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Why Facebook Timeline is Not a Great Place for a Debate? (a.k.a. How to not suck on Facebook?)

With recent controversy raising in political field, I don’t go one day without seeing some debates taking place all over the internet.

Recently, I have had occasion to both observe, and getting involved in such incidents. In the process I’ve had to fire at least one person off from my friend list. I don’t know if I will even have chance of reconciliation, with realization of the great divide in the thought process making it unlikely amicable. Looking at few of my friends timeline, I still see fire erupting here and there.

While this article is revolves around how the interaction works in Facebook, the overall theme is equally applicable to all the social network systems. I hope you find the article interesting.

Seriously, personal timelines are not a great place for those debates!

One of your friend writes something controversial, or maybe they are just linking to some article of that nature. You have different take to that. So you are supposed to correct that person, right? Wrong! If you are coming from the standpoint of correcting someone, you are better off just leave it and go on with your day.

Motives? That doesn’t matter

So let’s decipher the reason behind why you are even bothering to correct them. While this is definitely not a comprehensive list, here are some of my observations:

  1. You genuinely feel that the person can be benefited by your corrected view. That you are strongly believe you are correct and you want to make sure others align with you.
  2. You are part of some cause (e.g. religion or political party) that you feel obligated to spread the world view as your cause see.
  3. You want assert yourself over someone. Because you feel you are better than other.

If you are #3, congratulations, you are genuinely nasty human being. Please go away and hide in a cave and please stay there for rest of your life.

There might be number of other reasons. But I won’t go into details, as it actually doesn’t matter at all, because…

Engaging in a debate on someone’s personal timeline is a no-win game

For any posts or comments you make, writing to someone’s personal timeline is like visiting someone’s house, and starting conversation. Therefore, depending on your relationship with said person, certain level of courtesy is expected. And even if you think you know the person, you may have to exercise extra precautions especially if you are trying to cross someone’s boundary.

Now, why I say that engaging in a debate on someone’s personal timeline is a no-win game? Because no matter how it turns out, you will become, eh, an asshole. I have deliberately used this strong word, because this is very appropriate representation for severity of infringement to one’s personal space. (Please do note however, that I am using this term to figuratively represents how equivalent their action can be described as, and definitely not meant to call any particular person this way.)

No matter how subtle you come into someone’s timeline to start making your point, you will become an asshole regardless.

You are essentially kicking the door open to someone’s house and telling them how to cook, do their laundry, and make their bed. Not a lot of people will find that pleasing, if not developing hates of lifetime against you.

You are not even correct!

And you know what? You are not even correct. Things are controversial for reasons. You may be standing on completely different ground. You are rude and inconsiderate if you are advocating your personal view as if it is their view.

Your arrogance will only buy you hates. You can’t convince other people to consider your view, unless you are willing to show compassion and actually understand problem as they see. You are not that important.

Don’t even come into discussion with assumption that you are correct, because you are definitely not, no matter how you put it.

Circle of the friends

One dynamic that differs drastically even when I compare Facebook timeline to someone’s house is when you are interacting someone on their Facebook timeline, you are not only dealing with that person, but you are doing that in front of many of the person’s friends. Imagine coming into the party full of people, you kick the door open, and start screaming why you are correct and the person is wrong. That’s simply nasty. You are essentially making the person look bad in front of others. They will have no choice but to take more drastic measure to shut you out completely, to protect integrity with their friends.

If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all

You probably have heard this numerous time since your childhood. This, is the essence of how you should approach someone’s timeline. It is not your obligation to contribute your opinion to someone’s timeline. They probably don’t even want you there. So simply, just ignore, and mute. If you seriously can’t stand what they are posting, unfriend or block.

It’s actually safe to assume most people post items on their Facebook timeline to exchange information with people who are aligned with their position, and most of time, your opposing view is not welcomed anyways unless you are presenting them in extremely sensitive manner, and that’s very hard.

Don’t bother pushing your argument when you are not welcomed. Doing so will automatically make you a bad person. It doesn’t matter how valid you think your arguments are, more you keep trying, you will be breaking into the boundary of harassment, and that’s not cool. After all, you can’t change the world. Move on.

You are better off discussing your view with other friends of yours who share more similar view. Or maybe, try more public place like news media’s timeline.

There are of course, some conversations, particularly technical in nature, that tend to have more relaxed atmosphere that’s appropriate for open debate, but then that’s rarely controversial to begin with. (But interact with courtesy, and do note there are some pitfalls!)

Conclusion

Facebook and other social media systems enabled us to connect with many people close than ever. They have given me to meet a lot of great people as well as reconnecting with old friends otherwise impossible. At same time, sometimes we tend to forget there’s actual human being behind the screen. Your one keystroke, and one click can provide huge impact, for the good of society, as much as it can for exact opposite. Let’s work together to not be a part of the problem. Let’s try to not be an asshole.