By Sarah B. Haider
The social media is an important outlet for people to voice their concerns regarding different issues. It gives the common man a platform to have a say in everything that affects him directly or indirectly. From political issues to global warming and from human rights to wars, everyone should have a say in these matters. To this end, projecting your opinions on the social media is a healthy practice. However, access to the social media has influenced people’s behaviors in many ways –both positively and negatively.
One important and highly observable change in people’s behavior is that everyone has become an expert on different issues. Therefore, instead of merely expressing their opinions online, which is important as aforementioned, many people start believing that they are right and everyone with a dissenting viewpoint is wrong!
Due to this behavior, millions of people engage in online debates (read: quarrels) every day. Unfortunately, when faced with a differing idea, some people end up blowing a fuse and act so weird that they make a fool out of themselves. Consequently, debates always lead to nasty online fights and people never reach a unanimously agreeable conclusion. Some people, from the way they comment, even forget that they are civilized! In fact, a lot of people take the debate to such a personal level that they end up spoiling their real-life relationships with others.
For all such people out there, who consider it important to project their opinions on the social media (and can’t help commenting on every issue), here are some tips to debate in a beneficial way and refrain from engaging in fruitless online fights.
Rule #1: Learn about the issue first
As it can be observed on online news websites and social media pages, people mostly look at an issue superficially and draw conclusions right away. For instance, when readers come across a newspaper article, they usually only read the headline and form an opinion. If you want to be well-informed about some issue, it’s best to read various articles about the same issue written from different standpoints. This will give you both sides of the picture. Also, if you have time, read the history of the topic for your own knowledge (knowledge will always come handy during future debates). If you come across a friend’s post that looks offensive but is vaguely written, it’s best to ask that friend for a clarification first before refuting it. Having background knowledge will allow you to respond to all types of arguments. For instance, people often bring up religion, culture or history to back their arguments. If you are not aware of the context, you won’t have enough to say about the issue. Moreover, avoid getting into debates regarding which you have no information at all.
Rule #2: Never make the social media your primary source of information!
If you are genuinely interested in increasing your knowledge about different issues, never completely rely on social media-based information. Whenever you see an issue, always search if the information is available elsewhere on the internet. If the primary source of information is coming from some non-credible or lesser-known website or social media page, the information is probably fabricated. Always do your research before making an emotional comment. Search and verify the info first!
Rule #3 Support your argument(s)
Whether you choose to agree with an issue or negate it, it is necessary to have supportive arguments for your opinion. If you think that someone’s opinion is opposite to yours, you should always present your rebuttal in a coherent manner. The best way is to cite your arguments one by one. Giving examples as to why you agree or disagree with something would make your argument stronger. An incomplete argument will most likely give a firmer position to the opposing opinion. Most importantly, don’t argue for the sake of argument. If you begin debating with the preconceived notion that the other person is necessarily wrong, there would always be a fight! If you are genuinely interested in an issue, always be open to changing your opinion for the better.
Rule #4 Respect difference of opinions
This rule is the most important one to remember when engaging in a debate with someone (both online and offline). On the social media, there are plenty of comments and arguments that you may not agree with. However, it is very important to remember that no matter how wrong or offensive an opinion may sound, your perspective is only one of the many perspectives. It is not “The perspective.” Unless someone is using completely fabricated and falsified information and calling it a fact, you must always respect another person’s opinion. If you see another person disrespecting your views, religious or cultural values just for the sake of it, it’s best to ignore such comments instead of stooping to their level.
Rule #5 NEVER hurl personal attacks at anyone
Hurling personal attacks at someone during an argument is the worst position that you can adopt. This behaviour gives the impression that you are not well-learned and cultured. Sadly, however, a lot of people (even highly educated) often end up attacking their opponents instead of refuting their views. Always keep in mind that a person only hurls personal attacks at someone with an opposing viewpoint when they have no concrete arguments to support their own opinion. Therefore, they hurl abusive words, respond in an aggressive and defensive way, and even point out grammatical mistakes just to insult the other person. Even if you come across someone who hurls personal attacks at you for having a different opinion, it’s best to ignore such comments rather than wasting your energies on someone who has nothing productive to add to the debate.
So, if you are a person who loves spending time on the social media and voicing your opinion in relation to different topics, keep these tips in your mind to make your debates productive!
About the author:
Sarah B. Haider is a freelance journalist interested in writing on women’s rights, environment, education and current affairs. She’s currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Journalism.