debate.
7. Fake news is nothing new. Since the late 19th century, the term yellow journalism was used to describe news that was not necessarily true, but that offered the type of sensationalism required to sell a story. This tactic still holds true today in many outlets, and much of that erroneous reporting is perpetuated on social media. So, before the argument ensues, give thought to the notion that the story may not be true anyway.
8. Experts don’t argue on social media. While we may be well-versed, with a great deal of knowledge on a subject, the person on the other end may feel that they know more about said subject. Ultimately, what we know are our own versions. And then somewhere down the line sits the theory closest to the truth. It is in our best interest to agree to disagree, and let it be.
9. Don’t get mad, everyone has their own space. Finally, we all are given somewhat of a choice to post what we will on our own piece of Cyberland. If there is something that someone else posted, it should remain at the front of our minds that ― even in disagreement ― there is respect. If it cannot be respected or ignored, it may be time to delete them or the post from your sight, because again, there is seldom a reason for an argument on social media.
Now that I am reading these points after putting them on paper, I am going to make a harder effort to adhere to this. Arguing online (or in real life) has no worth whatsoever. It is true that we are not all the same, but there is nothing wrong with curbing the unproductive discourse that abounds. Find better ways to use your social media experience.
As the poet Rumi said, “The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.”
Shana Swain writes for the Lowcountry Herald and has her personal blog, feedmetipme.wordpress.com.