The threads start as they would anywhere online: a contentious topic, the type that adds fuel to a steaming debate before engulfing an entire comment field in flames.
“Just like anorexics are forcibly hospitalized and made to gain weight, overweight people should be hospitalized and forced to lose weight,” one thread reads.
For those who ignore the internet‘s number one rule — “never read the comments” — you know that this is the sort of statement that precedes an orgy of insults and abuse. When rationality does make an appearance — often in the form of an insightful, sensible comment or a link with proof to the contrary — the chorus not-so-politely reminds them where to stick it.
As our understanding of online dialogue grows, so does its evolution. On the internet, a new safe space is emerging, one meant to foster healthy conversation no matter how contentious the topic. It’s here that debate begins to move the needle, inspiring a shift to the fabled middle ground, or a complete 180 whereby one commenter reverses course, admitting the error of his ways.
On Reddit‘s r/changemyview (CMV) subreddit, examples like these are the rule, not the exception.
In the above example, one redditor calmly pointed out that the issue is one of immediacy, not inherent bias. Those suffering from anorexia are hospitalized not because of the mental health condition contributing to the situation, but for the immediate and curable symptoms associated with it — dehydration, low blood sugar, irregular heartbeat, or even cardiovascular failure.
For overweight people, the danger isn’t as immediate. While it’s true that they are at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other issues, there’s no immediate danger to their health in most cases. And when there is, they’re treated accordingly — the same as those with an eating disorder like anorexia.
The original poster awarded the commenter a “delta,” a means of acknowledging the statement changed their view, stating:
Your first few paragraphs make a lot of sense to me. The fact that an obese person presenting with identifiable medical issues likely would be hospitalized is true, so that speaks to a small part of what I’ve been thinking.
Deltas, according to a page explaining the system, are an homage to the mathematics field, where the delta symbol represents change. “Any user, whether they’re [the original poster] or not, should reply to a comment that changed their view with a delta symbol and an explanation of the change.”
CMV gamifies this healthy conversation in many ways. The first is through the use of a DeltaBot, which calculates awarded deltas and updates a leaderboard, called a deltaboard, where necessary. Redditors can monitor their standing on the deltaboard located in the sidebar next to each post.