So, I’ve noticed a rather upsetting trend lately as I followed some of my favorite personalities online. It seems that few people know the etiquette of debate.
Now, this is not focused on anyone person. This is a problem that has sprung up on many occasions with many people. I don’t want this to feel like an attack on people. This is a legitimate plea for civility among intelligent people.
I think most of the problem can be traced to the focus of debate. Far to often when civil debate goes awry, it seems that the conflict is focused less on the topic brought up and more the person who brought it up.
When someone online offers a position other than one you prescribe to, it’s perfectly fine – helpful even – to offer your own views. That’s how we learn and expand our knowledge. It’s not okay to decry a person as subhuman garbage and debate the person’s worth. Seriously, it’s embarrassing how many videos there are out there on YouTube and posts on Twitter calling people out for their views and theories that focus on their hatred of the person without providing any factual rebuttals.
As for the people on the receiving end of this vitriol, you have a role to play as well. Fortunately, your job is very simple – don’t encourage them. I’ve seen many people make the mistake of replying to unenlightened forum troll and retweeting acidic Twitter posts. This has the effect of dragging you through the same muck they dwell in. I realize this sounds like the sort of stuff your teachers and parents parroted to you as a child, but when your credibility is on the line, few things are worse than being just as rude and barbaric as the people making fools of themselves just to get at you.
It’s quite simple – debate ideas; not people. Debating ideas is how we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Debating people is how we start fights that inevitably end in pain, shame, and ruined images that last the rest of our lives.