I recently responded to a comment thread on a Facebook repost of a video about how a lot of things we really like in the United States have their underpinnings in Socialism. Putting aside whether we agree with its contents, I responded to a comment interaction that I saw.
A friend of the poster replied to the effect of "you should see Cuba... it's a wreck". And the poster said that she was not interested in debate. Rather she merely wanted to "point out the irony". And this is what sets me into motion because I thought her reply was also ironic.
Debate vs. Discussion
We only repost a video like this in order to provoke a response in the viewer. Ideally, we also want to start or advance an honest discussion about values and taboos. Now there is a huge difference between debate and discussion so let's draw the line between between them.
I recently heard "debate" described as a situation where two people present their ideas and, no matter what facts are presented, neither party will change their mind because a debate has a winner and a loser and to change your mind is to lose. Most debates, especially public ones, are about moving an audience, not the debaters.
A discussion, on the other hand, is not primarily concerned with whether an audience is swayed. The intention is connection or learning or entertainment. The participants in the discussion generally start by asking a question or listening with some curiosity. Because of the difference in the starting point and the intention, a discussion has the potential to be a rich exchange.
Back to Sharing to Provoke
Facebook is a good forum for sharing a video like this, which admonishes a person to challenge his or her own ideas about socialism. But I would admonish the people who share but don't want to debate to consider what we invite by "sharing to provoke".
I'm going to say something controversial here: Sharing a video in order to provoke a response is the first act of a debate.
Now we may honestly not want to engage in a back-and-forth debate, I mean, who would want that? It's exhausting. But if that's the case, isn't it also true that we only to hear our side of the debate? That doesn't seem intellectually honest or friendly.
Shouting into the Void
What kind of world would it be if we only ever shout our one-sided arguments into the void of social media?
It's hard to do discussions on Facebook at all, let alone well. I'm guilty as hell everytime I smack the share button without typing anything. I don't say what I found interesting and why. Time is short. Blah blah blah.
But I like to think I make up for it by my willingness to expand on my reasons for sharing after-the-fact and by attempting to draw out an interesting thought or perspective from friends whom respond in disagreement. This is how I attempt to turn useless debate into rich discussion.
Sometimes it works too.