I can’t even keep up with the number of twitter wars that keep sprouting up on a daily basis. Most of them include rehashing old arguments and arguing upon something till both sides are exhausted. Or starting up a new debate on some recent event.
I’m not one to engage in nonsensical arguments, although not all of them require me to sit back. If I have something to say I’ll post it on social media and retract back. I refuse to engage with people who seem to be arguing for the sake of it or who have senseless opinions in matters that don’t concern them.
I learnt a long time ago that arguing on social media isn’t going to change anyone’s opinions so I save my time and energy and sit back. Not everyone does that. And I’m not dragging anyone for engaging in a debate with people on Twitter. I’m just concerned that they’re wasting their time trying to change a stubborn person’s mind while also draining themselves of the energy they need.
The other day I stumbled upon a psychology article that talked about an effect which perfectly explained why it’s difficult or almost impossible to change someone’s mind on social media. And then I realized it’s completely unfair of me to keep this wonderful bit of advice away from you all. Also, with this I’m finally launching the Psychology space on my blog 🙂 Nothing makes me happier that this will be the first Psychology article on my blog!
Why Getting People To See Your Side on Social Media is Almost Impossible
Before we start, I may allude to twitter and the book community in the post but make no mistake, this is general advice for all social media platforms and real life as well.
So how it really starts is when you see a tweet about something that offends you or you think is plain stupid. Nevertheless, you try your best to explain the situation and your side of the debate to the other person but that just explodes in your own face.
Because guess what? Karen doesn’t want to listen.
We all make the mistake of thinking that if we can’t persuade the other person by presenting our own opinion we had better show them some facts or news reports and articles. Then they would get our point, right?
Let me introduce you all to something called the backfire effect.
In a perfect and fair world when people are shown evidence that challenges their pre-existing beliefs and ideas they would go through it and consider a change of heart. But instead, when presented with evidence that should cause them to doubt their beliefs, people usually reject these rational evidences and strengthen their support for their original beliefs.
In layman’s language, if I give you evidence of why what you believe is wrong you’ll only cling to your faulty beliefs more tightly.
This is a cognitive bias called the backfire effect.
Makes it much harder to change people’s minds right?
But why does this happen? When you challenge someone’s existing ideologies, especially on social media, they feel threatened and cornered. This rings especially true if you’re publicly tweeting or quote tweeting them for both your followers to view and comment upon. This relays a lot of negative emotions from your side and the other person simply goes into a defense mode. They refuse to process the information you provide them with and do their best to discredit your beliefs.
So now you see why you’re not able to change someone’s mind on the latest vampire book by quote tweeting them?
But the fact that the backfire effect exists strongly in our minds doesn’t mean that you can’t get people to change their minds. Here are a few of the ways in which you can reduce other people’s backfire effect.
- One way is to increase people’s awareness about this bias. That’s right, I’m doing my part right here. Also, whenever you’re trying to prove your point to someone just sit back for a moment and wonder if you are being affected by this bias as well. It works both ways!
- Let tempers cool down a little. It’s never a good idea to talk rationale when people are in the heat of the moment. Wait for the issue to subside a bit before trying to bring it up again.
- If possible, show them how believing in your opinions benefits them. Show someone how they can personally gain from doing what you advise or believing in you and they are much more likely to listen.
- Present people with new information in a non-confrontational manner. Others shouldn’t see you as a threat but as someone who’s trying to help. You can do this by chatting with them privately over messages rather than calling them out on their feeds. Or just be delicate with them. Ask more questions about what they believe because it feels less accusatory. It might help if you try establishing first that you can see where they’re coming from and then establish your point. Obviously this doesn’t work in every case. You can’t tell a racist person that you see where they’re coming from.
The nature of social media is quick and confrontational which is one reason I believe it’s almost impossible to get people to listen to you on social media. People form groups and take stances as a group, refusing to budge from them. Often they know that their own followers and group members support them and this just strengthens their opinions, which makes it very difficult to persuade them.
- Maybe give them some time? You can’t expect to give a person a lot of data about why their views are wrong and expect them to change immediately. Let them think over the whole thing for a while or a couple of days so that they truly understand it.
And if after all this they still don’t get it then just don’t waste your time over them. You’re better than this and deserve happiness 🙂
What do you think about the backfire bias affecting your judgement in an argument?
Did you know about the backfire effect?
Do you usually sit out during social media wars or engage in them? It’s okay if you choose to do the latter.
Do you think understanding this bias might help you in the future?