It was so tempting to hit the send button.
But I knew if I did, I’d regret it, because it’s nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion on Twitter.
The other night, I read what I felt was possibly one of the most asinine statements I’ve read on Twitter in at least two or three days.[1. I’m trying to be careful not to overstate things. After all, there’s always something to get outraged about on the Internet.] I’ll spare you the details because, well, I don’t want to fuel anyone else’s irritation.
When I read the comment, though, I had a lot of things I could have said. And it was really tempting to do so. But I didn’t, because those words would have been wasted.
After all, when you get in a debate on Twitter, no one wins. Opinions are rarely changed. It’s too easy to wind up frustrated.[2. As anyone who’s been caught in an argument with RHE knows all too well.]
But just because you can rarely have a meaningful discussion on Twitter, does it mean that you can’t have one around something said there? On the contrary. There are many profitable discussions to be had when approached in this fashion. So how do you do it?
Here are three ways I recommend:
1. Ask for clarification, publicly or privately. Invite an opportunity to clarify. This isn’t a debate, just saying, “can you explain what you mean by that?” If this is done publicly, and you receive a response, simply say, “thanks,” since meaningful discussion is challenging with 140 characters. Privately sometimes gives you a bit more room for conversation, since, particularly if it is someone you may know from outside the Internet, and can often be far more fruitful.
For example, I had someone contact me in this fashion last week about something I wrote, not in a tweet, but in an article. I wound up writing something that came across extremely negative. The private discussion gave me the opportunity to work through with those who contacted me what I intended by my comments, and re-phrase them in a more helpful fashion. But if this person hadn’t taken the step of contacting me, I’d have been worse off for it.
2. Open up discussion on a more meaningful platform. Maybe write a blog post about it. Invite discussion with the person whose message got your back up. The goal here is to be charitable, so you may want to avoid titles like “37 reasons why so-and-so is a ninny.”
3. Stop following people who say ridiculous things. Make sure you’re using common sense when choosing who to follow. If you’re following people who are consistently making you angry (and not in a convicted way), use the magical unfollow button. It will breathe new life into your Twitter experience, and you’ll be a better person for it.
What about you: how would you recommend avoiding futile discussions on Twitter and creating healthy ones instead?