Why You Can’t Win Arguments Online

By Ann Shayne
January 29, 2017

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  • Yikes, you guys must have been inundated. I think you are brave and wonderful. (Kathryn aka mkg)

  • Very very interesting. Depressing to think not only of our own voluntary self segregation but the reinforcing effect of search filters. Wow.

  • I thought I was pretty smart about the interwebs. After watching this, I discovered I’m not. This video is about so much more than online arguments. Can’t thank you enough for posting this. I’ll be thinking about this a long time. Everyone needs to understand this.

  • Oh, how cool! This reminds me a lot of a book I just read: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. He likens our instincts to an elephant and our reasoning mind to a rider, and then he asserts that the rider serves the elephant. And guess what? Our elephants react differently to current events!

  • YES. Exactly this.

  • Yes, but we must each hold ourselves to a high standard so as not to promulgate something so lopsided that others are compelled to refute it. I’m always surprised by the moral preening and self righteousness that underpins someones’ need to use their platform to put forward a one sided opinion with complete disregard for their fellow humans’ beliefs.

    • Beautifully said, Meg A.

  • I don’t argue any more. i give a comment and then get out. I realize that I won’t win with the person I’m directly interacting with. And arguing will probably only serve to make them more entrenched in their position. But I say my piece, backed up with reliable sources if possible, so that someone else reading the thread might be given pause for thought.
    On a side note, there is a podcast that is a subset of ‘How Things Work; called ‘Stuff You Missed in History’ that is really fascinating. My favorite so far is an episode about the history of Sears and its importance in the south. There are show notes and references for further study posted online two. It’s done by two young women and is light hearted cocnversational.

    • I love “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” And I’ve joined you in the “comment and get out” camp– I’m not going to change someone’s mind about the Muslim ban or conversion therapy or the ACA repeal, all of which I find appalling. I figure I can just let people know that not everyone agrees.

  • This is fascinating, especially the part about the addictive nature of arguing online. I know better than to get on FB at bedtime (or start with the cookies, or have too many drinks, or whatever) but I do it anyway, too often.

    • Yes! Wine + FB = deleting posts within an hour.

  • Was anyone else bothered by the fact that he gave his entire talk wearing sunglasses! It seems that he could have illustrated his points better about communicating if he wasn’t masking his eyes which are very important in face to face communications.

    • Yes, I wondered about that immediately. My thoughts went to “maybe he has an eye infection, or his eyes are super sensitive to the bright studio lights.” But it was quite a distraction. Nevertheless fascinating…

    • I was thinking the same thing. I kept waiting for him to point out that we were working harder to understand him because we could not see his eyes.

    • I haven’t watched the video, but your point about trying to watch someone who’s wearing dark glasses is an interesting one. I have a blind friend (she has some vision, can read with a magnuscope, but uses a service dog) who is a government disability policy wonk. Her job involves a lot of public speaking and such. She once told me that she works very hard to focus her gaze on people’s faces when she has conversations, because it’s easy to let your eyes wander when you can’t see faces clearly. She said she can tell when people are annoyed or disconcerted because they think she isn’t directly engaged with them when her eyes aren’t pointed right in their direction. She also tries to avoid wearing her sunglasses indoors when talking directly to people, just for that same reason, even though she’s physically more comfortable that way when rooms are bright.

      It’s both an interesting disability issue (especially because my friend doesn’t “read” as disabled unless you see the dog or the magnuscope or indoor sunglasses) and an illustration of just how important biology and psychology have made eye contact for humans.

    • Yes! I found that so strange, especially considering his message.

  • I wonder if just a few seconds to think before we write wouldn’t be a good thing. In the past few months especially, I have posted things on FB and then in the cold light of morning, deleted them – not because I didn’t believe wholeheartedly in the idea behind the post, but because the post was basically unkind. If I have to curse and put someone down to win my point, I’ve lost the argument already. We (that is, I) have often felt free to write online what I wouldn’t think of saying to someone’s face. That way lies cruelty, insanity, war, death.
    Well, on that happy note;)….

  • Thank you, Ann.

  • I shared this on FB. I find point 2 especially pertinent right now. I know so many people who will absolutely not be budged from their beliefs despite so much factual evidence to the contrary.

  • Very interesting…

  • Ann. It’s a very interesting video, but I keep being disappointed when I click on the sleeping kitty belly on the home page and do not get a larger picture of the sleeping kitty belly. 🙂