We live in the age of the internet troll. People tend to disconnect from reality completely when they are on their devices; we so rarely think about the fact that we are interacting with actual people when we are on social media, not just usernames. Thus, people do not think (or do not care) about watching what they say; we are apt to be nasty, rude and argumentative because we only care about ourselves and what’s happening on our side of the screen.

Therefore, we have seen the rise of a unique phenomenon: the online argument (or as some try to call it to make it sound prettier, an online ‘debate’). Usually, this is created when somebody posts something that another person disagrees with or finds offensive, and feel obligated to comment/reply to said post and let the original poster know EXACTLY what they think. Generally, this results in a back and forth comment war between the poster and the replier.

As a general rule of thumb, my advice is that you avoid online arguments. They are generally pointless and don’t get you anywhere. However, there are a few occasions when people are so pushy on your posts that you can’t help but respond, and every once in a while, having a back and forth with somebody on social media isn’t a bad idea (like when they post something factually incorrect that you point out, they’re degrading your character, or to make a very clear PR statement if you have a well followed account in order to point them out). So, for those rare occurrences when an online argument is inevitable, here are my few pointers on how to argue well.

Insults are not arguments.

Remember what I said about us forgetting that we’re talking to people and not just usernames? Yeah, insulting someone in order to try and make a point is one of the most obvious ways to do that. It signals that you don’t actually have any point to make or any facts to back your argument and that you are just arguing for the sake of arguing and being rude. Avoid insults. They make you sound stupid, are nasty and accomplish absolutely nothing.

Words have meanings.

Recently, somebody tweeted me a completely wrong definition of the word ‘racism’, and then got angry when I tweeted her the Merriam-Webster definition and told me to look at some scholarly articles to get the actual definition of the word. You can have an opinion on a word, but ultimately, words already have set definitions, so make sure you know what the words you’re trying to use actually mean.

Editorials and opinion articles are not evidence for your case.

Sure, you may agree with something written in an editorial or an opinion piece, but using them in an attempt to back your claim up? Not a good idea. They are based more on the author’s bias rather than actual fact, so they don’t really help you prove anything.

Realize the bias behind the resource you are using.

Sure, if you are a conservative like me, feel free to cite Conservative Review, but realize that the person you’re going back and forth with could knock that site out based on the fact that it is very biased. A couple of weeks ago, I was going back and forth with an Iowa State Representative who is a Democrat, urging her to vote to defund Planned Parenthood. I sent her some resources that explained the corruption in the organization.

She emailed me back and told me that because one of my resources was written by Republicans and she disagreed with something they wrote, that she thought my case was riddled with errors.

Thankfully, that email didn’t rattle me at all. I simply replied back and sent her link after link of nonpartisan sources that backed up exactly what I was saying, and told her that she needed to use her brain and think according to facts and not party lines (she didn’t email me back after that).

Use the resources that agree with your stance and back your claims up, but have backup sources that are middle ground to prove your point as well when someone questions your original sources.

Be kind, but have a backbone.

Realize the person on the receiving line of your comments is indeed a human who deserves Christlike love and kindness, and act accordingly. However, don’t let applying that reality mean you don’t say what needs to be said or that you lose your passion. Jesus was the perfect example of kindness with a backbone; absolutely loving, absolutely unmoving in his passion and stance. Follow his example.

There you have it folks. Avoid internet arguments when you can, but use these tips to handle them well when you can’t.