How to argue on the Internet

Rule #1:

Do not argue on the internet, unless you absolutely have to, or unless you know your opponent personally. (or unless you are a troll).

Why? Because:

  1. Unless you know your opponent personally, you will be trying to prove your point to a stranger you probably won't ever meet. In general, no matter whether you win or lose, nothing will change.
  2. Writing takes time. A lot of time. Good, cold-blooded, intelligent argument, supported by research (or at least by the Google search) might take from 30 minutes to a few hours to finish, even if you are typing 400 characters per second. In general, your time isn't worth the result - you in most cases you won't get satisfaction, even if you "win". Also, eventually someone else will join the discussion without reading your arguments first. So it will be a waste of time.
  3. Arguing sometimes takes emotions. If discussion becomes "heated", you might start to feel angry, etc. This also isn't worth the result.

Exceptions from rule:
It makes sense to argue, if one of following conditions applies:

  1. Your life is directly affected by result of argument.
  2. You have warranty that your opponent(s) is sane, is not a troll, and can provide good arguments.
  3. You truly enjoy the process.

Of course, it is easy to say "do not argue", but how to deal with annoying/insane arguments? Here goes

Rule #2

Add "I think" ("He/She thinks") in front of opponent's arguments before reading them.


Because every argument on the Internet is an opinion. However, people very frequently forget to mention (by adding "IMHO") that what they write is merely their opinion. And some unique individuals will truly believe that what they think is some kind of absolute truth. The problem is that when you see something outrageous that doesn't fit what you know/believe in, and this thing presented as a fact (or some kind of absolute truth), your brain (mine, at least) for some reason wants to prove that your point of view is right, and this argument is not. However, for some reason, opinions of other people are easier to dismiss/ignore than something that is presented as a fact.

How to use it (example):

You log into forum. The user XYZ posted a message saying (keep in mind, this is just an example) "The universe was created by a big purple pipe-smoking rabbit with a pitchfork!" Now, it doesn't fit your religious beliefs and makes you enraged (keep in mind, it is still an example). Before starting a flamewar, add "I think that" in front of original sentence, and read it again. Now the message turns into "I think that the universe was created by a big purple pipe-smoking rabbit with a pitchfork!". Now for some reason it doesn't feel enraging, because If this dude thinks so, it is his problem with his head, opinion of some random dude (you never met) doesn't matter for you, and he will not be able to provide interesting discussion anyway. So you ignore this guy, and move on instead of wasting next hours in flamewar.

Rule #3

Avoid discussions about religion at all costs

Why? Because:

Faith frequently blinds people, and makes them think they are right affects both atheists and believers) and their opponents are not. There are very few(less than 1% of population, I think) people that can easily analyze/and change their beliefs when they are trying to prove they are right. During my life I never saw any religious that didn't end in flamewar. I also don't remember anyone in such discussion ever convincing someone else. So, in general, it will be a waste of time (unless you are troll, of course). Of course, there are always nice people that calmly follow their religion (or atheism) and don't bother anyone. However they normally don't have a need to participate in discussions about religion.

Rule #4

Unless you are dealing with science, any opinion (including yours) can be wrong and is not a universal truth Best applied to discussions about religion, in case you skipped Rule #3.

Why? Because:

Imagine that you live in a city and know that population of your town is 5000000. The problem here is that you do not know, but believe that population is around 5000000 people. This is because information about size of population was given to you by some kind of authority you trust(which is supposed to provide correct information), and you cannot really verify number of people yourself. If this authority gave you invalid information, your knowledge about city population will be invalid. The problem here is that nearly everything you know comes from some kind of trusted authority. Perhaps you never been to South Pole, but you believe that it exists, because someone told you so. The bigger problem is that first trusted authorities you use are your senses. So if you think about it, entire world around you could be an illusion or result of your imagination, without any way to be absolutely sure that anything besides you is real (that's where "Cogito ergo sum" comes from). If we skip philosophy part, and return to simpler terms, this means that both you and your opponent most likely have incomplete or invalid information about the subject. For example, you or your opponent may refer to online resource that is not guaranteed to have valid information, and so on. Yes, it is possible to at least try to make sure that your information is valid, and trace/verify all sources you are using, but people rarely do it. So it makes sense to keep in mind that anyone can be wrong. And if you want to make things more fun, add Murphy's law to that ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."), which will mean that in any discussion is probably wrong at one place or another.

Rule #5

Remember that you don't have to agree with someone.

Why? Because:

There are many people in the world, and they all have different opinions, believe in different things, follow different religions, etc. And there is no absolute, universal truth, at least it isn't easily accessible. It is not possible make everyone agree, and it is not necessary. It makes sense to argue in situation when something serious depends on result - life of millions, perhaps. Clearly most Internet arguments and flamewars doesn't qualify as such situations, so participating in them is nearly always a waste of time (well, unless you are a troll and enjoy provoking other people). In most cases it is perfectly fine to disagree with anyone, as long as your position looks valid to yourself. And it makes sense to ignore "incorrect" opinions of other people, unless your life (or life or friends, relatives, etc) is directly affected by them. It makes sense, because people
don't like being told that they are wrong, proving something to someone takes time, and doesn't always provide useful result.

End of article.

Hope this helps someone.