The subtle art of argumentation for activism
Spreading awareness about issues is important, but trying to educate individuals who don’t want to be is a fool’s errand
You know you’re right. They know you’re right. You know that they know you’re right. Yet, the argument continues, leaving you irritated, frustrated and in need of three more drinks than you did before.
We all know that social media is revolutionizing how we think about, relate to and engage in social justice and activism. This is a good thing, for the most part.
Information is so easily accessible that ignorance is no longer considered a valid excuse for what society deems moral repugnancy.
If we’re starting to have this increase in social justice awareness, then surely there’s a parallel increase in arguments and debates surrounding these topics.
We live in a societal culture where our thoughts are very clearly segregated into popular and unpopular beliefs. The popular ones are likely those you see being promoted on social media and thanks to years of advocacy, are usually morally correct (in accordance to basic rights and freedoms).
This would mean that in regards to social justice, unpopular opinions are thoughts that contradict what is morally right. So what do we do? We condemn these individuals. After that, we consider playing the advocate.
Now you’ve entered dangerous territory. This could be a wonderful opportunity for an enlightening discussion or your one-way ticket into argumentative hell. Once again, you’re left angry, drained and defeated in your abilities as an activist. You had to have done something wrong, right?
When someone enters an argument with no intention of losing, every attempt to change their views only functions to further solidify their intolerance for new ideas.
You may have concrete facts and statistics to back up your point but that doesn’t matter. They seem to react to arguments in a way that continues to consolidate their own stance.
In other words, some people argue for the sake of arguing. You may have seen this through in-person interactions around campus or, more commonly, through comment sections on social media. Researchers have found that this is done quite often as a tool to provoke others into an angry response. People who do this may have a subconscious need for power, which is linked to high testosterone levels (shocker).
So why do we keep trying to fill the role as an advocate? Like I mentioned earlier, social media is a major catalyst for spreading information and raising awareness on issues, so it only seems fitting that we do the same through our everyday interactions.
It’s definitely the right idea, but perhaps the wrong execution.
Being careful about who you choose to share your insights with is just as important as putting in the effort to share them.
Let’s circle back to that one-way ticket. Despite your good-willed intentions to offer education, not everyone is willing to give up their seat. Some just enjoy watching the plane go down. Whether they even genuinely liked their seat in the first place is another question.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should give up in your intentions for social justice awareness and education. Sharing your thoughts with open-minded individuals can invoke meaningful and civil conversations where both parties can better understand the stance of the other.
If you find that it's not the case, simply direct the individual to resources they can look into if they’re interested. That’s it. Engaging in arguments with such individuals will not only fail to achieve what you’re after but give into their desire for entertainment through argumentation.
I’m open to discussions if you’d like to change my mind.