! And it's like taking 10 minutes and the waitress is tapping her pencil."
Even though he doesn't feel intellectually stimulated by the conversation, it feels good. "It's a fun thing to do right? So like every time you send a tweet, and you think you made a point, it feels good, and you want to keep doing it."
The addictive qualities of social media
There's a growing body of scientific research that addresses the pleasure and anxiety both men are describing. It suggests social media can have addictive qualities, just like a drug or a gambling habit.
Consider the very nature of Twitter. It's more public than other media platforms. It's easier to just jump into an argument and pile on. So the whole thing can be performative. More than talking, we're showing ourselves off.
Even though I interviewed them separately, both men came to a similar conclusion. Tyler says, "You'd have a better chance of solving your issues over a meal, than sitting behind a phone, typing in caps."
Larry reminisces about a time in which liberals and conservatives could more easily enjoy a barbecue together. "If you're my neighbor, come over and eat, drink."
He says social media are just not that good for debating difficult issues. When it comes to tough topics, 280 characters, hashtags and memes might just not be enough.
"This whole conversation is annoying"
The Fredres-McDaid family learned this lesson the hard way. A Facebook argument turned so explosive, it almost tore them apart.
Jeff Fredres lives in the suburbs of Chicago. His extended family, Kelly and her husband Pete McDaid live in Arizona. Even though their politics are very different (they're Democrats, he's a Republican), they've always gotten along well.
Until about a year ago, when Pete McDaid posted an article on Facebook suggesting that gun control would help stop mass shootings.
Fredres believes in gun rights, so he commented: "If not guns, it would be bombs. ... When people want to hurt others, there will always be a way."
He got off the computer, sat down to watch the news and have breakfast. He thought that would be the end of it.
Instead, what unfolded was a day's worth of nonstop arguing.
In retrospect, McDaid narrates it with a chuckle. He was researching his arguments at the office. When he got back home, he was working on his comebacks like it was a project he was on deadline for.
Fredres says when it comes to social media arguing, "everybody has already established what they believe."
By nightfall, tempers had flared. Kelly recalls seeing her husband sitting on the edge of the bed, furiously staring into his phone. Online, responses had gotten curt. "I just find that this whole conversation is annoying," Fredres snapped.
Kelly describes feeling enraged, which she says is unusual for her. And that's when she dealt a final blow: "What the F is wrong with you? I can't believe someone that's a part of my family is so stupid," she replied. Both she and her husband unfriended and blocked Fredres.
These are three people who care about each other, and they speak about the incident with a certain awe. Kelly describes Jeff as a "warm, friendly, outgoing person." Jeff says when Kelly walks into a room, people are naturally drawn to her. They fondly recall their hiking trips and triathlons they did together.
A single Facebook argument swept it all away.
Fredres says he felt numb. "It was surreal. It wasn't until a couple of months had passed by, and there was no longer that communication ... it started to sink in. 'Oh man. This kinda sucks.' "
Gun control is one of the most divisive topics in our country today. Some might say there is no middle ground in that debate. But Fredres thinks "if this whole topic would have happened in person, nobody would have walked away."
Ultimately, he was right. About a year later, while visiting Arizona, he got a chance to meet Kelly and her mother for breakfast.
"I was totally prepared for him to be really angry with me," Kelly says. Over pancakes and an omelette, they reignited their debate over gun control. "But we talked about it in just a really respectful manner. And by the end, he and I did not agree at all. But he did admit there is a problem in this country. And we should try something, we shouldn't just do the same thing we've been doing. And I'm pretty sure I agreed to some things he said too."
That might not seem like much for some, but Kelly thinks it's a good place to start. "Just the fact that we could talk to each other without yelling, about this really divisive issue ... it was a really intelligent and thoughtful conversation."