Is it possible to have a conversation with nuance on the internet?

One thing I’ve discovered about coronavirus lockdown is that I’m only having proper conversations with one person. Thankfully my girlfriend is a fun person to have conversations and debates with, and it’s good to drill down into interesting topics to uncover what we really think or feel about a subject, and how it might change us.

Previously I’d have similar conversations with other people when hanging out in person, but now that in-person meetings aren’t happening, one-on-one skype/facetime/zoom chats have to take their place, and those are more likely personal or social calls, not opportunities to do a deep dive into a difficult topic.

The only other option now is social media and forums like this, but I’m not sure it’s possible to have a conversation exploring the nuances of any topic in any such place online.

It comes down to this formula:

“Nuance is impossible when someone inserts 0% or 100% into their statement”

For example, saying “all lives matter” means that the person is removing themselves from the conversation. They have nothing of value to add due to them denying nuance. The word “all” can be converted into “100%”. This is why cartoonists can poke fun at the statement with houses on fire, of which I’ve seen many variations:

The nuance of “black lives matter” comes from the fact there is a cutoff point between 0% and 100%, and people want to address something on one side of that line rather than including everything all at the same time.

Nuance exists in where a line is drawn, why the line is drawn at that place, what falls either side of the line, and what makes those things interesting or worthy of drawing the line in the first place.

It might seem like I’m unhappy that I can’t have conversations with people who deny nuance exists. That’s not true!

If someone denies nuance in a topic of conversation, I’m not interested in having a conversation with that person at all.

My problem arises in the fact that when trying to have a conversation with any nuance, the people who deny nuance exists will overwhelm the people having the conversation with continuous statements about how nuance doesn’t exist.

When the conversation begins, or even before the conversation begins and someone is just looking for someone to have a conversation with, the main response they have to deal with is:

“You want to talk about the line that falls somewhere between 0% and 100%, but it is ALWAYS 100%!!!”

But they don’t understand that while they don’t see the nuance, or nuance isn’t important to them right now, someone else finds that nuance interesting enough to talk about, and wants to talk about it.

It becomes impossible to have a conversation without always continually responding to, or having to read through, floods of nuance denial or nuance dismissal.

Of course, I’m using “impossible” and “always” deliberately here. I’ve inserted some “0%” and “100%” for hyperbolic effect. I’m trying to get across how it feels, and making claims to extremes is how to make others take your point seriously. In fact, it’s the ONLY way to make ALL the people who deny nuance understand ANYTHING.

However, this feeling of dread is enough for me to not even attempt such conversations. It’s enough that when I see a conversation or topic come up, I don’t even acknowledge it. I become indistinguishable from those who don’t acknowledge the nuance and also don’t join in, so the person who wanted the conversation doesn’t even know there are others that are interested in that nuance.

And all that’s among people with whom I’m in agreement 99% of the time! With whom I agree on the best course of action, and which side of the broad picture is correct! Those who I agree with 99% of the time on a topic are probably going to be the most interesting people to talk with about that last 1%. But that nuance is unavailable, and I feel diminished, and I feel the world is diminished.

So I’ve started this thread, not to have nuanced conversations on this forum, but to talk about how difficult it is to have nuanced conversations online, both on social media and this forum.

Also I’ll share some conversation topics I’d like discuss online, but won’t ever discuss online, and the reasons I won’t have those conversations online.

Finally I might share some conversations that I don’t want to have myself, but I want to see other (more knowledgeable/important) people discuss, but I don’t see those conversations happening due to those people also not wanting to deal with barrages of nuance-free conversation-halting comments.


I find it funny how the thread title is phrased in a very non-nuanced way. “Is it possible to have a conversation with nuance on the internet?” Yes. But that’s falling into the same all or nothing dichotomy you’re talking about here, which goes to show how thoroughly nuance is absent from internet culture, even when we talk about it it’s hard to remember what it looks like.

The big question I think we need to ask in this thread is how and when do conversations on the internet have nuance.

  1. When all participants in the conversation are good at reading and writing.
  2. When all participants are sufficiently (very) knowledgeable in the subject matter.
  3. When all participants spend a large amount of time and consideration into their writing.

Writing is undoubtedly the most nuanced form of communication we have. There’s effectively no limit on how many words can be used. The audience can re-read it for clarity. The audience can look up words they don’t understand.

Internet communication is just writing. People have been having nuanced, complex, and deep conversations via written language for centuries/millennia.

