Why I quit arguing on Facebook

Hi, my name is Amy. It’s been 15 hours since my last Facebook argument.

[deep breath]

That’s hard to admit.

A few months ago, one of my very best friends asked me straight out: Why do you post the articles you do on Facebook when you know it’s going to lead to an argument? What good does it do?

It was a question my husband had asked me several times too. Why throw the controversy up there if you’re going to get upset when people tear you down for it?

And after flailing around for a defense for several minutes, it really hit me. Why do I do that? How many people actually read articles posted on Facebook for the purposes of enlightening themselves and potentially changing their minds about long-held core beliefs?

Probably, like, two.

It may interest you to know that, despite my chosen career as a writer, I actually hate conflict. I like making people think, and I like asking tough questions — which again might be why I chose to be a writer — but I hate arguing.

When I post something on Facebook or Twitter or this blog, and someone leaves a vile or spiteful comment, it makes me feel anxious. My hands shake. My palms sweat. My heart twists around in my chest like someone ringing out an old rag.

And then my brain starts churning to come up with all the reasons they’re wrong, their argument is stupid or uninformed, and they’re just a meanie butt who’s mean.

Sometimes I ignore it, but more often than not, I (try to) deliver a respectful rebuttal or concede that I hadn’t thought about their point before. I try to start a discussion. Half the time it ends in someone flouncing off from the “discussion”, and sometimes the flouncer is me. I mean, I have a job.

But anyway, all of this to say, about a month ago I decided to try extra hard not to post anything controversial on my Facebook profile unless it was my writer Facebook page. I wanted to continue to feel freedom to post what I want there because I’m writing about justice and race relations, and often times those articles are controversial, but still supremely important.

As for my personal profile, I wanted to try keeping it to all Buzzfeed articles and funny memes, etc. Just to get a break from the constant badgering and arguing when people disagree with my political position or beliefs. This election has been rough on everyone, and I have a unique perspective being an American who lives in Australia, but that also makes it hard for anyone in the US to relate to me sometimes, hence my desire to just stay out of it.

After a month of trying this, though, I’ve realized how impossible it is. Articles I’ve posted that I didn’t think were controversial at all have caused huge blowout arguments and cost me friends. Sharing a picture of a Donald Trump quote inspired (bizarrely) a big discussion about abortion being a similar concept to killing the families of terrorists.

I have come to the conclusion, after my wealth of four weeks’ experience, that it is impossible not to cause arguments on Facebook. The darn thing just lends itself to them. I may not be able to control when I cause an argument, but I can for sure control when I contribute to it.

So that’s why I quit arguing on Facebook. And when I say “I quit” I mean, like, today. I’m done. By my estimation, I succeed in putting someone in their place approximately 3% of the time. It’s just not worth the other 97% where I end up angry, grumpy, distracted, and barely able to get on with my day because all I can think about HOW WRONG THIS PERSON WHO I NEVER TALK TO IN REAL LIFE IS.

There’s some sort of weird alternate universe in social media where people are not really the people they are out in the real world. You put together a well-reasoned, structurally sound debate point and then the person just throws back your ignorant and instead of just ignoring it because of the inherent irony in that statement, all you can do is type back *you’re and then all hell breaks loose.

So here I am, raising my hand, and vowing on the day of our Lord March 4th, 2016, I quit arguing on Facebook.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Just don’t make me come down there!


Feature image credit: Flickr / Vic / 2011

 

 

  • Oren James Teichmann

    I knoooow the feeling all too well.
    I usually read the arguments you get into. Mostly because I’m nosey, but also because they’re far more tame than some of the ones I’ve read / been involved in. So long as there isn’t a fallout, I don’t see why you can’t get an occasional cardiac workout from it? 😛

    It’s when you think of a comeback *3 years down the line*… that’s when you know it got to you…

    Also, my internal-grammar police still wanted to scold you for that “you’re…” eh… “your ignorant” bit… jeez that was difficult to type…

    • I’m sure you do know the feeling! Unfortunately, now that I’ve had a real-life fallout from an online argument, I just don’t care to get into it anymore. But I know that some people don’t mind it, and that’s fine for them!

      And yes, I struggled with my heart even when I intentionally wrote the “your” typo. Eesh.

      • Oren James Teichmann

        I just keep them off my wall. I will happily argue on the original link of an article, where my friends are less likely to see it. Therefore if there is any fallout it is with random strangers who mean nothing.

  • Jason Whittington

    Awesome post! I went through that same renaissance myself a while back except instead of not posting controversial articles, I unfriended all of the people who constantly played devil’s advocate with me. I don’t mind it every now and then but if EVERY ONE of your posts is one in opposition, you’re no longer useful to me as a friend or confidant. Maybe I’m just weak-minded. I don’t know. I do know that I feel better since making that decision.

    • Thanks Jason! I read your reply to the hate mail you got and thought it was brilliant. I’ve fortunately never gotten angry emails, but perhaps it’s in my future? I can only hope I’ll have access to quality gifs when the time comes.

      I don’t think you’re weak-minded. I’ve blocked a few people from seeing what I post since every time they commented it was to mock or argue with me. I mean, we wouldn’t keep those people around us in real life, so why should we be expected to on social media?

  • Emma Rozsa

    I don’t even think we argue on social media because topics go against our core beliefs – I think we unconsciously find ways to challenge what others post. We don’t even know we do it, we just know that we have thought of a conflicting opinion. A little while ago I posted on Facebook, we need more children’s movies with LGBT main characters. Apparently many people disagreed with this and went to list all the movies and shows which had these characters in it – just to prove me wrong. Conversely if I had posted, I think there are enough shows with LGBT main characters, I would have received backlash. You just can’t win. It’s in our nature to argue and ‘one-up’ each other.
    Great blog by the way!

    • I totally agree! There are certain issues that if you speak up about, no matter what your opinion is, someone will have the opposite and state it loud. Thanks for reading 🙂

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