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On not engaging with people who are wrong on the internet

More and more often of late, I am finding that the best course of action when I run across someone or something online that I disagree with is to roll my eyes and move on.

Ten years ago, I would have responded with a comment on whatever platform I saw it in. Five years ago I would have written a post about it on my blog. A year or two ago, I would have maybe written something down in my notebook or typed it into Drafts and left it there.

These days, I mostly don’t do anything with this sort of thing. People are entitled to their opinions—crazy and wrong though those opinions may be—and in the 34 years that I have been on the Internet, I can count on probably one hand the numbers of times I have seen an online argument end in any sort of substantive understanding. I just don’t really see the point in engaging with this stuff.

I have heard the argument that even if you’re not going to persuade the person with whom you are engaging, there is still value in responding because other people will see your response and learn something. I am skeptical. My experience has been that the overwhelming majority of people consuming content on the internet do not read any of the discussion threads. To whatever extent they are looking, it is only to respond, not to understand.

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