Written communication on the web fails because

  1. People don’t read everything, or even comprehend all of what they read.
  2. People don’t read carefully with deep consideration.
  3. People reply quickly with the first thought that comes from their head. If you write a letter that costs postage and takes a long time to deliver, you think a lot harder about that shit!
  4. People on at least one, if not all, sides of the conversation do not have sufficient mastery of the subject matter.
  5. People aren’t good enough at writing.

And the biggest problem, I think, is simply that conversations are group conversations. Even if two people are rapid-fire shouting at each other, they can still communicate. They can still hear and process the other person’s ideas and formulate their own. A room of people shouting is impossible.

If you want a deep nuanced conversation online, I suggest trying to find a single knowledgeable interesting person willing to converse with you and using email.

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You make some solid points, but I have to disagree with “[w]riting is undoubtedly the most nuanced form of communication we have.” In my experience, writing lacks a significant amount of nuance that can be lent to a statement with inflection and body language. For example, the simple statement of the word “fine” in response to something could mean a number of things. It could be exasperated, sarcastic, positive, neutral, said for comedic effect, etc. However, if only the word “fine” is written in response to something, the inflection and body language is not there to lend that word meaning and suddenly needs significantly more words to convey the same meaning.


That’s a great point. If we’re assuming the goal of communication in this case to be transferring the idea(s) in one person’s mind as accurately as possible to the mind of another person, then appealing to more senses can’t hurt. Picture is 1000 words.

I was thinking the main advantage of writing was that the audience can go over it as many times as necessary with a fine tooth comb to, as much as possible (never completely possible), understand what the words are trying to tell them. And if the author uses unambiguous language, it will be very strong indeed.

But maybe writing something, and then having the author, or someone who understands the idea, read it aloud on video is the best in these terms. The audience can still rewatch it. The words are exactly the same. Any accompanying imagery can still be present alongside it. A written transcript could even accompany it. And seeing and hearing the speaker provide a great deal of added context to the words.

If this is true, then is the best way to have a nuanced conversation online to write your reply, then record yourself reading it aloud on video, and then send such videos with transcripts back and forth between the participants in the conversation? This format would certainly have people putting a lot of time and consideration into choosing their words since it’s so high effort.

What you are describing is a series of video essays. As someone who has made many video essays, I know how much work it takes, but they are also one of the best ways I’ve ever communicated difficult or complex concepts with anyone.

But that isn’t a conversation.

My desire for conversation isn’t to communicate what is inside my head. If so, text or a video essay is fine, but that is broadcast or one-way communication.

I want to discover what might be in my head. That comes from the rapid back-and-forth of real-time unstructured statements and questions.

For example, I made a video essay on the Definition of Juggling. It was a great conversation starter!

But it wasn’t the conversation itself. What happened was things like this between a friend and me:

Hey, Luke, is Kendama juggling?


Is yo-yo juggling?


But both are things held in the hand attached by string that you let go and they come back to the hand…

And at that point I tried explaining why my initial reactions to those questions were like that, and why I instinctively thought that. Between us we drilled down into what physical aspects were present with kendama and not with yo-yo to make us think one was juggling and one not.

It took two people having a conversation for that process to be possible, because individually we wouldn’t have both the framework for thinking something as well as the interesting questions that challenge that framework.

And you never know who will have those interesting frameworks or questions. Which is why I want to have conversations in a public forum, to expose the ideas to the people with the interesting questions.

If you restrict a conversation only to two people communicating in private, then it is the same as a Skype call. I’ve had some interesting conversations via Skype/FaceTime since coronavirus lockdown, mostly about the definition of “contemporary juggling” because a friend is doing a masters degree on a related topic, but it’s weird to have these scheduled in advance, and not to happen organically at a juggling festival or at breakfast with friends.


It seems like participant size is at odds with effective nuance. In a two-person conversation, you can observe whether your nuanced point came across—and try again if unsuccessful. Nuanced one-to-many conversations also seem possible through articles, lectures, and webcasts. The more participants, the more likely that individuals don’t pick up on or misinterpret attempts at nuance.

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That’s also a great point. Not being able to see the audience makes a huge difference for a communicator.

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This is especially the case if you have hearing damage; as it turns out I’ve spent most of my life using non-auditory clues to interpret words (because I can’t hear the words clearly), and so as a consequence I also use facial cues extensively in a conversation. I react to perceived changes in mood, adjust my own tone and conversational direction, and keep rolling. It’s one of the myriad reasons I have so much difficulty talking on the phone.

