I listened to How to Disagree: A Beginner’s Guide to Having Better Arguments on BBC Radio 4 today. Amongst other things the programme featured a debating club at Birmingham Prison. The inmates were calm and rational in their discussions and were able to control their instincts to shout or get angry. One thing about the debate club that they liked was that sometimes they would be asked to argue for something that they were, in reality, totally against. In doing so they often learned a lot about the other side and it allowed them to reconsider their original point of view.
Until I started this blog a few weeks ago I had stayed away from Facebook and Twitter for a few years. I forgot what they are like. Endless comments exchanged between faceless others which almost always descend into name calling and casual racism. Social media is not a debate club, it has no rules. Yes, people can say what they think, but they don’t listen.
One of the most memorable points that the programme made was that when we debate we should assume that our opponent is exactly the same as us. Perhaps each time we try to debate with someone online we should take a minute to try to argue from their point of view and maybe that would bring us a bit closer together?