Engaging in online debate is unproductive
By Aidan Mouellic, Contributor
The older we get, the more aware we become of what goes on around us. We discover politics, sex, religion, drugs, sickness, and health. We also develop our own views on these topics. These views influence the directions we take in life, and are also the topics that polarize people the most.
Canadian society allows people to believe anything they want. If you want to, you can believe you’re a tree or a table, and that’s okay. You might be certified, but you have the right to believe anything. Oftentimes though, beliefs pull people apart.
I hope you have found a cause in your life that you believe is worth fighting for. Having direction makes life more meaningful, and also makes you feel good about contributing to an area in society that you think needs work. Inevitably, you will encounter people who disagree with what you believe in, and who hold extreme views. These people who clash with your views go by a lot of names: trolls, extremists, assholes, and other more poignant terms. For the sake of sounding dignified, I will just call them outliers. Outliers are the ones whose views you find completely ridiculous. Chances are you have weeded out these individuals from your group of close friends, but you might find these outliers at work, in the media, in your class, or more likely, on the Internet.
The drivel that they spew makes you angry that people could hold such asinine beliefs, and you end up spending a large portion of your time engaging with the outliers in hopes of making them realize that they are completely wrong and that they are harming society with their backwards way of thought. Stop this now.
The shock and rage that these individuals trigger within you makes it difficult to turn away from their comments, but engaging them will not change anything. The ones who hold far out beliefs have been developing these notions for a long time, and one late night debate on Reddit likely won’t change their mindset. All you accomplish by having an intellectual war online is wasting time that could be spent productively furthering your cause.
You will create bigger changes in society if you focus on the big picture. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true. Change the way a crowd thinks, and more people will join the crowd; change the way one person thinks and the impact is smaller. It’s more effective to go after a larger audience instead of the outliers who are the most difficult to change. But hey, if you want to try turning Glenn Beck into a staunch liberal, good luck!
It is easy to get distracted and discouraged by people who do not share your beliefs, but remember your goals and stick to them. The radical outliers will always be around, and if you want to be successful, you need to learn how to not be affected by them—learn to brush them away. Or you can just repeat to yourself, “Do not feed the trolls.”