I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, "There is nothing to be gained from talking about politics on the Internet. Also, do you think anyone will be mad if I wear a tall hat to the theater?"
This proves two things. First of all, I should have paid closer attention in history class. Secondly, the idea that political discussion on the Internet is a waste of time is almost universally held. Thirdly, the fact that I know this and continue to talk politics online shows that I am incapable of doing what is in my own best interests. And fifth, I also should have paid closer attention in math class.
Well, I'm going to make up for it now by using a reductive proof to show that online politics is pointless. When you talk politics online, either you are talking to people who agree with you or disagree with you. If they already agree with you, there's nothing to say. If they disagree with you, then you have to try to convince them (hint: This won't work).
When you are trying to convince someone, it is either a friend or a stranger. (For my older readers, I should point out that the definition of "friend" on the Internet is different than in real life. For example, I have many "friends" on the Internet who, technically speaking, I have never met. I also have "friends" on the Internet who have spent time with me in person, which is a large reason why they try to avoid letting that happen again.)
If you are trying to convince a friend,
If you are trying to convince a stranger, you can either be calm and validate their position, or forcefully proclaim how wrong they are. If you are forceful and disrespect their position, they will ignore what you say, because nobody wants to hear a random stranger loudly accusing them of being wrong. If you are calm and support their position, they will ignore what you say because obviously if even people who disagree with them realize their position is valuable, it must be right.
So, we see that whenever you talk about politics online, you are either preaching to the choir or offending people, and either way you are probably being ignored and wasting time. And yet, if you are on Facebook, or other parts of the Internet, you will notice people keep doing it anyway. There's one guy that really makes me mad when he talks about politics online, and that's ... me.
I should know better. I don't mind making jokes about politics. But every time I get drawn into a discussion on Facebook or other forums, I either end up getting thumbs up from people who already agreed with me, offending people by explaining why their foolish beliefs are so foolish, or writing a long and nuanced post that is generally ignored.
So I think I'm going to try to avoid controversy for a while. Meanwhile, I hope you'll catch my new lecture series, "Why the Beatles were overrated and the Red Sox aren't worth watching."
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and should read more about Abraham Lincoln. His work (Seth's, not Lincoln's) appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.