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Nile Séguin is Against Debate

Okay that title might actually be accurate. I know that’s kind of a weird thing to say but the explanation might help you understand where I’m coming from.

We live in this wonderful time where you can communicate with just about anyone instantly for little or no money. You would think that that would be great. I mean growing up in the pre-internet era some thought that the biggest thing causing conflict was a lack of connection with “the other” (see Rocky IV for an explanation… and for a KICKASS GOOD TIME! HE KILLED CREED! THAT ARYAN PINKO SON OF A BITCH!).

So you would think that with this great thing called the Internet that provided both constant access and connection to people with different points of view AND an endless well of porn (do not go too deep) it would just be a festival of listening and understanding. Yeah not so much.

How many times have you gotten into a Facebook “discussion” (and if your answer is zero you win at life)? Doesn’t it always go the same way? You put your point forward. Someone counters with something that indicates they obviously don’t understand your point of view or maybe didn’t even read all of what you wrote. You reiterate your point. They ignore your point and throw some shade or snark at you. You try to ignore said shade/snark and reason with them. They come back with more shade and snark because it’s as though you not responding with anger fills them with righteous rage (or maybe they know that if they don’t blind you with emotion they will lose the argument). Hours later they are still saying EXACTLY the same thing they said at the beginning having either ignored or completely misunderstood your point of view and you’re buzzing with what might be repressed anger that gets rechanneled into your body and probably contributes to the tumor that will eventually kill you.

Artist rendering of everyone you've ever debated on social media

I did this way more times that I’d like to admit to and then I had the closest thing to a Eureka moment I’m ever going to have.

I put up a Facebook post awhile back that I thought was pretty clever. It doesn’t matter what it was about the point is I was quite proud of myself and my cleverness and enjoyed watching the like count rise because I’m a grown man who has clearly made some terrible life choices. Then someone posted a comment that was ignorant and lame and really just harshed my buzz. Bear in mind I don’t have a problem with rational discussion. I kind of enjoy it when the person is being reasonable but this was not that. This was someone who posted a lame let’s call it a “joke” or “point” or whatever that clearly ignored my reasoning and was obvious trolling. My literal initial reaction was “I can’t even.” I’m not saying that that was the emotion. I’m saying that is literally what I said to my screen when I read it. So that’s what I replied. The person came back with something that followed the script exactly: ignore or misunderstand point, pinch of snark, post. And I was about to start the whole useless ritual when I stopped myself. My shoulders had tensed up, I felt charged with righteous anger and a desire to prove this person wrong. But then I thought: why?

And when the only honest answer I could come up with was “because” I decided to walk away. I also decided to try something a little different and literally stopped reading this person’s posts. It was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Now from what I’ve been able to deduce, I think they got pretty upset. Despite my not replying they posted a few more times in quick succession, which I think means some anger but I’ll never know for sure. I’d see the post appear and it was just a matter of not looking directly at it, which isn’t as hard as you would think. And I felt SOOO much better. The tension was gone and I was focused on other stuff. I don’t think that was the case for the troll because at some point someone who read the trolls posts posted that I had the “patience of an angel.” Not so much. It was more that just like actual angels; I was ignoring what was going on beneath me.

This was a bit of a watershed moment, guys. That one instance caused me to wonder about all of these “discussions.” What is the point? What is the point of all these little online debates we have?

The next time you’re about to start or respond to one of these “discussions” ask yourself: “Is there anything that this person could say that would change my position on this?” Then ask yourself: “Is there anything I could say that will change their position?” The answer to both questions if you’re being honest is “no”. When was the last time you had an exchange on Facebook or Twitter where instead of walking away thinking: “That man/woman is a fucking idiot” you walked away thinking: “Wow, I’ve been wrong this whole time” or “I’m glad they were able to come around to seeing things my way”? Usually the closest you get to a civilized ending is the classic “well I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree” which is something they’ll pull out when you’ve knocked down all of their irrational arguments and are one move away from checkmate. And again you’ll notice NO ONE CHANGES THEIR MINDS.

And even if you have had a Facebook “discussion” where someone changed their minds or they were just plain civil, I’d be willing to bet money that that was the exception to the rule and I’d also be willing to bet that if you counted the number of times that happened and compared it to the number of times where you ended up just wanting to punch a wall the return on investment would be pretty sad.

What has ever been accomplished or gained in one of these online shitstorms? It increases your stress level which not only probably shortens your life but makes you harder to deal with (which is a shitty deal for people who love you). If you’re like me, you walk away with less faith in humanity and in our future which makes you that much less likely to try to make a positive change in your life or the world.

And what could you have been doing with all that energy? There has to be something, ANYTHING that you could better use your energies on. Read a book. Write a book. Binge watch something. Volunteer for something that is actually connected to whatever you were going to “debate” so that you take that energy and turn it into actual ACTION rather than just turning it into heartburn and cynicism. Get outside (as my mom would say)! It’s a beautiful day and even if it isn’t, it’s prettier than angrily typing into a void. Shit staring at a wall is a better option. Literally doing just about anything is a better use of your time.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Am I against debate and discussion? No but that’s not what happens online. People think that as long as we’re reading each others posts (and really most of the replies I get to my posts make it obvious that the person didn’t read my actual post) then that’s communication. It isn’t. It’s the Cheetos of communication: empty calories that feel tasty in the moment (who doesn’t like the high that comes with smoking the other person’s “logic”?) but that only hurts you in the long run. Drop the bag, dude. Have some trail mix. It’s no Cheetos but it’s not as horrible as you think.

But if that’s not enough, If you’re so fucking insecure that you can’t stand people not seeing your “brilliance” then write a fucking blog.

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© Nile Seguin 2016