Tusinski: Stop arguing about politics online

Dylan Tusinski

 
A chalk message encouraging students to submit their ballots is pictured on the side of the Clark Building while a Colorado State University student checks his phone Nov. 5, 2018. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. The writer of this article was a member of Rams for Bernie during the events discussed.

Let’s rewind a little bit to a simpler, pre-pandemic time. It’s January 2020, and the presidential primaries are heating up. On campus, several political groups ramp up their operations as they do every four years. Some of the most prominent student organizations at Colorado State University at the time, Rams for Bernie, now Rams for Progress, and Students for Trump CSU, are out tabling for their respective candidates nearly every day. The groups hold antagonistic signs, give out merchandise and display flags on The Plaza in a series of not-so-subtle jabs at one another.

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While the groups’ dueling on campus was mostly restrained to The Plaza, the real arguments took place on their social media pages — namely, Instagram. 

Now, before we really dive into this, let me be upfront. At the time all of this was taking place, I was a member of Rams for Bernie. I chalked, canvassed and tabled for the group, and I saw all this dueling, both in-person and digitally, firsthand. When the group later transitioned to becoming Rams for Progress at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, I was elected president of the group, although that happened months after this current story took place.

That being said, as a member of the organization, I can tell you firsthand that Rams for Bernie was the more provocative of the two groups online. Our memes routinely poked fun at conservatives, Donald Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders’ primary opponents. The group tagged their posts with #Bernie2020, #activism, #MAGA and #Trump2020, too. The last two hashtags were intentionally meant to start some drama.

Online arguments are everywhere. They’re full of unnecessary vitriol, insults and straw man arguments that do nothing but leave all parties involved frustrated and tired.”

It worked. The provocative posts and memes our group shared received more likes than most of their other posts and raked in high numbers of comments. The posts blew up in outreach, in shares and in comments. The last one sounds good, but realistically, the comment sections weren’t full of support for Bernie. They were filled with arguments, boasting a mixture of conservatives and progressives butting heads. One post in particular garnered more attention than the others, filling up with dozens of vitriolic, slur-filled comments and arguments.

And yet, despite the online back-and-forth, both Bernie and Trump ended up losing. The comment chains, memes and snappy online discourse didn’t make much — if any — difference for either candidate.

If nothing was gained, why did any of it happen?

It’s pointless. Whether in this on-campus political example, Instagram basketball highlights or The Collegian comment sections, online arguments are everywhere. They’re full of unnecessary vitriol, insults and straw man arguments that do nothing but leave all parties involved frustrated and tired.

We’ve all done it. We go on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any other social media platform, see a comment we disagree with and get a little too heated. The exchange goes from being a couple comments to a huge thread with no end in sight. No one changes their mind, no one revises their position and no one concedes they lost.

This unnecessary digital fighting has real-world effects on our mental health. Online arguing increases compulsive behavior, lessens our kindness and keeps our minds racing with negative thoughts.

Maybe that’s just the nature of online arguments. Maybe when debates go digital and we don’t have to face the person we’re arguing, they become nastier and more drawn out. Why, then, are we drawn to online arguments like moths to a flame?

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All in all, online arguments just aren’t worth the time. Unless we all collectively agree to be open to critique, to be kind and to be willing to change our mind, there’s no need to spend your time mashing keys in an online comment section.

Dylan Tusinski can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.