What is it that compels (some of) us to get into arguments with others, especially online, over trivial bullshit?
I have gotten myself worked up countless times arguing with people, both online and in-person, and I can’t say it has ever accomplished anything aside from creating distance between myself and others. In fact, part of the reason I stopped using social media for four years between 2015 and 2019 is because I often felt compelled to point out people’s flawed logic/reasoning, and it started many arguments. In actuality, that practice showed me how stupid I was (and probably still am) because I had such a strong desire to argue that I wasted my valuable free-time typing paragraphs to people online and getting myself in a bad mood. Even more stupid is that I usually didn’t even care that much about the things I was arguing about, until I started arguing about them. Imagine how much better it would have been if I just spent all that time on one of my hobbies or learning something new.
The thing that prompted me to actually write this post is that on several occasions recently I found myself falling back into old patterns and typing messages in response to political discussions, stupid stuff people said online, or insulting messages, BUT I managed to catch myself and just ended up just deleting the sentences or paragraphs I was typing. One of the times, I actually intended to send the response, but I was busy and decided I’d have to come back and finish responding later. When I went back to my computer an hour later, I realized I just didn’t care anymore and deleted the message, and I am glad that I did because I know it would have ended up becoming a back-and-forth and would drain me of my time and energy later.
I think there are many potential reasons that we allow ourselves to get caught up in these pointless arguments, but the ones that immediately come to mind are: we have an inflated sense of self-importance, we have attached our sense of self worth to our opinions, and we are emotionally impulsive.
Think about who you are and what kind of weight your opinion pulls in this world. If you are like me, your opinions on most things are essentially worthless because you’re not in charge of anything significant in the world. This begs the question, why do I think so highly of my own opinion that I will share it without being asked for it? I think recognizing my opinion being worthless is a good thing because it encourages me to live a more peaceful life, where I can just chill and let other people spend their time arguing. We are not important, our opinions are most likely uninformed and distorted by personal bias, and our arguments will not change anyone’s mind on anything. Breathe a sigh of relief.
Of course, engaging in discussions with people who have different views and experiences can be massively productive and enlightening; after all, we all see the world through a different lens, and have no other way to know how others see things, especially if they have completely different life experiences. It can also help build our critical thinking ability. But there is a time and place for everything, and the productivity of these discussions is greatly reliant upon the mindsets of the participants.
When in doubt, just say nothing; it’s at least worth a try. Take a few deep breaths, step away from your keyboard, put your phone down, give yourself some time to decide whether you really care enough to engage, and ask yourself: is this the most meaningful use of my time? Is this helping to build relationships or break them?