If you haven’t seen the movie “La La Land”, there is a powerful scene at a jazz club where Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is explaining the essence of jazz and why it is exciting and wonderful, yet misunderstood. Then he heartbreakingly utters that jazz is dying and relents that the world is saying, “Let it die.” I thoroughly related to those words because various arts in America are dying, and not just jazz. Music as a whole. Photography. Film. Literature.

You may be thinking that I couldn’t be further off because music and movies are killing it, financially-speaking. This is true, but financial gains have never equated to artistic success. Of course, this is referencing art in its purest terms; sort of how Gosling’s character was defining jazz. These artistic forms have been progressively digressed by the terms and conditions set forth by the lawyers and producers outlining the requirements of such art forms. It also does not help that several of these mediums have eliminated the need for artistry by the artist themselves (music and auto-tune; photography and Photoshop; film and CGI; literature and trends, such as vampires, erotica, and teen dystopia).

The Art of Debating

Another art form, which I feel is possibly the most important (except for writing, since it is all-inclusive), is debate. The reason for its digression, or death (depending on how far you wish to go with it), can easily be levied against the rise of social media. Even I have levied that claim until recently. But it is not social media that is the problem. Well, at least not the root problem. The problem is the social media user. That person in the profile picture.

As I mentioned in my previous post, regarding a recent online debate I instigated, the need to comment without considering a multitude of things (facts, tone, and reprisal) is the basis of our problem. In fact, social media is a marvelous gift, if we would simply utilize it wisely. We could learn so much from each other and about ourselves if we would just take our time in responding.

It is true that we act as if there was a timer attached to the comment section and when the time runs out, so goes our opportunity to respond in kind and with some measure of wisdom, knowledge, and integrity. But we decide to respond in haste, and in doing so, abandon the opportunity to garner or disseminate wisdom and knowledge, therefore leaving integrity out of the equation.

Online Research and the Gift of Time

We have so much knowledge at our fingertips. It is no longer absolutely necessary to assemble a library collection. We have answers that are presented to us in milliseconds via search engines, such as Google. I utilize Google all the time when engaged in online debate, especially when it comes to things that are physical, rather than metaphysical. History, health, Who is?, Where is?, the environment, the Constitution, religions, statistics, research articles, and scientific facts and opinions. It is all there. Although, simply clicking on a search result (even the top one) does not make that source Gospel.

Reading one article or one opinion does not typically cover every aspect. There are sides to every story, especially if it is a story. This is common within the political spectrum, and believing that a single article, regardless of the elite status of the publication, is telling the story from all four corners is risky. Rest assured, we’ve all fallen for it, including myself. But just because people do it all the time doesn’t mean we should be keep doing it. Right? That would be argumentum ad antiquitatem. That Latin description will be discussed in my upcoming post later this week.

The fact is social media has provided us the gift of time to respond. We can see an issue, read the post and the responses, and then study the issue for better answers and then respond accordingly. Too often, however, we get caught up in the conversation (despite people being miles away from each – at times on the other side of the world) and feel the need to respond without thinking our answer through. Facebook itself urges us to take our time and think about our response, which is why there is the edit option so you can go back and help your answer make sense.

Don’t Be Lazy With Your Response

Too often, we would prefer to take the easy way out by name calling, being belligerent, or stating our opinions as facts. At the end of the day, though, is that really the easy way out? No, it isn’t, because you learn nothing and those who read what you say think that you have no knowledge of the subject and simply like to be heard for the sake of being heard.

I suggest not adding your two cents if it only truly adds up to no more than two cents. If you prefer inflammatory speech, then there is nothing I can do to keep you from adding fuel to the many fires blazing online. But if you prefer to hold your dignity intact and provide good information, then think thoroughly, respond slowly, and speak wisely. Consider this, however; regardless of how thought-out your response and how much good and accurate information you provide, some people will still take issue because, as we see in most politicians, the truth is not in them.

Use the Gift; Apply the Rules

The question is how do we best use the gift of social media to better ourselves rather than verbally destroy each other, which only induces the preference toward individual isolationism or group sectionalism. I truly believe the only method to achieving this is by learning, understanding, and abiding by the rules of debate set before us. They may be difficult to memorize and I would be a liar if I said I had them memorized. What these rules really come down to, though, is two human necessities: truth and integrity. If you abide by those two ideals as a means of personal necessity and a necessity for your fellow man, then you will have unwittingly followed these debate rules.

For those who may question how this is done, I am going to go over each rule of debate, which are called logical fallacies, in my upcoming post. These are very important, and I hope you take the time to read them, study them, and then abide by them regardless if your next serious conversation takes place online, in a group, or during a one-on-one conversation.

Truly, debate is an art form that doesn’t have to die. If we can resist the need for instant gratification, which would be gratifying our own desire to lash out or be in the conversation, then we can all begin to assert ourselves at a much higher level and you would be greatly surprised at how much you will learn. The world may be saying, “Let it die.” I say, “Let it live.”