Arguing on the internet is not worth the cost to your mental health

I checked the post history of a Reddit user who said they were feeling very triggered lately… and their post history was full of them arguing with various people in political subreddits. I thought: “well, that’s certainly not helping!” Getting involved in internet arguments is really really bad for your mental health!

Arguing is a trap – don’t fall in it. 99% of the time people won’t change their minds anyway. I mean, have you ever seen it happen? I haven’t, and I was the admin of a forum for 16 years. In over 500k posts and thousands of dramatic arguments, not a single person changed their mind as a result of being “beaten” in an argument. It’s just not worth it – don’t waste your energy.

Think about why you feel the need to get involved and prove that dumb person wrong. Why do you need to do that? What unmet need will arguing with that person meet for you?

Also, are you sure that person isn’t actually a narcissistic troll who gets a kick out of making you frustrated? My forum was full of those. They’re very common, and they’re very attracted to kind, empathic people who want the world to be a better place than it is.

Sometimes people play what they like to call “Devil’s Advocate”, but really, most of the time they’re actually just trolling because they’re narcissists and they get a kick out of making people frustrated.

Also, there’s really no such thing as “debate”. It’s just a fancy way to sugar-coat the fact that it’s actually arguing.

My forum admin story

I was the admin of a forum for about 16 years. It had over 500k posts at the end of its life, and more than 7k members.

Initially it attracted empathic people similar to me, which was great. In the beginning it was a really awesome community of kind people.

But later it started attracting narcissists, because narcissists are attracted to empaths. At the time I didn’t know about this dynamic, and I didn’t know how to deal with them. Because there were one or two people who were initially troublemakers and then changed their ways (but not as a result of someone “beating them” in an argument – they changed because they were surrounded by nice people), because of this, I thought everyone could change… so I gave people too many chances, and I let them walk all over me.

I thought free speech was good, so there was a “pretty much anything goes” kind of policy there. I let people be verbally abusive towards me. I didn’t care what they said about me, but if they were unkind towards another member I’d tell them to stop.

There were SO many arguments over the years. So much drama. Some of it was entertaining, sure… but it was also very stressful. Looking back now, I think putting up with their shit was a weird way for me to self-harm.

The nice empathic people eventually left. Usually quietly, and without saying goodbye, although some of them did make a big “I’m leaving” announcement, which usually ended up being filled with arguments about how the forum “sucks now” and how we need to “fix it” but nobody ever knew how to do that. Of course they didn’t… when do people ever see themselves as a part of the problem? It’s always someone else’s fault, of course.

Eventually we were left with a forum full of mostly narcissists, and some of the people who were nicer initially even became jerks to fit in with the others. It was really sad.

What I wanted was a nice supportive community of kind people and I thought I could achieve it by only being kind to people, allowing 100% free speech, and never banning anyone… but that just doesn’t work. I thought I could inspire the harsher members to change and to become kinder.

Boundaries are essential, and that forum had zero boundaries, so the narcissists thrived there, and the smarter empaths who cared about their sanity left.

Eventually I just shut the whole thing down because it became obvious to me that having that forum active was doing more harm in the world than good. It was like a training ground for internet trolls, and not helping anyone who actually needed it. I didn’t know how to fix it.

If I had to redo the whole thing now, I’d definitely not bother with “free speech” at all, and I’d ban arguing entirely. If people disagree about things they have to talk about it using feeling words and Non-Violent Communication. No narcissist is going to want to do that.

But I don’t think I want to be the admin of a forum again anytime soon.

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