Have you ever expressed an opinion or had an argument with someone on social media? Have you ever dared to use your knowledge to debunk somebody’s fragile worldview? I certainly have. Eventually, there comes a point in any of these online discussions when the person on the other side demands proof of your claims.
If you base your views in reality, it’s really hard to argue online. I advise against it all together, but sometimes even I can’t help myself when someone makes outrageous claims. It’s difficult because you start to notice that people are fucking stupid. The source of their stupidity is often ignorance, but still they defend their uneducated opinions like their life depends on it. It often does, metaphorically speaking. People often get attached to their opinions and views so much that they become WHO they are and not just what they believe. If you question their beliefs, you question their egos. That’s why they are almost never willing to change their mind even when presented with clear evidence that they’re wrong. Losing an argument, letting go of an opinion is like losing some part of themselves. That’s why they show signs of discomfort and often get aggressive when their beliefs are doubted by someone. It’s their ego that’s being dismantled not their opinion. We’re all guilty of it, including me. The smartest people in this world hold some kind of beliefs they are not ready to let go of simply because of their attachment to them and because they allowed these beliefs to define who they are. I’ve seen some otherwise intelligent people get swallowed and consumed by one ideology or the other. Many of them are aware of the hypnotizing power of ideologies and “the madness of crowds”, but even they can’t resist this downward pull from the brain hungry zombies. This happens on both left and right and the person can only see their own gullibility and naiveness in hindsight when one day they look back with embarrassment at how easily they were seduced by the slogans.
More often than not, people subscribe to certain beliefs simply because they are held hostage by their ideology. If you’re on the Left, you very likely are a feminist who believes in climate change, that there are more than two genders, that capitalism is evil, and abortion is a human right. If you’re on the Right, you oppose all of these ideas, often relying on religion as your moral compass. You believe in free speech and the right to own a gun, while the left challenges those rights. Both sides clash on the field of battle – Twitter – and are ready to defend their beliefs, which aren’t really their beliefs at all. They are beliefs that are part of the package of the group they have signed up to. Before they know it, they protect ideas they know very little about but feel so deeply connected to that they feel they must defend the honour of their group. They become the righteous warriors who slay dragons and fight evil forces of this world. They are determined to crash the enemy and are fuelled by the support, admiration, likes and retweets from their peers.
I was like this at one point. I remember when I joined a Twitter conversation about abortion. My mostly Right-Wing views (to arms of which I was pushed by the teachings of modern feminism) put me on the autopilot and I assumed the attacking position seeing the other side as my sworn enemies. The enemies in this case were pro-choice activists. At that point I saw the subject of abortion with a black and white filter. I was arguing like I knew the subject deeply even though I had never thought about it much or read anything about it. In other words, before “joining” the Right, I wasn’t that bothered about abortion. When I saw the tweets from pro-choice activists, I had to show them how wrong they were. I had to make sure they knew abortion was never alright. My keyboard was on fire, notifications about how much outrage I caused fed my self-righteous thirst for victory and I didn’t care how many snowflakes I triggered. Every person who disagreed with me, I managed to convince myself, proved me right. I was fighting for the right cause. I was the good guy.
Today, there is more grey area in my views on abortion. In my adopted views there was no room for exceptions. Later, I realised what my true beliefs were, and they’ve remained so to this day. I realise now that I don’t really care about it that much. In my opinion, pro choice people aren’t defending women’s reproductive rights but their rights to not take responsibility for their actions. Pro life activists aren’t fighting for unborn children but for the power of their ideology over others. Understand that I am talking about activists. Not everyone who has an opinion on the matter is an activist. I still think abortion is wrong in most cases, and if people aren’t willing to take responsibility for the consequences of sex, they should either use various forms of anticonception and accept the consequences of them or not have sex at all. I mean, the pill might fuck up your hormones, but at least you’re not killing babies, right? I wish both sides of the debate would be honest in their motivations and admit what they really care about – power and control on the right and being irresponsible and unaccountable on the left.
