We all know that person—maybe we encounter them on Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn. They’re always ready to counter others’ opinions, and yet they share nothing substantial themselves, providing no credible sources or information to back up their claims. Ever wondered what drives people to engage in such behavior, or what the impacts may be on our online communities? Welcome to my passion project: understanding the social media arguer.
Let me paint you a picture. You post a well-researched article on the implications of fake news on democracy, and within minutes, someone comments on how your post “clearly” misses the point, yet offers no substantial information to justify their claim. We’re diving into the psychological reasons behind this behavior, its negative impacts on online communities, and strategies to deal with it.
Understanding the Phenomenon
Being consistently oppositional online without credible justification is like showing up to a debate armed with nothing but a squirt gun while everyone else holds fire extinguishers. It’s ineffective and, quite frankly, makes things worse for everyone involved. This type of behavior affects the quality of discussions and distorts the atmosphere of the online community, turning potential thoughtful engagements into fruitless squabbles.
The Psychology Behind the Behavior
There can be a multitude of psychological motivations driving someone to become a social media arguer, including:
- The need for attention or validation – Some individuals crave the attention that comes with pushing back against others’ views, gaining a sense of importance and significance.
- The desire to feel superior or smarter – Arguing without substance gives pseudo intellectuals the ability to feel superior, as they undermine others’ well-researched contributions without any effort.
- Trolling and cyberbullying aspects – For individuals with malicious intentions, sparking conflict and distress for their amusement can be a driving factor in engaging in baseless arguments.
Consider Joe, for example. He often starts heated online conversations without providing any actual evidence, motivating him to continue arguing. His online interactions consist mainly of unfounded assertions, yet he feels validated when others take the time to respond to his comments.
The Impact on Online Communities
Ongoing baseless arguments deteriorate the quality of online discussions and contribute to negative effects on communities, such as:
- Deterioration of meaningful conversations – Genuine and enriching debates are crowded out by low-quality interactions and noise.
- Creation of a hostile environment – Baseless arguments can lead to people becoming defensive, resulting in a confrontational atmosphere.
- Spread of misinformation – Unfounded arguments often perpetuate wrong information, misguiding community members and negatively impacting decision-making.
Take Jane, for instance, who was discouraged from participating in a group discussion about climate change after seeing many frivolous arguments in the comments section.
Strategies to Deal with the Behavior
To counter this behavior constructively, consider these strategies:
- Encouraging fact-checking and source citation – Gently remind users to provide sources to back up their claims and encourage an evidence-based discussion.
- Promoting empathy and understanding – Try to understand the motivations behind the behavior and empathize with their feelings while reframing the conversation positively.
- Setting boundaries and enforcing guidelines – Maintain and communicate clear guidelines for engagement and, when necessary, moderate content and remove unconstructive contributions.
In conclusion, the social media arguer phenomenon is a complex one, influenced by various psychological factors and having detrimental effects on the quality of online communities. However, by understanding its root causes and implementing strategies to address it, we can create more enriching and meaningful online interactions for everyone involved. Next time you encounter an online argument without substance, perhaps try to engage constructively or use these strategies to navigate the situation.
Let’s make our online communities a better place, one conversation at a time. Keep spreading knowledge and positivity!
Subscribe today not to miss a thing.
My blog posts of the week emailed to you in a nice little (email) package.