Is Your Social Media Argument Effective?

Reported by Ana Imes

On Nov 28, the George Fox University (GFU) Speech and Debate Club hosted an event called “Winning Arguments on Social Media.” Shannon Scott, associate professor of Communications, gave a presentation on social media arguments, explaining the conditions under which arguments can be constructive and how to respectfully stand up for your ideas in an online setting.

Scott’s main advice was to “know your situation.” The first step to a good social media argument is deciding whether the internet is the best venue for the argument. “Know that when you can’t see the person, things can get ugly,” Scott warned.

Scott also explained the goals and rules of different types of arguments. “When personal, technical or public arguments overlap, the rules change,” he said. Making realistic goals and choosing a venue for your argument depends on why you want to have the argument in the first place.

The best venue for venting is different than the best platform for genuine intellectual debate. You may use Facebook when venting or even combatting misinformation, but your venue options for genuine intellectual debate are much more limited. Scott named reddit.com/r/changemyview and kialo.com as sites that promote a surprisingly constructive debate environment, and he encouraged the use of evidence that is “relevant, accurate, consistent [and] recent.”

Scott described politics as “the elephant in the room” in the context of social media arguments. He advised against online political arguments because “they are scientifically proven to not work.” He cited the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that the less people know, the more knowledgeable they think they are. This makes political online arguments especially ineffective as it is unclear how much the author actually knows versus how much they believe they know.

Speech and Debate Club meets every Wednesday night from 6-8:30 p.m. in Minthorn Hall. “You can participate as much or as little as you want,” Scott explained. Some participants simply come and observe, and some are more ambitious and go on to competitions at the regional or national level. Speech and Debate Club is a low-pressure environment in which participants gain skills to become more articulate, to think quickly, or to just have fun arguing.


Jessica DaughertyComment