Ultimately, I think it’s a hard limit of text-based communication - there is only so much one can convey without actually being in meatspace with another person, and while punctuation and text morphology can help, it doesn’t get you all the way there.

I think that’s a significant hurdle to getting true nuance across in text-based Internet conversation.

However, I also think there are behavioral modifications that can allow us to bypass some of those issues. For one, I am far more carefully-composed in a written format - I process my thoughts very effectively through tactile means (this is actually a common theme throughout my life - I think with my hands, essentially), and I have an opportunity to review and reflect on what I’ve written.

I also ask for clarification far more in text than I do in daily speech, and I tend to use less sarcasm and significantly more honesty through text. All of these techniques help to convey true meaning and some nuance, and help me to understand the points that others are making.

In face-to-face speech, I can be a little sloppier with my words - because I know I can rely on my eyes or hand gestures or inflection or myriad other non-word tools, and I often do. I’m a full-body speaker, so I communicate a lot without necessarily saying all the words.

So, I think it is possible to have those exploratory nuanced discussions Luke wants to have in a medium such as this, but it requires significantly more work to ferret out that nuance and communicate it clearly. It takes a lot of practice to become a sufficiently skilled writer to manage that - “you have to write a million words before you write one good one,” as the saying goes.


In defense of writing as having some advantages over a video or even face to face conversation, there are some other features worth considering. Certainly there are things lost in writing, but there’s something good in it too.

As Scott mentioned, there’s the time factor. But further on that, it’s a lot easier for us to take our own pace. Or provide references. A video can do that, but the natural pace of a video’s cadence doesn’t lend itself to that. It’s a bit like how I’m listening to an audiobook called “Capital and Ideology” when I commute, and they will reference a particular chart or another part of the book, and in the moment I can’t really pause and pull that up nearly as efficiently as I can in the text or at my desk. Conversations with people face to face are often, from my perspective, very surface level and everyone kinda has to keep at the same pace. There’s no falling behind. A video is better for that, but lends itself to some other problems with visual noise or the natural cadence/pacing of sort of face to face talking. For me it’s a bit like how I struggled reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, it’s delivered at spoken word pace, and I both read faster and slower than that depending on content.

Another thing is writing is a bit more immutable. Sure, everyone can have a different interpretation of a book, but the words on the page are the words on the page. It’s sort of one step closer to the language of code and syntax. It’s closer to compiling to a single thing. Obviously this hinges on accurate use.

And third that comes to mind immediately is the sort of notary factor. If your name is on it and you publish it, it’s part of the record. You can get taken to court over it. You can present it as evidence of an event that transpired. A whole lot of face to face stuff is way more contextual. There’s way more opportunity for people intentionally or otherwise to re-write the situation or the words in their own head later down the line. If you want to amend writing that’s out there, most of the time at least, you actually have to go out and take an action that itself is also print.


It’s all a tradeoff.

I want to have conversations on the open internet, not just privately between two people, and not publicly between two people but excluding everyone else.

The reason is simple, and I stated it above: I don’t know who might join in with the conversation who can contribute new ideas or ask interesting questions. This has happened in this very thread! If it was just a conversation between me and the first person who responded (Lizzy), then there wouldn’t be anything by Scott, Kate, you, Adam, or PrinceRobot.

Each person who contributes is clarifying what the topic is, where the lines can be drawn, and finding new areas of nuance. This is what I want! It all helps me think through the concept more clearly, and come to tentative conclusions that would hold up under different kinds of scrutiny.

I think this is a weakness of conversations in writing. If I’m just having a casual conversation, I don’t particularly want everything I say to be on the record, and for it to be held against me, and for me to be taken to court over it. Always having that in the back of your mind gets in the way of the free flow of all kinds of ideas that you might want to examine.

For example, and I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION ON THIS FORUM OR IN THIS THREAD, I run a sports tournament scene, and this year I announced a new ranking for women only, with women only tournaments to come. There’s the open rankings, for everyone, and a women’s ranking.

Of course someone brought up trans men and women, and how they might participate in the future. I happen to think trans athletes competing with the normal cis gendered athletes is a very interesting issue, with complex arguments for every position. I’m also in a position of authority in a sports scene, so any decision I make on this topic actually carries weight. It’s not just a curiosity for me, or an academic position, because I’ve already had to message someone who took part in combat juggling to ask them how they want to be listed on the rankings website. When I made the website, back in 2013, I made sure “gender” wasn’t a binary field, and there can be any text entered in that field, not just male or female. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about.

