Avoid Foolish And Stupid Arguments: A Simple Plan For One Small Corner Of Social Media

Ancient biblical wisdom that is more relevant to the ills of social media than the latest tech blog.

On February 1, 2019, I put this on Twitter:


Gary Garcia read this verse for our leaders this week. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Tim 2:23)

I may Tweet it every day from now on. For my own sake as much as others.

Seriously.

Every. Single. Day.


Then I did. And I have.

I’ve put that verse on Twitter with no commentary other than a daily tally for 1346 days and counting.

Every day it gets liked and retweeted more than anything else I tweet. And I regularly get comments on it, too.

Here are just a few of the responses:

  • When I started following you I wondered why this was a daily post of yours. Then…I looked around at social media. “Oh…now that makes sense.”
  • Almost every time I come on Twitter, I see some stupid argument that somehow still shocks me, and then I see your daily reminder. Genuinely, thank you!
  • Was gonna send an angry tweet, then I saw your daily message. So I didn’t. Thanks. I think. 😉
  • Just so you know – your constant “avoid foolish arguments” post reminded me to delete something. Thanks brother.
  • Several times I’ve found myself deleting instead of tweeting because I remember that I just hit the like button on this post and I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
  • I see this almost every day, and I need it, almost every time.
  • Thank you for continuing to tweet this. I have to tune in to it daily.
  • Every day for almost 2 years I have seen this tweet. I can’t tell you how much trouble it has saved me. And anxiety. Create healthy boundaries for yourselves, Family. Some conversations aren’t worth your time, energy or even acknowledgement. Thank you.

What’s happening here? Why does it seem like everyone is having such a hard time behaving ourselves online?

I don’t think the internet is changing us as much as it's accelerating and amplifying tendencies that have always been in us. Click To Tweet

Some of it has to do with the fact that this is still relatively new technology. The internet is changing us in ways that we have yet to begin to understand. Actually, I don’t think the internet is changing us as much as it’s accelerating and amplifying tendencies that have always been in us.

Everyone has a giant megaphone now, and we don’t know how to behave when our words have the potential for that kind of immediate impact.

And ministry is no exception. We think we’re using technology. And we should. But let’s not be so naïve to think it’s not also using us.

How Do I Know If It’s Foolish And Stupid?

The most frequent question I get is, “but how do I know if an argument is foolish and stupid?” For that, I have two simple responses.

The first comes from the verse itself. As Paul told Timothy, foolish and stupid arguments don’t produce answers, reconciliation, or understanding, they produce quarrels. Therefore, any argument that produces quarrels instead of clear resolutions is a foolish and stupid one.

Foolish and stupid arguments don’t produce answers, reconciliation, or understanding, they produce quarrels. Therefore, any argument that produces quarrels instead of clear resolutions is a foolish and stupid one. Click To Tweet

My second response is this. Come on! You know when it’s a foolish and stupid argument! We all know! Ninety-nine out of one hundred times it’s obvious whether an argument is valid and worth engaging in, or is triggering our emotions and trolling us. If you can’t make that distinction, you shouldn’t go on the internet – or to family Thanksgiving dinners. Just walk away. Or keep scrolling. Or turn off your device and read a book.

Yes it’s that simple. Avoid them.

Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit.

What About Arguments That Aren’t Foolish And Stupid?

“But what about valid arguments?” some people occasionally ask me. “Are you saying I shouldn’t stand up for what I believe in? Should I just let falsehoods go unanswered?”

To that I have two responses, as well.

First, I’m not saying anything about foolish and stupid arguments (he says, passive-aggressively). All I’ve done is repeatedly post a Bible verse about foolish and stupid arguments. If you have an argument with that advice, your dispute is not with me. But, since I’m attempting to follow this verse myself, I won’t pursue this line any further.

Arguing with people online may be the most effective way to speak to the largest possible audience ever, but it’s the least effective way to change someone’s mind – ever. Click To Tweet

Second, should you stand up for what you believe in? Of course. But here’s the thing about that. Arguing with people online may be the most effective way to speak to the largest possible audience ever, but it’s the least effective way to change someone’s mind – ever. So no, you don’t have to let online falsehoods go unanswered, but I highly recommend it.

Social media can be a great place to find old friends, make new ones, celebrate common interests, and share recipes. But it’s a terrible, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad place to engage in serious arguments over important subjects.

Arguing online never convinces people away from their strongly-held beliefs. Never. So if you’re engaging in an argument on social media, it is overwhelmingly likely to lead to quarrels, not resolutions. By definition, this makes any and every argument on social media a foolish and stupid one.

What Now?

So why am I doing this? If there’s no way to argue people over to my side on social media, why have I spent over three-and-a-half years putting this daily reminder on Twitter with no end in sight?

Because in this verse, Paul wasn’t making an argument. He was giving Timothy (and us) a caution and recommendation. When we read it we are hearing wisdom from before the internet, before phones, even about 1800 years before Michael Faraday (not Ben Franklin) showed the world how to harness electricity in a useful way (1831).

But that ancient biblical wisdom is more relevant to the ills of social media than anything written in the latest tech blog. And, based on the regular responses I receive (as seen above), it is having some impact on at least a few people.

So, I’ll keep doing it. If you’re on Twitter, follow me and retweet it with us.

Then, let this simple verse remind us all to use social media well, avoid the time- and soul-sucking parts of it, and shine a little light in what can otherwise be a very dark place.


For more on this subject, read my follow-up article, Every Idle Word: 8 Cautions For Ministers (& Others) On Social Media.


(Photo by Minda Haas Kuhlmann | Flickr)

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