Bust out the popcorn, enjoy the fight, bask in your victory
Hold on! Don’t jump to the listicle yet!
Here’s something to know about me before you begin reading: conflict makes me squirmy. I hate it when people fight or when they’re angry at me. You’re probably thinking, “What’s a pacifist gonna tell me about Facebook fights? Not to get into them?” Well, that is pretty sane advice, but no: I do have some advice to impart for the next time you enter The Comment Section. I have engaged in approximately three Facebook comment wars, and I’ve done so for varying reasons with varying degrees of poise. From those engagements and my years of watching virtual fights between friends and family members, I’ve come up with (what I think) is a pretty winning strategy.
Note: You’re probably going to want to see examples of my winning strategy. Don’t worry, there were drafts of this article where I had those comments in here, but it felt a little invasive. I didn’t want to ask my friend’s parent’s friend for permission to use screenshots of our argument about the 2016 Oscar Nominations, because let’s face it: that’d be awkward. And despite claims to the contrary, I’m not an asshole.
Give facts, not emotions
You’re probably commenting on controversial articles and declarative stati because your emotions told you to. Maybe you want to share your agreement. Maybe you want to correct someone. Maybe you want to get your anger out and don’t have access to a boxing gym. But what you need to remember is that everyone else is commenting for the same reason (or maybe they just wanna watch the world burn). Every now and then, someone will back up their aggressive defense of unfettered gun control with an opinion article on how AR-15’s are actually the perfect gun for home defense, and then someone will point out that no, AR-15’s actually aren’t perfect for home defense, that’s actually “INSANE”. Both articles, if you take the time to look at them, are big, angry, insulting mind germs. They’re easy to spread, incite emotion, and spark more comment wars (watch CGP Grey’s awesome analysis on how/why anger goes viral). Here’s my suggestion: bore it down. Give statistics! Give statistics from both sides! Cite those statistics. This not only gives you credibility, but it allows you to interpret those stats in whatever way you want to sway your audience. If you’re thinking, “Boy, that seems pretty dishonest,” just remember that our national media does this to us everyday. Using facts also satisfies my inner Diplomat — what’re you gonna do? Get mad at FACTS?! Ha. I think not.
Make it personal
There’s someone in the middle of the stew who’s spitting in it, so you go after them. Not really “go after them,” but you kill them with kindness (no conflict here!). Empathize with them. Read over their previous comments, look through their favorite movies, and address them by name (maybe you even bring up one of those favorite movies to assuage them).
Ooh. This is starting to get creepy.
Yeah, it sounds creepy, but really these are just deescalating techniques. Calm down your victim enough to lull them into a space where they’d be more willing to accept your level-headed words of wisdom. In my own life, I’ve found that people are much less willing to listen to you when you’re shouting at them.* Also, like I said, I’m a pacifist. Shouting makes me nervous.
Don’t change anyone’s opinion
Here’s the thing: you will research, and you will state your argument eloquently, and you will do nothing to change anyone’s mind about anything. Maybe every one-in-fifty Facebook flame wars will result in a mind adjusted (“Hmm, that fact is sticking with me — should I reevaluate my positions on things?”), but at the end of the day, they’re a big exercise in futility. The best way to win a Facebook argument is to stay out of one. The second best way to win is to make yourself look really smart and then quit.
So that’s what I’ll do right now.
*Here’s where I own my privilege: I’m a white girl (with a boy’s name, for good measure). I’ve been lucky enough to have been listened to (you are reading this right now after all), but I also know that a lot of the power behind my voice comes from that place of privilege. Millions of people have to shout to be heard, and sometimes that shouting is dismissed as “angry.” This isn’t an article telling you to curb your anger. This is a silly little piece that I’m writing for my own amusement and hopefully yours.