Saturday, February 4, 2017


How to Stop Arguing and Actually Change Someone’s Mind on Social Media
Excerpted and modified (by me) from an article written by Joanne O'Connell and published in The Guardian on January 28, 2017.  [link to original article

Whenever a major story breaks in the social media age, it sparks a heated debate. And in this post-truth world of “alternative facts,” even the US president conducts his battles on Twitter.

But what if you’re less interested in just shouting your view and actually want to try to change people’s minds?

To begin with, and If you’re serious about being really open-minded, you might need to check your followers. People on Twitter and Facebook suffer from what researchers call “selective exposure”. In conflicts, users are more willing to share and to communicate with their ideological friends than foes by surrounding yourself with those who agree with you. 

So, if you want to really engage in a discussion rather than simply shout slogans at people who already agree with you , here are ten suggestions:

1.  Begin by giving access to your social media page to at least one or two people who are likely to have a differing perspective from yours.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

2. Select one key idea you want to get across in each message. Keep it simple, specific, and straightforward.

3. Stay focused. Don’t send multiple messages saying the same thing.

4.  Make sure you’ve got your facts correct. Opinions are not facts, no matter how loudly they are shouted or how many exclamation points and emoticons you use. 

5. Make your main point and then expand your argument with short additions to further the debate. But keep it short.  Use bullet points if you think these will be useful.

6.  Aim for clarity.  It’s too easy for someone to misunderstand or misinterpret what you are writing. Social media is different from face-to-face conversations. Tone of voice and facial expressions are lost, as is the ability to regroup and explain.  

7.  Avoid personal attacks. If you get riled up, just stop the discussion, catch your breath, and either continue civilly or move along. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say directly. 

8. Your goal is to seek common ground wherever possible.  Agree on points that you can agree on, and acknowledge differing points of view.  It’s really not a battle to see who can scream the loudest.

9.  In the end, you are unlikely to resolve your differences through a few Twitter exchanges. Best to politely thank them for talking, and look for other opportunities to continue the discussion.

10.  Remember, you do have the power of unfriending individuals or blocking or ignoring messages if you feel it would be pointless to continue. You don’t have to respond to every single Tweet.

You should act on your convictions.  And if you are fighting on behalf of a cause you are committed to, it's hard not to get riled up.  But you can't bully your way into changing people's minds. 


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