But do I want to have a conversation about trans athletes in public, with a text record saved forever? Fuck no! Because it’s impossible for anything I write NOT to be taken out of context. If I’m laying out arguments for one side or the other, and then later decide on the opposite, the original post won’t have the context of it being a free discussion of ideas, trying to collect as much input from interested parties as possible, and any single statement from the past won’t have the final result of any decision I make factored in. Anyone with a grudge quote-mining for salacious material is going to have a field day.

In an appropriate forum, in a single thread, with a proper title and first post laying out the context for the discussion, it might be possible for people to feel comfortable discussing such a topic, but certainly not on social media or other context-free virtual space.


I think Twitter showcases that problem perfectly because it’s effectively a running conversation with a record - a constant stream of self-referential context-independent conversation. I think that is a significant part of what contributes to Twitter’s toxicity - you can’t have longer conversations, so there’s no room for nuance or context, and so all you can do is reference the last loud voice in the conversation. One person’s off-base interpretation gets magnified thousands of times, very rapidly.

I think the solution, as you’re saying here, is to consider the venue and the audience. Some fora are simply better for certain types of conversations than others, and trying to have a conversation with the wrong set of tools is a recipe for disaster.

This is also a limitation of in-person conversation, though, and it’s actually worse IMO because the only record we have is faulty human memory. Yes, in text we can be deprived of context, but at least the record exists to establish the full context in the ensuing argument.

What happens when two people have a disagreement over a conversation that they each remember differently? Nobody is being dishonest, but because of biology, each has a literally different reality, and there’s no objective observer to hash it out.

With text, we are afforded the opportunity to analyze our language, because the subject of study exists in perpetuity. We can write a post, and then sit back and examine it critically through another lens.

It does mean that text-based conversations are hard, though, because you sort of have to do that in order to make progress on a topic.

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This is kind of off-topic, but you’re absolutely correct that the structure of the conversation greatly influences how the conversation develops.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts analyzing the new format of oral arguments at the Supreme Court and how it influences and changes the Justices’ questions.

In the past, when the Supreme Court held oral arguments in person, it was pretty much a mad free-for-all, with the Justices jumping all over each other, and counsel, interrupting to ask questions. That format allowed Justices to piggy-back their questions off each other or ask questions in response to another Justice’s questions.

Now though, the Supreme Court is doing oral arguments over the phone, and instead of the free-for-all, you have Chief Justice Roberts moderating who gets to talk and for how long. So far, the Supreme Court has been operating in order of seniority, so Chief Justice Roberts goes first, then Clarence Thomas (who is actually participating much more than he ever did in person), etc.

While some commentators like this format, many people have pointed out that it’s completely changed the nature of the Justices’ questioning. In the current format, it’s impossible for the Liberal Justices, just as an example, to kind of “tag-team” Counsel because of the seniority order and there might be a Conservative Justice in the middle. Likewise, if Clarence Thomas goes second, and asks some questions, by the time it gets to Sonya Sotomayor, who goes 7th, she can’t really respond to Thomas directly anymore because there have been 4 Justices in between them and the topic of questioning might be completely different.

The new system clearly isn’t perfect, especially with the Chief Judge acting as moderator and referee, cutting off the other Justices after an amount of time, but it’s interesting seeing the Supreme Court adapting to a new situation. Hopefully the process evolves.

Sorry for the random post.


What is your motivation for the conversation? Personally I don’t really mind about my faulty memory, because my goal isn’t to remember exactly what was said by whom and how, it’s to come to a deeper understanding of the issue or topic or concept.

Many times I’ll change my mind during a conversation, and that’s a good thing. The more times you change your mind, the more likely you’ll be right at least some of the time. Once you’ve gone on a full circuit around the different positions, you’ll land on one that suits you best.

Is there going to be an ensuing argument? If so, that’s a pity. I guess a written record is handy at that point, for what it matters. But I’d rather not design a conversation environment assuming there will be arguments.

A written record is good for going back and checking out specific claims or facts or figures, or find who said them to ask for clarification, to analyse something more closely later.


I generally agree, but I have definitely had conversations with people where I thought we had each walked away with a deeper understanding of the topic - but coming back later, we circle back to the same topic and I discover that progress has been erased, or we have a hard time restarting because we’ve lost the context of the original topic.

