In the 20 years since the internet age began, the online experience has evolved from simple connections, digital friendships, music sharing and games. It’s also evolved to include a plethora of debates, divisive commentary and no-holds-barred online flaming.
Gallaga says that he comes across techniques known as “whataboutisms” and “sealioning.” Whataboutism, Gallaga says, is when a commenter will challenge a person’s opinion by claiming their passion or outrage doesn’t encompass a broader problem.
“You say, ‘We should help the homeless’ and they say ‘What about the homeless in Syria?’ And they turn it around by saying ‘Why aren’t you being consistent,’” Gallaga says.
“Sealioning,” Gallaga says, is likened to “willful ignorance.” He says that when a user employs this technique, they challenge a person posting on social media to provide evidence supporting their claim. Then, he says, they continue to argue against the evidence, never fully accepting the claim as true.
Gallaga says that one of the more commonly known argument techniques is gaslighting, or debating the validity of someone’s reality.
“Not only are you trying to manipulate [someone] into agreeing with you, you’re trying to manipulate them into believing that their worldview is false. It’s some psychological warfare happening there,” Gallaga says.
Gallaga says that gaslighting is both a strategy to avoid using yourself and a strategy to avoid engaging in when others use it.
For the most part, Gallaga says that certain people on social media will stick to their claims and never be convinced otherwise. It’s important, Gallaga says, to differentiate between those people and those who may be open to discussion when weighing in online.
“You need to pick your battles and pick the people that you think are reasonable for an interaction,” Gallaga says.
Written by Emma Whalen.