There are some things that we know to be true: The earth is round, we put a man on the moon, vaccines have no relationship to autism and climate change is real. At this point those are all facts; we have mountains of imperial, scientific proof of all of those things. But even though these things and many more have been established as factual, there are still many people who dispute them. These people are seemingly inconvincible by evidence, as the very nature of their belief requires them to ignore piles of scientific data and expert opinions.
Most of us have encountered these people at one time or another. They’re usually not hard to find; they’re the ones shouting about government conspiracies and wanting to ruin their lives and their kids’ lives by … not wanting their children to die of preventable diseases. We fight these people, we engage and we battle and we shout because we know we’re right, but it does nothing, because those people are also convinced that they’re correct. They simply lump everyone who says that they are wrong into the bucket of a conspiracy, because they’re right, so if someone says they’re not, that person is lying.
It is for this reason that I do not believe arguing with those kinds of people is a method of interaction that is likely to find success. It simply seems to reinforce the belief that the world is against them and that their view is unpopular because of some kind of conspiracy, not because they are factually incorrect. I believe it is much preferable to either give the information and the evidence showing that their opinion on say vaccines is incorrect, or simply to ignore the person. While I entirely understand the impulse to correct falsehoods, especially when those lies can harm other people, I believe that it is an unacceptable waste of time and resources that could be better spent in many other ways.
Many of these issues are things that have worldwide consequences. Anti-vaxxers endanger the lives of children and immuno-compromised people everywhere they go, and climate change deniers sit and watch the world burn around them. But the amount of resources and time that I see put toward arguing with these people every day is outrageous. The time and resources of good people should be dedicated to helping people, rather than engaging over and over in conflict that will rarely, if ever, have a positive conclusion.
Instead, I wish that the people who spend so much time arguing with a brick wall would instead put that time toward things that would help the issues they care about. Work on programs to help people impacted by climate change or talk to disabled people about how to make things more accessible rather than debating whether or not vaccines cause them to exist.
It often feels as though we see all the bad things in the world through social media. Everything is amplified; the cruelty, hatred and discrimination are rampant. It often feels as though we are mandated to engage with falsehoods wherever we find them, but we can’t. Repairing ideologies through social media is at best a prayer into the dark and at worst a waste of time because no one comes to social media to learn. They come to meet other people who agree with what they already believe, who support the theories and conclusions they’ve already made.
Instead of battling for every word, I wish people would focus on using their voices for good, on helping the people who need it, not just those saying that they need it. Words do nothing for people suffering the effects of climate change or for autistic people whose conditions are often argued to be a medical mistake. Getting baited into debate with people who are unwilling to care that they are wrong only harms, but taking steps forward to genuinely put your time toward helping disenfranchised minorities is something that can actually better people’s lives.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.