We need to change the way we hold online discussons

I’ve been thinking about leaving Twitter, the app I’ve loved since 2020.

In the past 1.5 years, the #MarketingTwitter Community has brought me so much wisdom, advice, positivity and motivation. But as of late, each time I open the app, I see pointless arguments appear on my timeline. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s time for a timeline cleanse.

But I do need to get the this off my heart: We need to change the way we hold online discussions on Twitter.

Calling someone out for a mistake is good…

Everyone makes mistakes. In the end, “The best way to grow as a Marketer, is by trying out new things and being open to making mistakes,” Wise marketers on the bird app taught this to me, a perfectionist trying to be less perfectionist.

Mistakes — and dumb takes — happen frequently on Twitter. And yes, some takes and mistakes ere bad. Even terrible. Sometimes it looked like the mistakes were made by tone-deaf people who didn’t (want to) read the room. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t.  

Just like you have the right to make mistakes, everyone else has the right to call you out for the mistake you’ve made. In the end, you need to be aware of your wrongdoings, so that you can do better next time.

But I believe we’ve gone too far.

And oh boy, the most poorly-timed campaigns and the most tone-deaf takes have been called out. Rightfully so. But in my opinion, sometimes people really go too far when they call out others for their mistakes.

I’ve seen Tweeps insulting others. I’ve also seen “I hope you lose your job”-Tweets. And I also see endless, endless, endless (Yes — I really have to say this thrice) useless back-and-forth arguments that started last month and are still going.

Is this really how we solve issues online?

Rhetoric vs. Dialogue.

Back in 2018, I went to Canada for exchange. It was really cool, there literally were coyotes chilling on the University of Calgary campus. Go Dinos, by the way.

The most important thing I learned during my exchange, however, was the difference between rhetoric and dialogue. If I recall correctly, I followed a course called Rhetorical Communication in Online Environments. Not only were we taught how to persuade another person: we were also taught that sometimes it’s better to not persuade someone else, but to hold a back-and-forth dialogue, so that we can both learn.

You see, I don’t think that calling someone out for bad thoughts and behaviour is wrong. But too often I see a group of people in an argument trying to persuade one another, failing to do so, then becoming even more convinced of their own ‘good’ and someone else’s ‘bad.’

A weird and complex process, right? Yes, that’s why my brain hurts.

You can win rhetorical discussions

When you have an argument with someone else, you both try to persuade each other. You want to make the other person believe that you’re right, and the other person wants to make you believe that you’re wrong

There are three possible outcomes of the rhetorical discussion:

  1. You win, the other loses. You feel good, the other feels bad.
  2. You lose, the other wins. You feel bad, the other feels good
  3. The discussion doesn’t make any sense and you feel like you’ve both won.

So you can win a rhetorical discussion. Which means you can win arguments. And that’s great. Hooray, 1-0 me!  But what do you really gain from ‘winning’ an argument on Twitter?

You can answer this question yourself.

But you both can learn from constructive dialogue

I got to know Twitter as the platform that taught me how to be a better marketer and creator. In the end, I feel like the goal of #MarketingTwitter is to learn from one another, to network with other Marketers and to build friendships.

In my opinion, arguments don’t add any value to the online community. They result in mutes, blocks, people who see being blocked as an accomplishment and people feeling a sense of empowerment by blocking others.

Genuine, honest conversations do add value. They teach. With a sincere dialogue, we get to understand each other’s perspectives, values and behaviours. We get to understand why someone else thought it was a good idea to create this campaign or Tweet. And others get to understand why you think they’ve made a mistake, and what they could do to solve this mistake.

And I know it’s hard to hold a dialogue on Twitter. We don’t see and hear each other, and it’s difficult to capture our own and someone else’s thoughts in 280 characters. But it is possible. And  it’s more valuable to try to hold a constructive discussion instead of trying to prove the entire Twitter community that one single person is wrong.

And if we’re talking about dialogue, make it a 1-on-1 discussion. Jump into the DMs and behave decently. Or better, schedule a zoom-call.

I know — sometimes dialogue is impossible, but…

And yes, sometimes it’s impossible to hold a proper dialogue. Sometimes, people are so convinced of their own ideas, that it’s difficult to hold a thoughtful conversation that is beneficial to both.

If that happens, then you’ve found a great moment to use the mute button. Because why should you waste your energy on arguing with someone else when you could have a thoughtful conversation with someone who wants to learn?

So often, people on #MarketingTwitter voice the need for promoting new and fresh voices instead of focusing on the so-called ‘fortune-cookie Tweeters.’ I still haven’t seen the shift happen yet. I’d even argue that we’re moving into the opposite direction.

Don’t forget the following

In the end, we are just a bunch of Marketers who connected with each other during the COVID-19 pandemic — mainly as the result of one single Tweet. We’ve organized hundreds of thoughtful Space sessions, Twitter Chats and Zoom Calls — moments that helped me and thousands of others advance in their careers.

Seeing arguments definitely hasn’t taught me anything. They only make me want to mute people, delete Twitter, and read a book.