Are there any rules for a social media debate ?

Feb 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Media Watch, Social

Do we follow any common rules whenever we debate over social media? The stories of bashing and abusive languages are very common when anyone tries to share personal opinion, in favour of or against any issue. Those who portray themselves as tolerant and liberal also lose their patience when they run out of arguments. The debates become heated discussions and usually no conclusions are derived in the end and no opinions are changed.

Debates on social media remind me of my college days when I actively participated in study circles and group discussions. Those forums were used to share our thoughts on a pre-decided social or religious topics and everyone would have to come prepared with their research and opinions. The rules were strictly defined, i.e.; no personal attacks and no point scoring techniques. It wasn’t about winning or losing an argument, rather the whole idea was to develop a better understanding on issues. ‘Sacrifice of opinion’ was categorically taught and was instrumental in reaching consensus over the issues. The moderator used to have a very crucial role to play to keep the things calm.

Social media has given everyone an opportunity to express their opinions. Whenever you say something, you have to listen to the other side too, in order to keep a balance. It’s an utter failure if we are not ready to listen. Our society is going towards two different extremes and one easily gets tagged with one or other extreme even if you have nothing to do with either of them. You are put into camps and tagged with the payrolls without any logic. The point that you are in ‘opponent’ camp if you aren’t uttering my words, is taking us nowhere. Many a times, emphasis is given to pressurize others to speak the words which they don’t necessarily believe in, and this surely comes under fascism. Also we have different rules for ourselves and for others. One thing might be commendable if our hero is doing it and something similar might be a nuisance and condemnable, if it comes from the opponent camp.

We have a serious problem with ‘active reading’ as well. In our schools, we are taught the skills of ‘active listening’, but very little focus is done on active reading. Probably that is the reason that on social media we only seldom read what the other person is writing. Usually the twists and turns of the words and out of context statements and misquoting are done for point scoring, negating any logic and negative propaganda based on lies. The haste of commenting and replying just adds to the problem and very soon the debates turn into an online fight.

A much deep-rooted problem is the confusion of ideology. Uttering two opposite things in one sigh is such a common phenomenon that it amuses me. A lot of times, people don’t understand what they are talking about. Information from internet is randomly copied and pasted without even understanding the basic idea. Also, new questions are put forward in reply of previous questions while the originals remain unanswered. Sometimes the answers aren’t read or understood and a new question is raised. More and more confusion is raised for no reason which is resulting in division in the society.

Blogging world also witnesses many blogs just conveying one side of the story and promoting hate speech. Criticism for the sake of criticism is in fashion on one hand and lack of tolerance reigns. Harsh comments and retaliatory responses reduce the influence of actual message.

A lot of people also have their own connotations of the words. Some even find the word ‘female students’ as abusive to women and if argued, they just retaliate without any logic. The approach of ‘holier than thou’ and concepts of ‘learned than thou’ are embedded in the mind-sets of many.

Most of the bashing is done in the name of religion (for/against) and politics. Even if you tell something specific about someone which is positive today, immediately a rebuttal will come for something negative done decades ago by them. Can we appreciate something positive without ifs n buts? A difficult question, I guess.

Due to these reasons, more humble and literate people avoid online social media debates. And the result is that sensible voices are reducing in the social media world. If the trend continues, I am afraid social media will be left to abusers only. The life on social media is not in isolation. It definitely has an impact on our daily life routine. The discussions on social media leave a bad taste in mouth at times and spoil the mood. So these debates are creating a negative impact on our daily life as well. The language we use in social media, very much becomes the part of our daily life.

There is a simple rule of debate, mentioned in Quran (chap 25, v 63 and v 72)

‘The (faithful) slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them answer: Peace; (63).

And those who will not witness vanity, but when they pass near senseless play, pass by with dignity. (72)

Peaceful debates and dialogues are healthy and needed to develop better understanding of the situation and working towards solutions. The strife for winning an argument or point scoring will not help us. Competition is a good thing but when we compete in terms of leg-pulling, it becomes destructive. Constructive debates are only those, where we share the knowledge and experience to develop a better understanding.

Muhammad Saad Khan

About the author

Muhammad Saad Khan is a Biomedical Engineer with a diverse background of engineering and management.

