Okay, truth time. I deliberately chose a misleading title.
No one wins a Facebook argument, even if it looks like they won a Facebook argument. All parties have only lost time to that horrible void and probably only strengthened their own resolve.
But here’s the weird thing about Facebook arguments. Although no one wins, there are ways to lose.
How To Know If You’ve Lost A Facebook Argument:
- You started arguing about one thing, but ended up arguing about something completely different.
- You pretend you were joking all the time, claiming “no one on this thread has a sense of humor” because you don’t want to admit you were pretty wrong on a few things.
- You burn bridges for other people (aka, you are so mean to your colleague’s cousin that your colleague doesn’t get an invite to Thanksgiving next year).
- (Most of all…) You are so angry and rattled from your Facebook interaction that it means you’re not as present for your loved ones.
We’d like to pretend it never happens to us. Maybe you’re lucky and you have never had this happen to you, ever. But most of us will eventually find ourself sparring with someone on Facebook.
In the days after 45’s impeachment, my timeline looked a lot like this:
Here in the United States, we are fractured, divided, all of that. Balsa-wood splinters waiting for a match. Name a few more cliches, that’s us. I wish we could all quit Facebook, I really do. Yes, I know it’s a good way to connect with community. But it has also fractured a lot of communities. Yes, I know many people need it for work (myself included), but it also takes away time we could be using to address issues affecting our people and our planet. It’s a tool, and it’s a helpful tool, BUT IT ALSO SUCKS. One of the main reasons it sucks is because of fights.
“Maybe just don’t get into arguments in the first place?”
- If someone comes at you, you could ignore them. But what if what they said is hurtful to you or someone else on your page? Are you just going to let it lie there?
- Delete the comment. I’ve done this. But would that just be erasing a problem/creating an echo chamber? Would it be better for them, and for everyone else, if they get called out on it?
- Stop posting your opinions. That does work. But aren’t you entitled to your opinion? If the world is burning and people are being hurt by that, is it really right to just post cat memes? Shouldn’t we be talking about what’s happening?
Arguments are obnoxious, but is it worse to avoid arguing all together? Okay. I said there was no way to win a Facebook argument. I stand by that.
But there are a few ways to not lose a Facebook argument, too:
(***one note–these are simply what worked for me, arguing with someone whose voting record does not match mine. I don’t recommend trying to reason with someone who is violent, threatening, or dismissing someone’s right to exist. Then again, you may have more success with that than I ever have….)
1.) When you’re attacked on Facebook, ask for a clarification.
After the impeachment, I posted the following:
It was meant to bring a laugh over a very sad, serious and scary situation: a president breaking the law, but not likely to be held accountable because of party politics. Of course, not everyone found humor in the same way. “Trent”, a 45 supporter, commented: Oh he’s not going anywhere for another 5 years don’t worry! Although I was feeling very defensive, I simply asked Trent a question: Given their religious background, whose doctrines seem quite opposed to Trump’s agenda, how could they reconcile with supporting Trump?
His comment wasn’t a particularly vicious attack, but it was meant to sideline the discussion, picking on me and those who agreed with my sentiment. While I can’t imagine anyone coming up with a good reason for supporting Trump, I gave the other side a chance: Please explain your position, because it doesn’t make sense to me.
The winning move, here: those watching, including “undecideds” or “middle-of-road people” may be more open to hearing your side of things if you start by asking questions. These are the people we want to sway.
2.) Find Common Ground in SOMETHING.
This is really, really hard when you’re talking to someone who is trying to destroy the things you stand for. When Trent said his religion “totally aligned” with Trump, I reminded him that we had taken the same religion classes in high school. Given that, how could he argue that his faith (he still practices, I don’t) “totally aligned with Trump.”
He couldn’t argue that I didn’t know his faith, when I’d sat in the same room with him–for four years–learning about that faith.
3.) Stay on topic
Trent tried to change the topic several times–first saying that he could never change the mind of “a liberal, so why bother,” then criticizing my media sources (although he doesn’t know my media sources). Instead of responding to labeling or criticism, I simply repeated my question. When he came back with more insults, I responded, “Still waiting on my answer.”
4.) When you get to the root of the issue, connect it back to your original question–without getting lost in the weeds….
Trent finally admitted that he was anti-choice and would support anyone who was also anti-choice. He said (his words, not mine), that he wants to “Protect defenseless babies! Simple as that! Thanks for playing!”
Okay. There were layers of things to pick apart there. I could have spoken to him about the importance of bodily autonomy, people’s health, socio-economic considerations, etc. etc. etc. But had I gone down that route, I would not have said anything that might have resonated. He said protecting children was important to him. I stayed with that and pointed out how many things 45’s administration had done to harm the lives of children: separation from parents, cutbacks to programs for children in low-income homes, climate change threatening all children, etc. etc. etc.
5.) Call out, but don’t cave to, gaslighting.
“Gaslighting”: a term used to tell someone they’re doing something that they’re not actually doing, usually leading them to question their own state of mind. Trent did not answer my question, and instead started saying that I, and others, were being “uncivil” to him. Because I had made a conscious effort to be polite, I knew that wasn’t true. I quickly commented that all I’d done was ask him a question, and again asked him to answer it.
Trent quit the convo, and unfriended me.
He sent me one more curt note about how “sad” it was that we couldn’t “be civil.” Again, I reminded him that a question is not an attack and asked my question one more time. He didn’t respond and probably never will. I’m okay with that.
I didn’t win the conversation because no one really wins FB arguments. It took a chunk out of my day, and left me pulling large chunks of hair out of my head.
But I can say that I didn’t lose that Facebook argument.
My goal was not to convert Trent to a progressive agenda.
Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen. I knew that going in. My goal was to lay out the problems for people who might be watching–people who maybe hadn’t gotten involved, who weren’t as concerned about how bad things could get, and perhaps motivate them to act. If I laid out my argument clearly, consistently, and respectfully, I’m going to win a lot more support than the guy who won’t…or can’t.
We don’t need Trents.
We need people who have been sitting on the sidelines.
If I convinced even one person to pitch in and resist in their own way, then I didn’t lose that Facebook argument.