In this day and age everyone has an opinion, and there’s more and more ways to exert them. The amount of time I’m on a five minute break, check my phone, and then get engrossed in reading other people’s arguments in comment sections is becoming a bad habit. That isn’t just me is it…?
Anyhow, I’ve come up with three things to think about next time you’re in the midst of an online debate.
A) Comments with Generalisations and Extrapolations
EXAMPLE ARTICLE: A BBC article concerning a young girl being annoyed at toys which are labelled just for ‘boys’
A GENERALISING COMMENT: “Bloody feminists, they’ll want men to get pregnant next.”
Pause for Thought: This is clearly a weak form of arguing, and only shows an extreme point of view which is, (in my opinion) absolutely ridiculous. But you can’t just reply “you’re ridiculous” – what does that add to the discussion? You’re telling them their opinion is wrong, but not really showing them how you believe it’s wrong. My method recently was to ask “What makes you say that?”, or “What has led you to feel like that?” so you can engage in actual debate and state your point of view.
EXAMPLE ARTICLE: Constant needs of categorising by race, i.e. “white people problems” or “black girls be like…”.
Pause for Thought: This is merely separating the difference between race for no reason and perpetuates stereotypes. I think it is far better to be much more specific: instead of “why do white people say guac instead of guacamole” (first of which, do they?! I’ve never said guac in my life!), it’s much better to say: “why are the white people that I’ve seen say guac”. This is opening up a whole new debate here, so I’ll leave it there.
B) Comments which just resort to Insults
This moves us on to our next point – it’s very easy to shoot someone down by name calling or insults. I have found that people can be very prickly if they are insecure and believe they’re being challenged. Their insults reflect much more their own opinion of themselves.
EXAMPLE: Kelly Brook is often in the media, and her weight is always insulted by Commenter A, despite being at a perfectly healthy, normal weight.
Pause for Thought: I notice often that as soon as there’s a weight-debate (rhyming not intentional, but a lucky addition), there are many comments such as “Oh, and I’m sure you’re a size 6 yourself aren’t you?”, or if a picture is included “You’re not exactly thin yourself”. While this may be true, you’re not being much better than Commenter A. Consider firstly the context: models, like Kelly Brook, have deliberately put themselves in the public eye, making money from their bodies. It should be seen on a wider spectrum: instead of insulting the Commenter, insult the comment. Maybe she has gained weight – maybe she hasn’t, – you can’t simply say “oh it’s nobody’s business”, because clearly a lot of people have made it their business, and that’s the institution, sadly, of women’s magazines and comment boards. Consider very specific responses and do not make insults or generalisations on the commenter, no matter how vile you find them: you need them to realise the real issue, and if they are themselves, they’re much less likely to likely to continue their way of thinking.
C) Comments by Grammarians
One of the quickest ways to invalidate someone’s point of view is to question their grammar. It’s very easy when you’re losing an argument to say “you used the wrong ‘your’/’you’re’ and therefore you know nothing”. Let us consider this page:
So – from what we can extrapolate, is that if I have a fully logical point but with one minute spelling or grammar mistake that my point is completely illogical? Just because someone didn’t comply with your standardised form of language doesn’t mean their point is invalid: that’s frankly elitist, purist, snobbish, and one of the worst ways of arguing. You’re adding nothing to the argument except the idea that you’re ‘cleverer’ than the commenter.
Pause for Thought: If someone makes many grammatical errors but their point is generally justified, ignore them – it is their business if they ascribe to a standardised form of English. One method could be replying at the end of your debate: “you do have a valid point, but you must consider people will disregard you if you continue making grammatical mistakes”. I find this condescending, but if you’re what they call a ‘Grammar-Nazi’, try and tone it down a bit and concentrate on what they’re saying, rather than how they’re saying it.
What my general aim with these suggestions here is to say that people should focus more on the subject at hand, and less on insulting each other. I frequently disagree with many people’s views, but that doesn’t mean you should stoop to their level because you have a different view of feminism or politics. I could rave on for hours about UKIP/Labour supporters, but I try to give an opinion in a controlled manner. Everyone is likely to get riled up about certain issues, but the best way of getting more people to ascribe to your point of view is to not be aggressive or condescending.
What do you think? Do you frequently get into online debates? Do you avoid it in general? Is there anything funny or weird that you’ve seen?
Would love to, as usual, hear comments below!