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  1. Yeah, very true. I almost have no readers however a lot of people consider my blog full of valuable info and at times funny stories. It is a matter of flatness of modern world. We are all superficial and flat and excuse ourselves with lack of time. That does not explain abusive language though.

  2. Asalam alaikham brother Saad. Another well written article. I believe that we, as Muslims, no matter if we are men or women, should all write with modesty, politeness and certainly an educated standpoint. You writing this article to be published for example. I would hope, and I say InshAllah, that you only receive positive feedback, or at least polite constructive criticism. There are no reasons a person should lower themselves to write inappropriate material or use rude language when giving their opinions. Especially as Muslims, we should have an open mind, an open heart, and provide nothing but encouragement for anyone brave enough to write, and publish, an article online.

    But in my humble opinion, I always enjoy reading your articles, and I wish you much, much success in your future endeavors.

    JezakAllah khair brother Saad,

  3. 1. Respect thе opinions οf others,2.Give & share more thаn уου receive,3.Cheaters never win 4. Don’t hаtе οn whаt others dο or comment form quality friendships & relationship and above all Respect those around уου are the essence of a debate on social media…these are the keywords which i can take from Saad’s article . Saad has portrayed a real picture of today’s tolerance level shown by different people on different network.
    Welldone Saad….Just love this article…:)

  4. On one hand it projects us extremists those who have narrow tolerance level, while on other hand it does reveals how badly we have been tied to our ideologies/associations, that we are rarely ready to listen others.
    Every one among us suffer from such kind of behaviors and they definitely portrays the upbringings of posters.

    There might be many other reasons, but, as for as Pakistan is concerned, i think we have some very major grounds for such kind of attitudes, like religiously we are badly divided and every sect tries their best to keep on listening their audiences.

    Some times i think , we may get mature with time as this virtual world have emerged to us some years ago.

  5. Assalamualakum Saad,

    A great article once again. You seem to have hit the nail on the head. The problem these days is that people do not read, or read very little. Having said that, they are full of opinions and rebuttals, even if they have not read the particular article. Secondly, people do not even listen properly these days, or they have selective hearing, picking out the points which are in line with their view and ignoring any opposing points. Thirdly, as you rightly say, when people do disagree, they do so in such a harsh and unharmonious manner, that it automatically gets the other person onto the defensive, or even attack mode. Let us try to keep in line with our Glorious Al Quran and the Sunnah of our beloved Rasul Allah salallahu alaihi wa salam and try to get our points across with dignity and good manners, showing the utmost respect to our opponents or fellow bloggers and somertimes agreeing to diagree. Jazaka Allahu Kahyrun , take care , Omar

  6. good article indicating weaknesses of debate.

  7. A much awaited realization about this important issue, and a great use of the social media to propel some thinking among the netizens! You’ve sized up the issue very well, and I hope people observe their own emotions and actions while interacting with others – be it in person or online.

    I’d point out one more psychological aspect to our interactions that we should be mindful of, and that is, the covert gender war or status war being played in any argument or debate. Although online media apparently seems to have dissipated the gender and status divide, it has been commonly observed that most men/people who try to exert their supposed masculinity/superiority by winning a debate, carry this attitude to the online world as well. When they find an intellectual woman/person with whom they fail to ‘win’ an argument (which may not even be the goal of the discussion) or completely miss the point, these bruised egotists take refuge behind either the ‘peace-making syndrome’ or adopt an aggressive misdemeanor to heal their ego.

    Whether the discussions are carried out online or in real life, we need to remember the etiquette of discussions that demands focusing on the topic and its solution(s) in a totally impersonal manner, and making a conscious effort to ‘understand’ the others’ viewpoints (the way they mean it), instead of bracketing those people to disagree with forever or deciding not to have any discussions with them at all.

    Remember there are as many angles to a problem as there a people who face it or see it, though only a few brilliant minds come up with the right solutions at the right time. We must encourage differences of opinion so that those brilliant solutions emerge out of healthy discussions that too often get marred by personal biases and insecurities that people carry within.
    Wise people opine, “Say what you need to say, and not what you want or have to say!” And, “It is not saying that adds to your learning, but listening!” So be more patient, understanding, and multi-focal so that while somebody is ‘winning’ an argument, no one loses a friend! 🙂

  8. hundered percent agreed

  9. Social media is best way to express what you really think.

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