I had an interesting experience Friday debating politics with Jeff Jacoby and Howard Owens on Twitter. It was the usual: big versus small government, federal versus local, food stamps and the best way to help the poor, etc.
I thought we had a civil discussion, although it got a bit heated at times. Then others came in and were pretty disparaging of Jeff and Howard. And I realized what a difference it makes when you know someone in the real world, and how that changes the way you frame your online discussions. I know Jeff and Howard offline, and I also know they are as intelligent and well-read as I am, if not more so. Yes, I think they’re wrong on some issues, but I know they arrived at their positions honestly and that I’m not going to change their minds by shooting off 140-character rockets.
And it underscored the futility of getting into social-media battles with people you don’t know. It is a massive waste of time. Yes, talking politics with people we know is always a good idea. Listen and learn. Even if you don’t change your mind, you’ll understand more than you did before. And don’t bother fighting with strangers.
Speaking of online conversations … like many, I have found that discussions are often richer and more substantive on Facebook than anywhere else. So feel free to weigh in here.