Is the Internet Just a Large Argument Machine?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An essay discussing people's arguing on the internet and the choice to participate in it.

Is the Internet Just a Large Argument Machine?

 

Argueing. Not as the act of a discussion of a set of reasons to support an idea. Rather, as exchanging oppositional views in an aggressive, sarcastic and combative manner. It is compared to running into a brick wall. People feel more power to argue, discredit and defame you because you are not there in person. The screen is the mediator. Despite social media and websites having rules of conduct, people are thrown out of groups for argueing with others. Misunderstandings are frequent, but our energies are translated through the keyboard into a sense of rightism.

 

In this essay, I want to explore the concept that personal responsibilities to stop and evaluate what a person posts online is crucial to avoiding the argument machine. It is the fighting with each other online that has become a vexed problem for the internet. You can believe that the technology giants and media websites thrive on allowing their platforms to become personal soapboxes. Do we know we have a choice not to use them as such? However, it is easy to argue with others online. It can even feel good to do so.

 

Argueing online has been a common feature of the internet since its inception. John Suler created the concept of the Online Disinhibition Effect to explain why people do this. We argue fiercely and vitriolically with others when the person is not in front of us. But Suler offered many factors as to what are the reasons why people do this. Two, anonymity and invisibility, are a major part of this occurring online, turning the internet into an argument machine. Having these two reasons present increases the ability to argue with others and not receive punishment for it.

 

Before social media, people communicated online on various software sites. Usenet, a global discussion forum where people could post about topics, became a centre of argueing, trolling and harassment. The Meow Wars on Usenet between 1996 and 1998 proved argueing online was not something that could be just turned away from. Everyone had a choice, as they still do, to participate in the argueing. The story of the Usenet Meow Wars is famous. It can be found online what occurred. In terms of argueing, as the antagonising was created by a group of Harvard Students. The Meowers challenged the Harvard Students through trolling and argueing with them. Many similar situations occurred on new online platforms, especially social media. This incident also demonstrated the ease in which people could become involved in online argueing with strangers.

 

To illustrate further, examine the argueing over controversial issues that dominates the posts on newspaper social media sites. Group action can create change. Most of the views though become a mass of argueing and self-righteous opinions. The desire to be right by engaging in argument is driven by various human issues. Anger and powerlessness create emotions that the platforms are willing to provide an outlet for. It keeps engagement with the site and grows the number of users.

 

Feeling disempowered in life is a major motivator for argueing with others. You can see how this existed during the 2020 United States Presidential Election. Left and right are overused terms. That though is where the arguments abundantly preside. People complained about both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, argueing an endless tirade of what they both were doing wrong. The world would end under both of them. People would argue with others about the left and right’s evils. These were arguments, not reasoned logical and factual arguments. It showed that perhaps we have come to expect low standards from the internet. Reasoned arguments are drowned out by the mobs all on their soapboxes. To say it has no effect on us if we block it out is a fallacy, because we at some time have argued for the sake of feeling the sense of, we are right, they are not.

 

The question now is, do we exercise our choice to not argue with others? Knowing our triggers is desirable. It does, however, lie in our choice to use the internet, especially the social media sites. Our anger can be justified by controversial topics. Child abuse, animal cruelty, violent crime, disasters, fear of other people from other cultures, perceived political correctness among many others. Do we not have the right to argue our position is the correct one and another’s is not? That’s democracy is it not? People argued with each other for centuries. Wars started over it. But the internet has brought a virtual soapbox to the masses. Do we choose to participate in it because we feel we should be defending our concept that we are the only person that is right about an issue?

 

This essay does not tell anyone how to act online. I suggest that there is a futility to argueing online with each other. Also easy to state is our need to argue is a product of the ego. That’s the issue. It is our choice to not engage, but it is too easy to use the platforms as a shouting into the void mechanism. It being our choice to do so and to use the internet as we see fit does have consequences for us and others. To add to the group mob collective of negativities through arguments can, though, produce a temporary feeling of righteousness and relief. To ask is it worth our time and energy to be in the argument machine is the key question.

 

A profound (edited) quote from Marcus T. Anthony1 suggests a reason indirectly tied to why we choose to go into the internet argument machine. Its truth resonates well with possibly why we do:

 

What ultimately drags us into the darkness and ego - whether it be …my darkness, or anyone else’s - is judgment. When we are angry and judgmental, it is our pain that is speaking. And our anger is not “us”. It is our past.

 

But a suggestion to stop this participation in the internet anger machine is also given by the same author2:

 

Never believe the story that your mind is trying to sell you. Never believe the story that your people are pleading with you to take on - no matter how morally vindicated you believe they are.

 

Above all, it’s still your choice to be a participant in the internet argueing machine.

 

 

NOTES:

 

1. Quote location is https://mind-futures.com/r-i-p-stuart-wilde-a-cautionary-tale/#comment-173715

 

2. Quote location is https://consciouslifenews.com/life-cruel-spiritual-perspective/1175780/

 

For information on The Meow Wars see Wikipedia -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meow Wars

 

For information on John Suler’s work see http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html


Submitted: February 07, 2021

© Copyright 2021 michaeln. All rights reserved.

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Comments

JE Falcon aka JEF

A good bit of ideas well written. --- And for the sake of argument, LOL, I find that debate ends and most arguments start when verifiable facts and logic go out the window. Finger pointing and he said, she said, soon follow. And my all-time favorite, if you're statement doesn't hold water and you can't answer the next question asked, change the subject.

Sun, February 7th, 2021 10:20pm

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