Arguing vs. Debating: Students Take to Social Media to Express Controversy

November 5, 2014

Gay marriage, the nation’s education system, abortion, marijuana, politics: the topics that start debates and divide people into groups based on their beliefs.

On social media, more students and young people are delving into discussions on these topics and many others. While some conversations may seem civil, others have turned disrespectful, testing the borders between arguing and debating, defending and bullying.

According to junior Kai Millner, there is more logic and order to debating, while arguing is more emotional. “[With] arguing, there’s a considerably less chance that you’ll get some sort of resolution,” Millner said.

Millner is among the growing number of students at Albemarle who form strong opinions on the world and are ready to share and stand for their beliefs. “When I see something that’s factually incorrect or the opinion is based off of something that’s generally untrue, then I sort of feel the need to call them out on it, just so they at least know that their rationale is incorrect,” Millner said.

When students are voicing their opinions on social media, Millner says there are different ways to fight for your stance. “There are people who use 100 percent logic, like numbers and statistics. Then there are people who use things throughout history to back up or give reasoning for what we’re doing now,” Millner said.

But it’s when students take it a step further that the course of a debate can turn harsh and critical of a person’s character.

“It’s not disrespectful until someone says something rude about you because of what you feel on that subject, or says your opinion doesn’t matter and that their’s is better, and tries to overrule you, and try to not make you believe what you believe,” sophomore Alexis Logan said.

Several weeks ago, Logan posted on Facebook her disapproval of Virginia’s decision to legalize gay marriage. Within a day, she received over 450 comments “and people started putting words in my mouth, saying that I hated gay people, but really I was just against what Virginia decided,” Logan said.

“Walking through the breezeway people would look over and stare and point and laugh. People would come up to me and try to joke about it, asking me my views on gay marriage and stuff. Lots of subtweets and stuff about it, I knew they were about me,” Logan said.

Even though comments and judgements escalated online, some feel that this kind of a response should be expected from such a controversial topic.

“If you have something to say, go ahead and say it. It’s your right. However, if you are going to throw out a very controversial viewpoint, you better be ready for the backlash,” junior Arianna DeCorte said. “It’s just common social media smarts.”

Co-president of Stop One Save One senior Lauren Kohler has a different opinion when it comes to students’ behavior online.

“I think that with everything revolved around social media, people don’t know how to interact face to face. A lot of the comments that people are making, they wouldn’t make if they were sitting right across from [that person],” Kohler said. “I know that social media should be a place to voice your opinions, but if they think it’s going to affect someone else, in some way, even if it’s not directly attacking them, I don’t think they should post it.”

Either way, Milner points out that “fact based” online debates offer unique opportunities. “I think that it’s cool because you kind of get more time to have a more researched and intelligent response,” Millner said.

But there are still even greater lessons to learn from others through discussion. “I don’t think you necessarily need to make a big deal about it like I do, but I do think you should at least strive to be informed, at least for the purpose of being aware in the world. It’s important as we grown older and become adults, it’s definitely something you need to be able to do,” Millner said. “Even with people I don’t agree with, I still get to see another perspective in the world which is pretty interesting and pretty cool.”

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