Why People Argue About Things That Don’t Matter
Posted by Michael Dickens on July 16, 2011
People spend a seemingly absurd amount of time arguing about things that don’t matter: PC vs Mac, Edward vs Jacob, Coke vs Pepsi, the list goes on. These subjects are all either pointless or very close to it, and yet people spend inordinate amounts of time on them. Why?
The first reason is that, for many people, arguing is fun. Not everyone likes to argue, and those who do don’t always want to, but there are many occasions in which a good strong debate is a deeply satisfying experience. A lot of the time, the debate topic doesn’t matter so much as the debate itself. Still, it seems that it would be more fulfilling to debate a topic more consequential than which fictional character is cooler or which soft drink is better. However, there is a strong barrier surrounding most really good debate topics that render them off-limits: they are part of people’s identity.
There are many social situations in which it is acceptable to loudly disagree over which operating system is better, but taboo to discuss political issues. The reason for this is that many people have strong opinions about operating systems, but few consider those opinions to be important pieces of their identity. Say that gay marriage is wrong or that marijuana should be legalized, and some people will get offended. Say that a person is wrong for having a certain opinion on gay marriage or drug legalization, and that person will very likely feel personally threatened. But say that someone likes the wrong operating system and few people will mind.
Arguing about pointless topics is pointless, but it still can be fun. Many people enjoy a good debate but don’t want to risk provoking offense; the solution is to avoid serious topics and instead argue about things that don’t matter.