I often hear people say that they prefer not to talk about divisive issues on social media. This is understandable, given that most people don’t like to talk about divisive issues at all. However, if you are going to discuss these things, social media is as good a forum as any. That’s my opinion, at least. Here are several reasons why I think this:
You Have a Bigger Audience
If more people hear your opinions, then more people are likely to offer criticism. Criticism gives you the opportunity to improve your thinking. Plus, a larger audience is likely to have more varied opinions, meaning that you can receive criticism from multiple angles. Of course, some of the people you interact with won’t have much of value to say, but you can usually figure out who to seriously engage with and who to ignore.
This might not apply to all people, but I really care about what people think of me. As a result, I try to be extra careful about the way I formulate my opinions when I express them in a public forum. This results in clearer thinking on my part, and encourages me to do my best to respond to criticism fairly. Plus, if more people want to jump in, they can familiarize themselves with the whole conversation thread before throwing in their two cents.
It Toughens You Up
Sometimes I interact with idiots online. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but they’re out there, and they want to say obnoxious things to me. If you have opinions, there will inevitably be people who will distort your arguments and put words in your mouth in order to discredit you, and it’s infuriating. But you have to learn how to deal with these people. So why not on Facebook, where they can do relatively little to bother you? Eventually, you figure out how to tell that a conversation is unproductive and mute someone.
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Of course, some may object to my practice of arguing about politics on Facebook. Here are some objections I sometimes hear and my responses to them:
“You’ll Never Change Anyone’s Mind”
On the contrary, sometimes people do change their minds after Facebook arguments. I’ve seen it happen. Some people are willing to be persuaded, and some are not. The forum in which the argument takes place is of little to no consequence. People who are humbly seeking the truth will find it wherever it resides, while people seeking only to confirm their own biases will do just that. I may be unlikely to persuade people of my beliefs on Facebook, but it’s not like speaking to people face to face would be that much more effective.
“That’s Not What Social Media is For”
Social media is for whatever we want it to be for. I’ve found that Facebook is particularly useful as a forum for discussion, even of contentious topics. If you want to avoid political or philosophical debate on Facebook, then just ignore them. There’s something for everyone on the website; let’s keep it that way.
“You Might Offend Someone”
If my beliefs are wrong, then I want to be told why they’re wrong so I can revise them. But if my beliefs are true, then they should be expressed. Either way, I have a duty to express my beliefs. I’m perfectly happy to hear criticism of the manner in which I express my beliefs, in addition to criticism of the content of the beliefs. But I’m not going to censor myself out of fear that someone somewhere might find my posts “offensive.” If I ever say something “offensive,” then I invite the aggrieved persons to tell me what I have done wrong.
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Of course, there are limitations to when and where things ought to be discussed. That’s the beauty of Facebook. Your timeline is for whatever you want it to be for. People have enough control over their newsfeeds on Facebook that there’s no point whatsoever in self-censorship. If people don’t want to hear what you have to say, then they can just mute you.