To sum this section up, if you ever find yourself feeling passionate about a belief system, ask yourself if you truly believe it or if it’s something that’s been forced upon you by your group. You don’t want anyone to be able to predict any of your views based on one or two of your opinions. For example, I am an atheist. Many atheists, especially those in public eye, are hard leftists. They are pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-COVID mandates during the pandemic and many more. If you predicted that I too held these views simply because I don’t believe in God, you’d be wrong. It shows that atheism hasn’t influenced my other views and values. Similarly, if you’re a feminist, you really don’t want me to accurately predict your stance on climate change, gun control and Trump – as these are all completely unrelated to feminism. If your views on the above match those of other feminists then congratulations – your mind has been corrupted by ideology.
Let’s talk about evidence now. As I’ve briefly described above, people have different reasons for believing what they believe and defending those beliefs. As mentioned at the beginning, some people will demand proof of your claims if what you’ve said to them shakes their worldview. They want to see the science. If you can’t produce it, they claim victory even if their own views are formed in their gut and not in a lab. The problem with this type of people is that they aren’t willing to do any heavy lifting (or reading in this case). They want you to give them a quick graph or a short article that proves you right. They don’t realise that the answers lie in thousands of book pages one’s had to go through to come to the conclusions one has come to. There is no single graph or a slide show that can spoon feed these people with information. These people don’t think, they react. Because they themselves often pull their views out of their ass, they think you do too, so you won’t be able to produce any evidence to prove what you’re saying is backed by science.
Let’s say I believed there was a high probability of the existence of intelligent life out there in the Universe. Someone – a deeply religious person perhaps, who believes God created life exclusively on Earth and no more than six thousand years ago, and the rest of the Universe is only for us to ponder and admire – would stand there and say, “Oh yeah, Mulder? Prove it!”. There is of course no way to prove it. But with basic understanding of what conditions need to be met for a planet to host alien life, and knowledge of evolution are, in my opinion, enough to look into the night sky and make an assumption. My “evidence” in this case would consist of at least one book on evolution and one on astronomy. It’s more than you can put in a tweet, and more than most people can handle.
In other words, there is no single proof for anything. Can I prove that God doesn’t exist? No, but I can tell you all about the human nature, our superstitious tendencies and thousands of gods that have been worshipped and forgotten throughout history, to show you that all gods are most likely invention of man to explain the unknown and cope with mortality. It doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but it shows that he probably doesn’t. I used to mock religious people, but as I got older, I’ve come to understand the value of religion and that, as long as it stays out of my bedroom or doesn’t fly planes into sky scrapers, it’s mostly harmless and it actually makes people happy. I used to attend a church service every Sunday for six months only to expose these people to the truth, but what I saw was probably the happiest bunch I have ever seen.
People will want proof, but they will not change their mind, because their belief system wasn’t built with evidence. It was handed to them by the group. The only proof they ever needed was how it made them feel. Unfortunately, you can’t convince feelings with reason. Feelings can often override reason, though. The bottom line is this – don’t argue online, form your own opinions, question the beliefs of your ingroup and educate yourself of what matters to you. Read books, listen to podcasts and live a life of meaning. Social media algorithms are out there to trigger you. That’s how they steal your time and attention. Don’t let them. You’re not changing anyone’s mind and you’re not making your life better. I was once arguing with someone on Instagram, eventually I clicked on their profile. It turned out to be a 17-year-old girl. I was twice her age. Twice her experiences and accumulated knowledge. There was no way I was opening her mind. You never know who the other person is, but it’s pretty dumb to argue with kids online. You’re on different levels and as an adult, you have the responsibility to be wiser and to set an example. We often forget that the avatar we see is another human being and allow ourselves to get carried away. We make assumptions about the person’s character and their morality. Social media brings the worst out of us and these online debates expose that. Don’t get triggered. Move on. You’ll be happier for it.