story Lek Hao Kai, Guest Columnist
It’s midterm season and you are haunted by the fact that your written answer for the recent Modern Social Theory test was absurdly short. You have three assignments due on Friday that have not received your slightest deliberation. Your (insert Student Group here) captain just messaged you to remind you about the extra training scheduled in preparation for next week’s competition. Sleep is further from you than Donald Trump is from presidency. You’re drowning. You can’t wait for a well-deserved break.
You take a “break” after completing an Integrated Science problem set by opening Facebook. Your attention is drawn to a keyboard war, this time involving the issue on whether cats or dogs are more superior. You are furious; you know that dogs are the obvious answer. You remember Dobie—your late Labrador Retriever—and the tremendous happiness he had brought you. You then invoke the writing and argumentative skills that the rigorous liberal arts curriculum has bestowed upon you to confidently draft an argument in a premise-conclusion format. “I can probably logic better than you,” you think, still furious. You fervently present your case in a systematic manner and the argument extends indefinitely without any semblance of a resolution in sight. Instead, the argument has devolved into an endless abyss of ad hominems and non-sequiturs. People’s feelings are hurt and grudges are formed. Was all that worth it?
It is easier to sit behind your Macbook and slowly attempt to destroy your opponent with your “immaculate” argument than to confront him in person. However, this convenience can cloud the most obvious ramifications. Hence, we should explore alternatives before diving headfirst into an online argument.
(1) Examine the perpetrator’s intention
Often, hurtful comments are hurled out of ignorance, not actual malice. It is not my intention to justify ignorance here, but mistakes that stem out of ignorance are more forgivable than acts motivated by actual ill-will. Sometimes, we respond in a very reactionary manner and in doing so blatantly accuse others without considering if they made a genuine and unintended mistake; such mistakes should be corrected promptly but graciously. Adopting a self-righteous approach does not help you communicate your message.
(2) Pick the right battles
There are issues that must be debated—such as the academic curriculum—and there are issues simply not worth your time and emotional energy. Opportunities for a keyboard war are bountiful but your time is probably better spent at the gym or actually doing tomorrow’s readings for once. It is completely understandable to be impassioned about certain issues close to your heart, but also important to take time to evaluate the repercussions of your engagement. You don’t want to lose a friend because of a difference of opinion on whether Justin Bieber or Nicki Minaj is better.
(3) Go out
School is probably very taxing and your friend’s ignorance only makes it worse. Take a break—or at least try to. Grab a coffee nearby. Being confined in this iron cage of rationalization (quite literally) and seeing the same faces every day can be stifling and frustrating for some. It’s always refreshing to leave campus once in awhile and surprise yourself with the volume of activities this tiny country can offer.
Yale-NUS College has some of the most ambitious and driven people I have ever met; we all want to change the world in unique ways based on our individual aspirations. When you have a significant number of passionate, vocal and energetic people living together, views are inevitably going to clash. We should try to manage the ways in which we respond to these conflicts and consider if Facebook is the best medium to express such views. Ultimately, focus on your priorities and you might realize the insignificance of some of the issues that are being debated in the name of having an “open dialogue” and “every opinion expressed”.