I suppose that may have something to do with the frequency with which we engage in a given topic. Something that is a frequent topic of conversation will see a great deal of development, but with a sporadic topic we may only ever hold the same orbit. It may be an indication of a lack of investment in the topic, but I notice it nonetheless - if we don’t talk about it often enough, things get pushed out of mind.

I’ve honestly used my own written record to remind myself of my own thought patterns. I’ve had to revisit years-old topics before, and it’s helpful to be able to retrace my thinking to figure out where I was when we paused.

I do like the point about not creating an environment specifically around arguments (I’m assuming we mean “fight” type arguments and not “structured well-reasoned debates”) because it often leads to fights where none would otherwise happen.

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This example you give doesn’t fit the original question. You say you don’t want to have that conversation about trans athletes online. You seem to have some worry that people will be unwilling to share all their thoughts freely because they will be on the record, taken out of context, called out. I don’t see what any of those things have to do with the Internet as a communications medium causing nuance to be lost.

If people are afraid to share their ideas, that is called a chilling effect, and is definitely bad. We can’t have a conversation where people are afraid to speak their mind. Think of it as a big brother 1984 stop sign that we want to avoid. Yet, conversation where everyone says whatever is on their mind with no filter is worse. That’s about as useless as an email inbox with no spam filter. Think of this as a yield sign. No need to stop, no idea is silenced. People just have to look both ways before they open their mouths. People have to take responsibility for the things they say. Being afraid of being taken out of context or afraid of having words be on the record, are fears, but those aren’t the 1984 stop sign fears. They are yield sign fears. Those are fears that are going to get someone to think carefully and write carefully.

I know when I talk privately or on GeekNights I just say whatever comes to mind. It’s mostly unconscious. If I write, I edit what I say extensively. Including this very post. When I’m speaking, the lesser filter means I’m holding back less, but that doesn’t make it superior to writing. Unlike speaking off the top of my head, the process of writing itself actually generates new ideas. Communicating in a slower, considered, filtered and deliberate manner actually generates a greater flow of ideas than an unfiltered fire-hose. The things the filter is removing aren’t good anyway, that’s why they got filtered in the first place. Extremely unintuitive, but the filter somehow increases the quality and quantity of output.

Now being called out, or “taken to court” is another huge issue all unto itself.

Let’s pretend that I say “That game is dumb.” Someone chimes in, and they correctly point out that the word “dumb” is ableist, and I should find better words to use. That’s a positive thing! Now I can apologize and, more importantly, I know to do better in the future. That’s how it’s supposed to go, but let’s explore all the wrong ways it can go.

What if due to fear of being called out, I don’t have the conversation online at all. I just keep it offline. That means I’ll only have conversations with people in my personal circles. If I use that language freely without issue, my friends, family, and acquaintances probably do so as well. They won’t call me out on it, they’ll use it themselves. They don’t realize it is ableist. I won’t learn and do better. I’m actively avoiding listening to the voices I need to hear most simply because I don’t like what they are saying. I need to be doing the hard work of listening and engaging with those voices, not avoiding them because I’m on the receiving end.

What if I act defensively to being called out? What if I continue to defiantly use the word after being called out? Well now we have a different chilling effect. People see that I am not a person who is open to listening and learning. The next time I say something, they’re not going to reply. I’ll be ignored and blocked. I’m not worth their time and effort, since I’m not interested in listening and learning. Even though I’m on the Internet, I’ve pushed away all the diverse voices who now won’t bother with me. Again, hearing less ideas, not more, despite removing filters.

Consider a simple scenario. A black person goes into a store to buy a sandwich. The white cashier short-changes them. They gave a $20 but got change as if they gave a $10. Do they speak up? Are they going to argue and fight? How does that look in the eyes of the other people around? How much will they fight? How much can they argue and avoid police coming? Do they seek justice, or do they keep their mouth shut?

That kind of fear that comes from that kind of scenario is the 1984 stop sign fear. It keeps the mouths of a lot of BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other oppressed people shut. It’s quite courageous of them to call someone out considering the kinds of consequences there could be depending on the scenario. Even with the relative safety of the anonymous Internet, there are still many consequences they could face for speaking out. It’s definitely not worth the time and effort for them to do it unless they have some belief they are going to be listened to and taken seriously.

