The last time we went through a Presidential election season, I posted something that revealed a particular political point of view on Facebook. Big mistake. First one point, then another counterpoint. Then another person agreeing with the first point, then someone disagreeing. On and on and on.
What I noticed was, no one’s point of view changed as a result of this whole exercise. If anything, people used the activity to reinforce their beliefs. I vowed to never again engage in this sort of dance. I don’t really get any pleasure out of arguing.
I don’t know why, but it’s easier to get hooked in these kind of mental wrestling matches online. Much easier than in the face-to-face world, where decorum is more valued.
It’s a considerable challenge to have a dialogic conversation online, particularly when participants are on either sides of a contentious issue and each person wants to bring the other around to their point of view. However, I think it can be done.
One key is to establish ground rules that guide the conversation upfront, and then at the conclusion of the “talk” to discuss the degree to which these ground rules were followed.
It would also help if there is some time distance between communications, so that the participants are not drawn into a kind of SMS war, driven by emotions that arise.
All that being said, it’s best to observe the keep-the-peace rule I loosely follow that I first heard an old mentor of mine say.
“There are two things I don’t discuss: politics or religion.”