How often do social media debates change someone’s mind? It’s nearly as rare as lightning striking a purple carrot during a solar eclipse. If we aim to convince someone else of our point of view, we don’t get very far, very often. That’s not necessarily an assessment of our argument skills; it’s just the way it is.
So, is there any point to these exchanges? I’ve found a few, and maybe you’ve also discovered some redeeming qualities.
Reward 1 • Clarify and articulate your views
When we engage in online discussions, we get a chance to explain our viewpoints and the reasons for them. We answer questions and respond to challenges. We discover whether we’re understood and whether we’re persuasive. That’s valuable!
Reward 2 • Learn stuff
Discussions about issues such as climate change, education policy, capital punishment, and space exploration are bound to include statistics and other factual information. Chances are, we’ll learn something we didn’t already know. Just this week, I learned that Shaquille O’Neal offered an opinion on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Navajo Nation has a high COVID-19 infection rate, and epigenetics is a thing.
Of course, it’s wise to verify information before accepting it as true. Well-meaning people can get their facts wrong. Sadly, there also are those who don’t mean well.
Reward 3 • Understand people better
Charlie thinks that clowns are terrifying because he read Stephen King’s It when he was a teenager (Charlie, not Stephen King; Stephen King was about 38 when he first read it). Pat thinks that clowns are loveable because she has fond memories of them from childhood.
Tristan thinks that business tax rates should be lower because more jobs would be created as a result. Agatha thinks that gun control laws should be stricter because her sister was shot and killed five years ago. Diego doesn’t believe in God because he believes that science indicates that there is no necessity for a creator.
This debate is read-only
Last evening I spent about 30 minutes reading through friends’ Facebook posts about current events. I didn’t comment; I just read. I learned information that was new to me, and I got a glimpse into the minds and hearts of people I know and people I don’t know. It was very rewarding.
Even if you prefer not to wade into the potentially shark-infested waters of social media conversations by adding your viewpoint, you can enjoy the rewards of learning new stuff and understanding people better just by reading what others post.
Whichever approach you take, you can find value. There’s gold in them thar minefields!