If you spend more than two minutes online, you’ll inevitably get drawn into an online dispute. These almost inevitably dissolve into petty name calling and references to Hitler, but for some reason, we can’t resist them.
They’re like drugs: they feel good for about ten seconds then make us miserable (clearly, I’ve done a lot of drugs).
I recently stumbled across two incredibly helpful pieces of advice regarding arguments and criticism, both in the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. This advice has been really helpful for me as I’ve been navigating the online cesspool of social media.
The first is that 10% of people will hate everything you do.
Hate may be a strong word, but you get the point. If you have 300 friends on Facebook, 30 of them will passionately disagree with you on every jot and tittle (I’ve wanted to use that phrase for a long time).
If you hate Obamacare, they’ll love it. If you’re a credobaptist, they’ll zealously defend dunking infants. No matter what the subject, 10% of people will take the exact opposite position and argue you to death.
This model of seeing the world has been incredibly helpful for me. Sometimes I’m surprised when people disagree. I know this isn’t rational, but that’s how I am.
How could they believe that? Were they raised in a cattle herd? That’s the epitome of insanity!
But expecting 10% of people to rage against anything I say changes my perspective. I can say, “Of course that’s the position they’ll take.”
Second, and even more insightful, is that you can’t reason a person out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.
Most of us don’t arrive at our opinions through cold logic or the calm examination of Scripture.
Rather, we’re shaped by:
- Our emotions
- Our past experiences, good and bad
- Our family history
- Our general understanding of the world
- And a thousand other factors
This means that arguments rarely change people’s minds, at least initially. There are ten-thousand emotional barriers that must be conquered before a change of mind and heart actually happens.
I’m sure everyone else knows this, but for some reason, this is new to me. It shouldn’t be, of course. I’ve known truths for years, yet they still haven’t shaped me like they should.
Trying to reason a person out of a position they haven’t reasoned themselves into doesn’t work. It’s like trying to open a steel door by kicking it. You’ll just break your foot and get angry.
More and more, I’m trying to stay out of online controversy. I believe there’s a place for it, but a much smaller place than it currently has. After all, when was the last time you had your mind changed through a well-crafted Facebook argument? I’m sure it happens occasionally, but most of the arguments that happen are driven by memes, not logic.
Of course, just yesterday I found myself drawn into a brief Twitter kerfuffle, showing that I still haven’t learned my lesson. But I did extricate myself rather quickly, so maybe I’m making progress.