Can You Have A Debate in 140 Characters?

After my last post about debates on facebook, I decided to see if it was possible to have a debate in 140 Characters.

The other day my cousin posted a ridiculous video in his facebook status update which sparked an intense debate between myself and one of his friends about the health care system. As usual my cousin posted something controversial but didn’t, himself debate the issue. Sadly I don’t believe it’s because he’s above having the discussion, I think it’s simply because he doesn’t have a concept of why he believes what he does. He follows his social circle of friends and religious underpinnings blindly, with no desire to hear anything contrary to his belief structure. Again, not to repeat myself from my last post, but if you are going to post something that may cause any discussion other than a thumbs up, I feel you should be prepared to discuss it, and not allow your friends to fight your battles for you.

Maybe it’s easier in the Cyber world to throw your views up, or in my cousin’s case regurgitate the sentiment of the masses, and think you don’t have to defend them. That would never fly in a youth hostel anywhere in the world. When traveling, because you are thrust into a group of people from different walks of life and life experiences, you have to be prepared to have your sheltered beliefs shaken up. You do need to know what you are talking about if you bring something up that’s controversial because people will challenge you. While it’s easy to retreat on a computer and let your friends have at it, people will quickly find out you don’t know what you are talking about when you are in an international group talking out of your @ss.

Most debates that I get into on my cousin’s facebook post go something like this: I read it, I get annoyed, and I then read it to my boyfriend Chris and say, “Can you believe this crap he’s putting out there!” then I begin typing furiously. Before I hit reply, I read my response to Chris, to make sure it sounds intelligent and not emotional, I get his feed back because he’s one of the most intelligent, informed and rational humans I know, and then I post it. If I don’t read the source of my annoyance to him first, and he hears me typing furiously, he knows it’s either a reply to my cousin or an email feud with my mother on similar topics – but that’s another story.

After several posts back and forth with some friend of my cousin’s on health care, my boyfriend simply said to me, “Is health care a right or a privilege?” I thought this simple question was a good one. I had not heard back after my last point on my cousin’s status update so I figured I’d “won” that debate. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to open up conversation on twitter, which in my opinion, is much more difficult than on facebook. In the spirit of trying to open up a 2 way dialogue I thought I’d bring the debate to twitter so I posted, “Is health care a right or a privilege? I believe it’s a right. What do you think?”

I then got into this short dialogue with one of the many faceless people on twitter. (Literally she has no picture up on her twitter profile and is not someone I know, as I would say I know the people I’m friends with on FB) The first response I received was, It’s ur duty to provide for ur own family – not mine or gov RT @gypsealeah: Is health care a right or a privilege? I believe it’s a right. My response was @facelessfollower if it were that easy for everyone to provide health care for their family don’t you think they would? So to my question she replied @gypsealeah should obama provide me college edu with ur tax dollar n give me house to – What good is health care if i’m living on the street. Why did she jump to education and housing from health care? No answer to my easy question, does she really think it’s that easy for everyone? She changed the subject from health care to education and houses.

How can I respond in 140 characters? I cheated, my response was about 280 characters and I didn’t even address the fact that health care is a lot more necessary if you are living on the street with no roof over your head, or no job. My expanded 2 tweet response was @facelessfollower/competition to inflating HC rates, a single payer option may allow money for U2 pay EDU and keep U off the street @facelessfollower U think basic health care is luxury like college edu and house? there are inexpensive ed options, + U can rent. But no cheap HC. And her reply back was, (Now don’t be surprised that she jumped back to my original question is it a right…without giving me an answer to my last query) @gypsealeah – are you saying health care is right under the constitution that the government is obligated to provide for us?

Well now come on, I’d think it obvious that I’m not saying it’s a right under the constitution. I do think we all have a right to affordable health care. So again I patiently reply not worrying about the fact that we’ve changed tangents again. (And this time expanded another 140 characters on top of my last cheat.) Triple tweet @facelessfollower no not saying right in const..saying in an enlightened society when countries less fortunate then ours have HC 4 All Y don’t we? @facelessfollower I’m saying that the current system needs looking at when rates continue to rise above that of pay in this country. @facelessfollower R U saying HC is like a Yacht U shouldn’t have it unless you can afford it? Plenty of hard working people can’t afford it.

Well, my 420 characters were too much for the debate tactics of twitter because I never heard back. But I found it interesting that even in 140 characters the opposition still jumps to information irrelevant to the actual conversation, i.e. changing to education and housing when the questions was about health care. And there are no real answers to my questions, just reactionary garbledeguke.

I don’t know that too many people really want to debate anything. They don’t want to ask questions because they don’t want to listen view points of the opposition, they just want to shout or stick their fingers in their ears saying, “La La La I can’t hear you.” Instead it seems that the interactive dialogues many want to have through social media are either on a business level, or a very impersonal level. It is not nearly as social and interactive is sitting around a room with a bunch of international travelers and talking about real issues.

I guess you can’t have a debate in 140 characters.