During the height of his steroids scandal, a reporter asked pitcher Roger Clemens about his opinion on those who accused him of juicing. His response was a quote from his mother.
This is pretty good advice, especially when it comes to social media. In the past couple days I’ve found myself soaked quite a bit in skunk urine thanks to the discussions surrounding duck caller Phil Robertson. In case you haven’t heard he made some ill-advised comments about the lives of African Americans prior to the Civil Rights movement and the sexual effect of a woman’s vagina vs. a man’s anus. Like many of the great debates in our time, the intellectual back and forth has been aired out on Twitter and Facebook.
Most of the time when there’s a controversial news topic, I shy away from the online bickering. I once lost a friend (well on Facebook anyway) about the Trayvon Martin shooting. When I do venture into a hyped discussion, I try to keep my opinions on topic and usually I stick to it.
Couple of things I’ve learned about social media squabbles 1) you never change anyone’s opinion about the subject matter and 2) you never feel better after unleashing your view on said subject matter.
My latest foray into online debate centered on Robertson’s incendiary comments and how 1) he was entitled to make them, 2) A&E was entitled to kick him off the air, 3) Biblical edicts are sometimes relative (i.e. slavery, bacon, gays, etc.) and 4) I have a poor habit of “selective reading” as one of my friend’s friends put it.
I had a long night answering comments from people who claim 1) that Christianity is under attack, 2) that my education is inadequate, 3) that Muslims have free speech which Christians don’t, 4) that my remarks really miss the point, etc. etc. etc. etc. Luckily I think I survived the night with most of my friends and followers lists intact.
I knew what I was getting into but I just couldn’t help myself. Why do I, and others for that matter, feel the need to argue even when they know they can’t win? For me, I guess there’s this hope that maybe I can at least get others to see a different point of view. Their personal stance may not change but they’ll broaden their perspective. Hopefully.
This never happens. Ever.
I think that social media and the Internet in general fuels people’s sense of self-importance. Maybe because we feel that we can broadcast our opinions to the entire world in an instant it somehow gives those opinions some sort of credence. It’s particularly enticing when you know that your message is concentrated to people you know. (Only egomaniacs spout their opinions for everyone on a blog.)
Unfortunately though, online “debates” usually become nothing but a bunch of people sharing opinions that everyone already knows. No one becomes educated or enlightened. It just turns into a digital yelling match and the volume of your voice does not make you right. (Except for me. I’m always right.)
Word of advice though, when you see a skunk, turn around. Walking away doesn’t mean the skunk is right about gay marriage.