How To Argue On The Internet

I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not, but the Internet can be a pretty divisive place. Twitter is nothing but people screaming obscenities into the void. Facebook is just people arguing with their racist uncles (why is it always uncles?). Reddit is, well, reddit. Instagram is…Do people fight on Instagram?The only thing I know about is that it’s full of white girls taking pictures in front of different walls.

In all honesty, the only way to avoid all digital fisticuffs is to completely avoid the Internet. Unless you want to wander into the woods and write your own version of Walden, this may not work for you. I need to be on the Internet for work, so I wander into fire each and every day I open my laptop.

I don’t really use Facebook, so that’s never been an issue. For me, the most interaction I have is on Twitter, Reddit, and the comments under my articles.

Twitter can get volatile quickly. I personally don’t engage that much on Twitter. I really only use it for promotional purposes. (There is some social media manager shaking his head right now, but I fully admit to running a terrible Twitter feed.) So it’s never really been an issue.

I mostly just read on Reddit, and really only the King Killer Chronicles and The 100 subreddits which are well moderated and consist mostly of thoughtful discussion.

The comments on my articles can be another story.

Sometimes my articles end up on Reddit. Sometimes I put them there myself. That’s where things get interesting.

There are only two ways to handle an argument on the Internet. You can not engage. Or you can, quickly and succinctly say something.

Almost anything else will lead to a full blown argument most of the time.

I almost always employ the first tract. Ignoring things you read that you disagree with will get you much farther that arguing ever will.

This is especially true if you are a writer or artist or participate in any type of creative endeavor. You need to have a thick skin.

You will be told you suck.

You will be told that this article ( or insert whatever creative thing that applies here) is the worst thing they’ve ever read.

You have to ignore it. Engaging 99% will just get you into trouble.

I do this every day. I hear at least some version of this at some point every time I write an article. Once you’ve ignored stuff long enough and have enough confidence you can engage every so often.

These are the ground rules:

  1. Never escalate- don’t swear, no personal attacks, don’t lower the level of conversation. Do that and you’ve already lost.
  2. Stand Behind Your Words- don’t just type something that might feel good. Assume anything you type will last forever. BECAUSE IT WILL! I have a firm policy not typing anything I wouldn’t immediately be able to send to my grandmother. Have some dignity, and respect.
  3. Diffuse- humor works a lot of the time, but if you can take the sting out of the words it will help.
  4. Above all else be brief- This is the most important one. You’re not a first year law student in Torts. The shorter the better. One statement, two at most, and get out. The longer you stay the more ways it could go wrong.

To illustrate my point this is an exchange I had on Reddit a few weeks ago. The person didn’t like what I said. (For the record it was a throw away article about college football uniforms. It was nothing serious. But people take their college football seriously.)

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This isn’t the best example because I kind of egged the guy on in my first couple statements. But I find saying something completely random makes the other person stop pretty quick.

Moral of the story is nothing else works just talk about badminton. Works every time.

Written by

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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