You know those comment threads that go on for paragraph after paragraph? I’m trying to stop that.
Who wants to read a short essay each time I leave a comment?
So far, it’s worked out pretty well. When I was tempted to write a lot in the comments at someone’s blog, I just dropped in a link to a relevant article. As it turned out, the blogger already knew about that article and my perspective.
Conversation over. No need to duke things out. I’m glad he knows about my point of view. If it doesn’t work for him, a long, rambling blog comment won’t change his mind.
Despite this success, I somehow entered into a comment thread on Facebook that turned into a series of short essays by one particular person. Ironically, when I pointed out to the essayist that her long, rambling comments weren’t readable or convincing, she decided to leave a few more.
I think I know how she feels. It’s like you run into someone who HAS to be wrong. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde transformation where you just… can’t… stop… typing. On and on you type. It’s like drinking salt water—only leaving you thirsting to type more. “If I just put it right, he’ll change his mind!”
Of course the conversation topic was women in ministry.
This woman was a complementarian frustrated with the way egalitarian’s such as myself play fast and loose with the Bible.
She presented her “airtight” case based on several bits of scripture that are quite popular with complementarians.
I’d like to step back for a moment and consider what’s going on when someone like me or her starts to list out arguments online like this. There is a presumption that the other party doesn’t know something. Supplying the information in a convincing format will make the difference, right?
Well, I discovered that as awesome as my link may have been, that particular blogger wasn’t convinced. After recovering from the shock that someone… disagreed with me, I had to back off. Well, back off or throw more arguments into the comments, most likely wasting my time and his time.
And there’s something even bigger going on when we engage in these long, drawn out debates in our Facebook and blog comments. We’re throwing information at people we don’t know without any clue about their background, experiences, or knowledge.
This woman didn’t know it, but I’d spent years—and I mean years—studying everything I could find about those verses that she interpreted for me with such certainty. I’d interacted with the champions for her view. I’d also written long papers taking her line of reasoning to task.
Am I right? I think so, but hey, you never know. However, I think a lot of the frustration we hit in these online debates and discussions is the lack of knowledge about the other party. I’ll admit, it’s really frustrating to invest so much time (and money, hello seminary loans) into sorting through a really weighty issue and then being lectured as if I just needed someone to explain it to me on Facebook.
It will always be tough to sort through these tough debates if we don’t know who we’re talking to and what they know.
My suspicion is that I always assume I know more. Always. Things become complicated when the other party feels the same way.
Unless we know who we’re talking to, we’ll just continue dumping information onto others who don’t want it.
I will admit that my sarcastic side was tempted to write to this complementarian, “If I agree with you, does that I mean I’ve submitted to your authority and you’ve instructed a man?” I didn’t, but I thought about it—a lot.
Yeah, as I’ve ably demonstrated, most of the time our online debates don’t actually result in the sharing of useful information.