Resisting Internet Arguments

Resisting internet arguments seems like such a difficult thing to do nowadays.


Let’s be honest; anger is real. Frustration and exhaustion are real. But if you cannot transform that anger into something constructive, something that feeds the love in you and other people, then you are no different than the very source that caused your anger to begin with. Self-control, like anger, is real. You don’t have to have a response to everything, a fact-checked debate on the ready, or a chip on your shoulder that you want to share with everyone who disagrees with you. Sometimes a traumatic or really painful experience informs your reaction to things but even then other people cannot constantly be held accountable for the way your anger is expressed even if there is a valid reason for your anger. You can blame your anger or your angry responses to situations on any source(s) you want but why even get to that point when you can easily not engage at all?




Let’s put everything back into perspective. Hold yourself accountable for what you do with your negative feelings. Back away from the computer, from the phone, from the conversation. When things get heated think “What will the be return if I invest in this? Are the stakes really that high for me to expend this much negative energy? What is something constructive that I can do instead of what I am about to get into? Am I having a bad day? Is the other person? Is this really about something else altogether?” How much time and energy could be saved if these few questions were asked before you started listing all the references as to why you are right and someone else is wrong only to find out that *ta da* you didn’t change the mind of the person or the world. Meanwhile, every time the other person talks the only thing in your mind are ways to prove how every point they make is wrong. How stressful. How unfair.

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So often we want to be keyboard warriors. Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves past us while those sweet minutes, sometimes hours, tick away at the clicking of the keys. A nice meal could have been prepared, some push-ups pushed, a painting started, a poem began, time volunteered somewhere, a conversation had with a loved one, some research done, some peace time taken with the self, a jog around the block had and so forth and so forth…




I wonder if we spend so much time online trying to prove our ever so important points to people who either already agree or simply don’t care because we don’t have anyone in our offline lives with whom to have these conversations. Maybe it’s a more common practice that we speak for validation and not for conversation where if someone says something we deem outlandish then we at least try to see their side of things or, remembering our own past ignorance, converse with people in a way that lets them find the answers for themselves. Maybe even with all the right answers and neat citations we still aren’t right. Maybe *gasp* being right is not the point.

We forget to ask real questions and to patiently wait for those answers. We forget that our experiences are our own and a mere fraction of the grand scheme of things. We are one person in a personal network that is part of a system of networks made up of people who aren’t all aware of each other. But if we try to connect our microcosm to the macro, imagine what we could learn from one another even in our disagreements and our sometimes slippages of etiquette.

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I wonder if people also are just lonely and in their real lives feel as though they do not have a voice or any power.


When people who feel this way get online, maybe this is the only time they feel empowered or feel any empathy toward themselves at all. A lot of this seems to deal with how our external lives, our reality lives, might be a little less fulfilling than we’d like. We want to connect but do not have the social prowess to make it happen. We come with all of our insecurities and fears but have not been taught how to allow other people the same humanity. We come with expectations on others but don’t want those or similar expectations put on us.




I think it is time we be more open to hearing each other out and to being more forgiving of one another. I’ve seen time again people trying to make a point on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs but in a way of chastisement, of belittling, or really just wanting validation in the disguise of intelligent conversation. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been guilty of this *raises hand*. And in those moments where we cannot be forgiving or open, why not just step away from the conversation? It is one thing to disagree, but it is another to battle it out and to that I say “Stop and find something better to do cause this ain’t it.”


P.S. – Thanks to writer Katherine Sullivan, who is also editor-in-chief at YesYes Books and Vinyl Poetry, for helping me think this through.

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Phillip Williams
Phillip B. Williams is the author of the forthcoming book of poetry Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books 2016). He is a recipient of several scholarships to Bread Loaf Writing Conference, a graduate of Cave Canem, and one of five winners of 2013’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Phillip received his MFA in Writing at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.
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