To have a conversation where ideas flow freely, from all voices, we need to actually welcome people being called out. Let people know it’s safe to call people out, so the fear of opening their mouths and pointing out injustice is gone. And also, when on the receiving end, there can’t be fear or defensiveness. We can’t make excuses like “Oh, you missed my nuance, it’s the Internet’s fault.” Instead, it has to be received positively. People should be thankful for the free learning they got thanks to the Internet letting them hear voices outside their small circle. If that learning makes them stop and think and edit their posts more carefully, that’s even better because it means that it worked. Learning something seems like a pretty successful conversation outcome.

Being more concerned about the filter on your own voice is a very selfish perspective. It’s wrong to think “to have the best conversation I can’t have a filter. I need to be able to say whatever is on my mind without fear.” But that is not what makes the best conversation. The best conversation is not when we get to say everything, but when we get to hear everything.

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Scott, you’ve just provided a perfect example of why it’s not fun to have discussions on this forum. In my original post I said I don’t want to have to read through floods of messages from people who don’t allow for nuance to exist.

For one, you end by clarifying that your entire essay-length post is based on a false dichotomy. I never said that I need to “say whatever is on my mind without fear”. I said nothing at all about having a filter on my own voice.

My point is that during a conversation it’s possible to “work through” different positions by saying them or writing them. In some cases, the conversation will be the first time you ever fully think those positions through or formulate them exactly. Later on, you’ll decide on a position or course of action that won’t include all the ideas you talked through earlier. However, those positions will still be stated, in your own words and in your own writing, for someone to take out of context later.

In the case of trans women competing alongside cis women, there isn’t a non-controversial side to this conversation at the moment. In 10 years, maybe there is an obvious consensus view which is uncontroversial, and society and language and sporting authorities and regulations have all developed to agree on one thing. At that point, the context of those 10-year-old conversations about the topic will be very important! And it’s that context which is lacking from social media but might be possible in a forum like this.

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Second point:

Your post is full of lot of “should”. It’s based on how you wish people were, or you think would be good if they acted in a certain way.

However, the rest of us exist in a world based in reality. We are talking about what it is like to be a real human interacting with the real world. How the world actually works has to be the basis of decisions we take in the real world.

In the case of this thread, I’m sharing why I, for real, me, don’t want to have a conversation about trans women athletes. There is no amount of “it would be better if you don’t think or feel that way” that will make me not feel that way!

You don’t get to set the starting condition for the reality in which I am discussing something!

It’s like debating with Libertarians. Sure, if humanity was perfect, and everyone was perfectly rational, and there was no systematic prejudice, etc, etc, etc… all those being true, then it’s interesting to consider Libertarian policies and economics.

But those things aren’t true, and trying to have a conversation when someone keeps interjecting, basing all their statements on an alternative reality, is just exhausting.

No matter how many hypotheticals you throw out, or how you want this forum to exist, the fact is that, for the most part, people don’t have nuanced conversations here.

It’s not that it isn’t possible to have nuanced conversations on this forum, it’s just that it’s exhausting.

For every person who is willing to discuss things about the real world, there are ten people for whom having to wade through essay-length posts from someone who denies that feelings exist is just too much work to bother.


I think there’s a related topic here, somewhat tangential, that speaks to a larger problem in trying to get nuanced discussion - establishing common purpose.

The Libertarian example is great because it’s an example of someone not truly engaging the discussion topic. Centering your arguments on a non-real hypothetical while someone else is centering the arguments around a totally different context is effectively the same as saying “I do not want to participate in your discussion.” I see it from Libertarians most frequently because it’s such a wildly self-centered philosophy that they’re consistently uninterested in discussing non-self perspectives.

The related issue is, broadly, the tendency to discuss someone else’s reality as a hypothetical. The best example I can think of is when I, a privileged white guy, discuss police violence against PoC in the abstract - for me, it’s an issue I can analyze from the outside because it’s not my lived experience, but someone who lives that reality has a different view with a different set of concerns entirely.

So when we throw a bunch of people with diverse lived experiences together and try to discuss issues across said experiences, we’re going to run into this issue of mismatched context. And when someone tries to have a nuanced discussion including exploring multiple hypothetical situations and different arguments, it can land as needlessly playing devil’s advocate to someone for whom these situations are very much real.

To me, that speaks to a need to establish common goals for a discussion before launching into cold analysis. As you say:

If we ignore real feelings on complex topics, we will consistently hit walls because the people for whom those experiences are real are very tired.

I don’t have good solutions, except to straight-up not discuss someone else’s lived experience as a hypothetical. We can explore the nuance of a topic without abstracting it, I think - talk about actual experiences that we each encounter, and examine our authentic lives as opposed to our hypothetical lives.