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The Art of Internet Debates

Updated on August 6, 2015

So you want to have a debate on the Internet, but you aren’t sure how? Debates here can be tricky because there really aren’t any rules. Formal debates are expected to have things like logic, facts, critical thinking, and “sources.” Not so on the Internet. Here, everything is ruled by the three O’s:

1) Opinions

2) Overblown Egos

3) Overalls (as in broad strokes/generalizations. Also pants.)

And while there aren’t any “rules” per say, here are some guidelines to help you survive.

1) Don’t Supply Any Sources

No one will read them and you’ll seem pretentious. In fact, limit your use of factual evidence in general. Like I said above, opinions rule the Internet. Providing cold, hard facts is pointless because no one will believe you anyway. So just stick to opinions. Just be careful how you word it because otherwise you’re going to have people whine that you are stating your opinions “like they are facts.” Speaking of which:

2) Know How to Tell Facts and Opinions Apart

Because some people missed that day in first grade when we learned how to tell apart facts and opinions, people are going to get offended if you don’t explicitly say something is your opinion. Not that it’s hard to tell the difference. Facts are objectively true. Opinions are not. For example:

Red is a primary color.

Red is the best color.

While any six year old could tell you that the second statement is an opinion, people on the Internet cannot. In order to avoid the accusation of “you’re stating your opinions like they are facts,” simply sprinkle everything you say with things like “I’m not sure but, I think, I believe, maybe this is true, in my opinion, etc.” The more the merrier! I really like saying “I feel” because it implies I haven’t actually thought about it at all.

3) Keep in mind different education levels

If you’re trying to have an intelligent debate and it just isn’t happening, the other person’s arguments are face palm worthy, keep in mind that the other person might be really young, or not as educated as you. Don’t expect the topic you discussed in class or with your colleagues to go as well on the Internet. It is very possible that the people you are conversing with just aren’t as knowledgeable on the subject as you. This could be because they are still young or uneducated on the subject. This is why I advise against debating topics you actually know a great deal about. (Remember what I said about posting sources?) This doesn’t apply if your knowledge is limited to personal experience. If that is the case, then have at it.

4) Criticize Arguments, not people

This really shouldn’t need to be said. Don’t insult people. Don’t attack anyone. You can tear arguments apart. You can criticize the subject matter, but you can’t make things personal for any reason. As soon as you do, you’ve lost the debate because it is obvious you have no real counter argument. You’re also being a jerk, which is reason enough to not do something.

5) When in doubt, bring up Hitler

A much classier way to end an argument once realizing you’ve lost is to mention Hitler. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about; find a way to bring Hitler into it, and you’re done. There is no coming back, no way to redeem or salvage the debate. Mention Hitler, and the debate is over.

I can’t guarantee any of these tips will work or that you will “win” any debates. But if you want to survive the Internet, these are worth keeping in mind.

Note: None of the above applies to YouTube comment sections. If you ever find yourself getting pulled into a debate there, reevaluate your life choices immediately.


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