Soon my kids will be on the social media bandwagon, and I want to ensure that they, and those under my keeping, know how to engage in open discussions.
The sad reality, however, is that most people in the world do not go on social media to engage in open discussions. Look at comment feeds on articles and videos. Thousands of people come together….to argue..
There is a value in being able to distinguish when it’s ok to engage in discussions and when to walk away before you want to punch the computer screen. It’s necessary in this new world of instant opinion sharing and something we should be teaching our children to navigate.
Here are my top three tools that I find help in establishing open discussions on social media.
- No one liners with zero substance. A statement can be made within a sentence, but not a decent discussion. Provide some reason behind your statement.
For example: “Apple Juice is the best juice.”
This is where the false consensus effect takes root. False Consensus Effect is a psychological phenomenon where people are naturally inclined to feel that the majority of the world shares the same beliefs, values, and opinions as they do. When you assume people think exactly the way you do, you also expect them to be able to follow a logical path without knowing the route.
You need to give them a road map, which fellow tutors like myself call the “why factor.” You have to give the person you are discussing juice directions to what led you to feel that apple juice was the best.
For example:“ Apple Juice is the best juice because there is no pulp.”
This allows the person you are debating to see there is a rationale behind why you are making this statement. You obviously don’t like pulp and so that was a big factor in your assertion that apple juice would make a better choice than orange juice. Feel free to give as many reasons as you can find to back up your “why factor,” but be sure to keep tool number 2 in mind.
- Personal opinions, histories, and feelings do not count. You can certainly feel or think a specific way, which is why you probably felt passionate enough to form an argument in the first place. Just keep in mind that your feelings and experiences do not discredit other people’s experiences that were likely different from yours (oooo that false consensus effect strikes again!). We live in a very diverse world, and to think that the billions who walk among it all have had the same conditions you did, makes the world a really boring place.
For example: “I drank apple juice as a kid, so everyone drank apple juice as a kid.”
How can you prove that? Did you have neighborhood juice parties and all sat around drinking juice and socializing? And did EVERYONE go? You lose the ability to have your statement acknowledged if you resort to personal opinions, personal history, and feelings due to the fact that if the person you are discussing with had even the slightest different path as yours, they will close off your opinion so fast you’ll get whip lash.
When developing a statement, your “why factor” must be grade A approved by the sociological perspective. This means you need to look outside of yourself and see how everyone in their own unique experiences lead to a larger network of experiences that speak for a wider range of people. So, read up on your topic, see what studies have been conducted to either prove or disprove your statement. Research!
For example: “I found this study that shows that most kids drank apple juice as a kid.”
By providing research rather than your own experience, you show that your statement is backed by research. You are not pulling your “why factor” out of thin air, but basing it on an objective and bias free perspective. If you cannot find valid research on your statement, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the statement…
- Give the person as much freedom to express their view. It takes a lot of guts to defend your views! If you feel they didn’t develop their argument enough, ask questions. This is a learning opportunity to understand why others have different views and showing that you genuinely appreciate the effort they are making when sharing them with you. Try to see if they have developed their statement enough where they can answer these questions.
For example: “Why do you think that statement is true?” or “Do you have any research to back that up?”
This shows that you are interested in what they have to say and that you respect them enough to see where their mental road map leads. You never know, you might be able to see things in a new way! It can also lead you to see that although you have differences in the topics, maybe you can find a way to agree about some issues that relate to the discussion.
If they refuse to answer questions or delve further in the topic, then it is possible they don’t have the answers or are unwilling to think further on the subject. Politely disengage from the discussion, because they are likely unwilling to think critically about the topic and give your side of the discussion the respect it deserves. If they say, “I don’t know,” you might have encouraged them to look further into the topic and that is a win in and of itself!
Also, remember that just because the person you are discussing a topic with does not have the same view you have, that does not mean their argument does not have value.
The idea is not to gain converts to your cause, but rather to establish open discussion on the topics you are passionate about.