Why I’ve Stopped Arguing on Facebook

Photo via Zsoolt

Photo via Zsoolt

I recently gave into temptation. I almost never do, but when it’s in your face all the time, eventually, you’re going to stumble. You’re going get involved once in a while in something you know is not good. The results are never positive- just a bunch of thrashing about and, when it’s all over, hurt feelings and the potential loss of a friend.

Of course, I am talking about arguing on Facebook. I try to just stay out of it. Facebook arguments are famous for their futility. Everybody’s done it, and it doesn’t take many clicks to figure out nobody is changing anybody else’s mind.

See, in an age dominated by communication media, we all tend to think responding might do some good. But, it never does. Most people have experienced this. At some point, we’ve engaged in a little online debate to find that, in the end, it produced no good fruit.

This is one reason I have begun to think the best response we can have toward a culture deep into its period of decline is simply to withdraw as much as possible. Our culture is in ruins. Let the fools fight over what remains.

If I believed that changing people’s mind were possible, I might have come to some other conclusion. But, people who advance decadent opinions on social media don’t change their minds. In fact, their minds have very little to do with it.

The central reason for putting forward such opinions on social media is to signal others that you are one of the cool people. The point is to show that you are on the right side of history. It’s not about the content; it’s about the subtext.

When we engage them, we provide them another chance to signal their virtue, another chance to show their commitment to the approved wisdom the culture has handed down. By challenging them, we become their foil.

Notice what happens when you argue on Facebook. The friends of the original poster, people you don’t know, jump in. In my recent experience, after critiquing my opponent’s argument, some young man appeared in the thread to tell me to stop “harassing” his friend.

I pointed out that in no rationally imaginable way is critiquing an author’s published work “harassment.” It didn’t matter because Facebook arguments are a mirror of two key elements of contemporary society: emotivism and the entertainment mindset.

Facebook arguments aren’t settled by whose argument is stronger, they are settled, as all other contemporary cultural controversies are, by who has the most legitimate claim to victimhood. The white knight who warned me to stop my “harassment” didn’t mean what he said as a serious statement. The content didn’t matter. His statement was merely a subtextual reminder that his female friend had, according to the currently ascendant calculus, a greater claim to victimhood than I have and therefore I must be wrong. He felt, within his victimist mindset, that I was in the wrong, so I must actually be wrong. That is how emotivism works.

Facebook arguments are also entertainment. More often than not, people are only interested in the spectacle. This is true of the people who lurk on the page waiting to see the next zinger. It’s also true for the people engaged in the argument. Arguing is fun, and like most merely fun activities, it’s a waste of time. Had there been no element of entertainment involved, I wouldn’t have succumbed to the temptation to argue just as I never succumb to the temptation to run an impromptu marathon.

Giving up arguing on Facebook fighting doesn’t mean letting the forces of decay win. It can’t possibly mean that because never once has arguing on Facebook led to their losing. Instead, arguing only strengthens their resolve to continue to face down the forces of “wickedness” through their skillful employment of really sick memes.

It’s better to ignore them. Arguing with them only feeds the monster. Leave them alone, and maybe the beast will starve. Whether it does or not, I’ll be better off using my time productively, to tend to my blog, my garden, my children. Anything that strengthens me is a blow to the other side, and thus I win through not engaging.

But, maybe that’s just me. Maybe others can argue on Facebook and actually make some progress. If that’s you, more power to you. But, I’m out. If you choose to keep on fighting, feel free. I won’t argue with you.

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5 responses

  1. “I have begun to think the best response we can have toward a culture deep into its period of decline is simply to withdraw as much as possible.”

    Then might I recommend you stop using your Facebook account period, and do better things with your time?

    At the very least, stop receiving communications from people who are posting the sort of thing that leads to contention?

  2. Sometimes I post funny images, for entertainment purposes, but I never really put anything substantial on there anymore.

    Wald

  3. I love this post. It was funny, and I am no longer alone in my frustration with the general populace. Yes, I realize I am a member of that populace, and that others are frustrated by me, too. But I’m right and you can’t change my mind. . . I am female and win the victimhood contest, so be schooled by my ironic meme and keep quiet. I am now signing off to go look up the word emotivism on my dictionary app.

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