We’ve all seen it. No sooner does Aunt Martha post an Instagram picture of Bobby trying on Halloween costumes at Walmart than someone is posting about the working conditions or whether big box stores should sell guns to teenagers. Somehow, whether Bobby should go as Spider-Man or a rabbit has devolved into otherwise-rational adults arguing over constitutional amendments. Why does this always happen online?
The artificial intimacy of social media, combined with the immediacy with which we can interact, creates an inflated sense of our own importance. Arguing is typically defined as the exchange of opposing views with the aim of persuading others to agree with one’s position. It presupposes that one is both open to alternatives and prepared to back up positions with facts. None of this applies in the judgment vacuum of social media. Arguing online is like banging one’s head against the wall in the hope it will knock sense into someone else.