I Won't Argue with You On the Internet
A single tweet can make people angry.
On July 13, 2016, I tweeted an 11-second video of Black Lives Matter protestors outside the NYFWM headquarters. “Awareness should be everywhere. Fashion isn’t excluded.”
At the time, I naively thought this tweet wasn’t political. But the sight of this small group of black activists sent a firestorm of vitriol to my mentions and DMs. I responded the way I always do-by blocking or muting those people.
I also stopped posting politically minded content and retreated a bit from important conversations on social media.
I’m not afraid of trolls—this largely ignorant base of people who get off on saying negative things to complete strangers. For them, I’m sure there’s some element of danger or excitement involved.
I don’t respond because I don’t have the time or the interest. Most of the people who want to pick fights online aren’t interested in having an exchange of ideas. They’re not interested in learning why the other side thinks the way they do. They want to pummel the opposition into submission. They want to beat their “enemies” down verbally until their beliefs reign supreme. Arguing with people online is futile.
Surely, some of you may wonder why I don’t post or write about political issues more often. It’s not for lack of awareness or interest. I’ve always been civically engaged. At 16 years old, my first published article was an op-ed about George W. Bush for the Pensacola News Journal.
I had a weekly column about Florida legislation in the Navarre Press.
I’ve written tons of political op-eds for clients. My liberal opinions are out there on the internet. They’re just not on my feed, and that’s purposeful. It’s not to appear apolitical, but to direct my digital conversations in a different direction and have those more meaningful conversations with the people I choose to have them with.
I dealt with a troll once. I may or may not have written a post about him.
He was nasty to me in a Facebook group and basically discounted my entire online presence because he disagreed with something I shared. But once he read my clapback, he changed his tune. We had a great conversation and discovered we actually had some things in common. It was a positive outcome but who has the time and energy to do this with every asshole on the internet? I sure don’t.
When I do talk about controversial issues, my goal isn’t provocation. I want to make a difference, shift someone’s opinion, or at least open their eyes to a different point of view, even if they’re not convinced to change their mind about a topic. I want to engage in true debate. But those I’ve encountered online often lack the temperament and mental capacity to engage in a thoughtful dialogue. They prefer screaming matches, insults, and clapbacks. And I think my time is better spent elsewhere.
Plus, no matter how much I, or any of you, argue, we can’t win. According to an article from Lifehacker, the more we’re provoked or challenged about our beliefs, the more we believe them. Thus, it takes a very exceptional person to have productive dialogue online.
I bring this up for a few reasons:
- To show that I’m not apolitical, I’m just non-confrontational in my digital exchanges.
- To explain my approach to social media, a space where I want to establish myself as a thought leader and not a source of ridicule.
- To convince you that you don’t need to argue either, which I know is easier said than done.
So, how can I make a difference if I’m not firing off political tweetstorms all the time?
By writing politically-minded journalism and op-eds that can be published on other sites and reach a wider audience.
By voting in elections big and small.
By sharing information about how others can get involved (a lot of New Yorkers I’m connected with had no idea about local primaries and didn’t vote).
By signing petitions.
By speaking with those who I can truly share dialogue with.
And there are tons of other ways. But for me, fighting on Twitter just isn’t an option. I can do more when I have a constructive way to lead change. I’ll keep on blocking, muting, and deleting, and I’ll save those tough conversations for face-to-face interactions.
I will not argue with you on the internet.