Social media seems to cater to a rather limited conception of debate. People argue as means to “win” and “show off” to an audience of spectators.
But this is easy, – and sadly misses the point. Argument is much more valuable for its own sake and much more distasteful when linked to things like egotism and social competition.
This clipping from an article in BloombergView seems to sum up the issue quite well:
In the end, I think people overreact to the “stupid” insult because, as a society, we use arguments the wrong way. We tend to treat arguments like debate competitions — two people argue in front of a crowd, and whoever wins gets the love and adoration of the crowd, and whoever loses goes home defeated and shamed. I guess that’s better than seeing arguments as threats of physical violence, but I still prefer the idea of arguing as a way to learn, to bounce ideas off of other people. Proving you’re smart is a pointless endeavor (unless you’re looking for a job), and is an example of what Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.” As the band Sparks once sang, “Everybody’s stupid — that’s for sure.” What matters is going in the right direction — becoming less stupid, little by little.