When to Walk Away From a Social Media Argument

Your blood begins to boil. Your heart starts to race nearly as fast as your mind. You wring your hands in time with the obscenities that tumble out of your mouth. The feeling of being embroiled in a social media argument is an all too familiar barrel of fun for the technologically savvy, but it doesn’t have to be.

Face-to-face arguments can surely shake us to the core, but there is something about the nature of online altercations that seems to cause a prolonged sense of unease. We might come back to a post or a tweet later and relive our upset, or our adversary might not respond until hours or days later—perhaps after we’ve already cooled down. The semi-anonymity of internet-based disputes can bring out a certain ugliness in others, as well, sometimes putting us at risk of being harassed or even doxxed.

So how can we get our point across without completely losing our heads? Communicating online is a nuanced practice and there are certainly ways to be effective, yet sometimes the best answer is to walk away. Here are some instances in which it is best to log off and move onto something else:

The argument simply isn’t worth it.

Whether the back-and-forth is “worth” continuing is always going to be a subjective decision. The key is to evaluate how important the issue is to you—or for the greater good—before committing yourself to an argument that takes you to an unhealthy place.

Your mental health is suffering.

If you are agonizing over a disagreement hours later, start losing sleep or feel unsettled to the point of being out of control, it’s time to step down and practice some self-care. For issues of especially huge importance to us, this is easier said than done. Yet, we must remind ourselves that we are no good to our cause if we are completely worn down.

If the other person starts being abusive, this is also grounds for walking away—no matter if the person is a friend, family or perfect stranger. No one deserves to be treated in such a way and once this line is crossed, it is clear the abusive party has dug their heels into the ground. Outline your boundaries beforehand, if possible, so you can see these red flags for what they are and get out of dodge.

The argument is triggering someone else.

It is also essential to be aware how public the argument is and who is exposed to it. Taking over a friend’s emotionally sensitive post to engage with a bully won’t do your friend any good. Nor will posting articles, videos, memes or images that may traumatize anyone who scrolls by, even if it supports your point of view. This might not be a problem if the feud is about who is the best contestant on The Voice, but if someone’s tone deaf #AllLivesMatter comment balloons into a clash over systemic racism in the U.S., remain empathic of who can see what everyone is posting and consider if it would be harmful for them to witness.

There are other things you can do to affect change.

If you belong to a dominant group and are engaged in a heated discussion over the rights or experiences of an oppressed group, it is a luxury to be able to walk away and wash your hands of the exchange. This is a part of being privileged. This does not mean, however, that you must plow forward at the expense of your wellbeing. If you’ve hit a brick wall and need to pull out of an interaction, consider how to utilize the steam you have left to engage in alternative forms of advocacy.

A good place to start is to start searching for literature and videos created by people whose rights you are trying to defend. There you can start to build on ideas of how to best serve as an advocate or ally (be aware that this term is not always enthusiastically accepted, however). The temptation to reach out to someone directly might be strong, but understand that it can be an invasive and exhausting demand to guide a privileged person on how to do better after a lifetime of oppressive experiences.

For a collection of thoughts on being a part of the solution as a white person, check out this piece on being an “anti-racist ally” from Alternet. To get a grasp on how to support the Black community in the U.S. and the idea that yes, their lives matter, take a look at this piece from Awesomely Luvvie. And, to make sure you are taking care of your feminist self, jump on over to this helpful piece at Everyday Feminism.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

104 comments

Sonia M
Sonia Mabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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George L
George L10 months ago

ty

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Nang Hai C
Nang Hai C10 months ago

Thank you.

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David C
David C11 months ago

thanks

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Beth M
Beth M11 months ago

ty

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Beth M
Beth M11 months ago

ty

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Beth M
Beth M11 months ago

ty

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Beth M
Beth M11 months ago

ty

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