I enjoy talking to people over the internet. But it occurred to me, this is a relatively new mode of communication. Where we can type out a comment, and then, almost instantly, any stranger with access to a computer can read and comment on what you’ve just said. So I guess we’re all just kind of learning how to use this new technology this on the fly.
Now my dialogues with people on the internet often follow a naturally progression (or regression): They start out as 1.) discussions, then turn into 2.) debates, and then into 3.) arguments, and finally into 4.) insult-fests. And i can enjoy all four modes to varying degrees.
“Discussion” is probably my favorite mode (though there’s a lot to be said for “insult-fests,” too). Especially when the other person comes to the discussion in good faith. Neither party is trying to “win” anything. Its merely an “exchange of ideas.” And we usually both end up learning something new by being exposed to new points of view that we hadn’t previously considered.
“Debate” can be a livelier and more exciting mode. Because your point of view is actively being challenged. But this can be dynamic, like a hotly-contested athletic contest between two equals. The verbal equivalent of a fencing duel. And you can become sharper in your thinking from the exercise. But alas one’s opponent often doesn’t come to these exchanges in good faith. Their primary concern is to “win,” by fair or foul. Often they’re motivated by a need to show the world how “smart” they are (so naturally they don’t actually listen to what YOU’RE saying — they already know everything). Or else they’re urgently trying to advance some agenda that they think the world at large urgently needs. So any dirty little debating trick they employ is justified by the greater good of their agenda being advanced.
Which usually leads to the third mode, “argument.” By this point both parties are like radios: they transmit but don’t receive. And it usually just degenerates into who can shout the loudest and the longest (use all CAPITAL LETTERS if necessary).
Which leads to the final mode, the “insult-fest.” Which can also be enjoyable as we each access our inner Don Rickles. As well as serving the purpose of putting the whole exercise to a quick and merciful ending.