It’s not a secret that Facebook is a divisive place. Just about every day, bright and early, I find myself quickly skimming few a through posts. There’s the usual tragic news story, a splattering or two of random opinions, and as usual, the debate. The debates never end, nor do they have any end in sight.
On places like Reddit, which I have fortunately declined to ever sign up for, it’s worse, as I’m told. It wouldn’t be so bad if every single topic in the world wasn’t fair game, but apparently, anything is worthy of slandering another human being over on the internet.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with debating. It’s one of the key elements of understand and improving one’s philosophy of life, and it’s something I frequency enjoy participating in. However, many people — if not everyone — are imperfect thinkers, which means that more often than not, debates go south. I’m thinking the Antarctica-kind of south.
Most of the time you can ignore them. But then come the ragers, warriors, and Kool-Aid drinkers of the internet who feel like threatening something or slandering as many people as they can who disagree with their opinion regarding a controversial subject — what they see to be the central reason for existing on this planet. And when they don’t win a debate, usually because they didn’t go into it with the possibility of having their minds changed, they vent online using as many logical fallacies and bluffing tactics as they can possibly drag down with them.
Now, time for an example.
Say that someone on a platform such as Facebook or Twitter decides to write a message expressing some sort of statement on an issue. Say it’s a casual message — one you’d write while waiting in line at Starbucks — and it probably wouldn’t be the material they’d use in a formal debate or a public speech. It’s stupid, but we all do it to a degree. That’s when the RWKs (ragers, warriors, and Kool-Aid drinkers) step in with a post that they believe will convince everyone on their Timeline to agree with them on their bizarre spin on reality. And they’re all framed like so:
(Insert public figure here): “(Insert message here)”
(RWK): “I’m going to utilize an elaborate and gigantic lexicon to extrapolate on a position that typically would appear to be faulty and fallacious, but simply due to the fact that I am making usage of these enormous words and intelligent sounding phrases, I am obviously superior to thou.”
All of the context above has been leading me into the explanation I intended for the title of this article, and I have decided to phrase it like so:
“Just because you use big words doesn’t mean you’re right.”
If you think about this statement, it’s obviously apparently true. If a two-year-old says that the sky is blue and a doctor decides that the sky is red, the two-year-old is right; not because the doctor is uneducated, but because the two-year-old is standing for an absolute and apparent truth. The English language has meaning behind the words ‘sky’ and ‘blue’, and immutable qualities of said values give meaning to the statement.
So why do people associate intelligence with truth? This shouldn’t be a shocker, either. Intelligent people are typically better at exploring options to identify and make the most of absolute truths. If there were no truths, then intelligence wouldn’t mean anything, and in a perfect world, the smartest people would be the most altruistic, kind individuals. But it’s not a perfect world and people don’t like being wrong. It’s not a secret that intelligent people will lie and cheat, taking advantage of their image, at other people’s expense. Everybody does it. It’s one of the things human beings do.
And there’s validity to speaking clearly and effectively. It’s the reason I strive to do that exact thing in every article I write — I want my message to come across exactly as I intended it to. The only problem is that people all-too-often associate high-quality word-smithing with correctness. I could tell you a lie in a charismatic, well-articulated way and it would still be wrong. People do that all the time.
I’m not saying that appearing intelligence and speaking well are indicators that someone’s position is invalid and they’re grasping for straws to defend themselves. I’m saying that they’re moot points. They’re irrelevant, and the unfortunate side effect is that it’s a self-righteous way to paint yourself.
The nature of a good debate is a common goal — not to compete. After all, we wouldn’t be debating if we didn’t have a clear, established purpose we were trying to achieve. Both capitalists and communists want people to be well-off, happy, and appreciated. Both conservatives and liberals believe in human rights. Both Christians and atheists believe that the nature of our purpose in this world matters. It’s better to look someone in the eye and realize they’re striving for the same thing as you before you attempt to belittle them.
I’m guilty of this behavior, as I’m sure you have been at times as well, but it doesn’t define us.
Let’s go pursue truth together!