Online vs. Personal Conversations

When I was younger, I thought that con­ver­sa­tions in real life were much more likely to pro­mote true be­liefs and mean­ingful changes than con­ver­sa­tions on­line, be­cause peo­ple in real life were only will­ing/​able to cite ev­i­dence they were ac­tu­ally con­fi­dent in, while those on­line were able to eas­ily search for ar­gu­ments fa­vor­ing their po­si­tion.

While this is ob­vi­ously wrong—the con­cept that peo­ple in real life only cite ev­i­dence they are jus­tifi­ably con­fi­dent in is com­i­cally false—I do think the di­chotomy illus­trated there is in­ter­est­ing. One thing I’ve no­ticed is that in gen­eral the “rigor” of dis­cus­sions on­line is higher (in terms of cita­tions, links to ex­ter­nal con­tent, etc.), but that con­ver­sa­tions in real life seem still much more likely to ac­tu­ally change peo­ple’s minds.

I have no­ticed this effect in both my­self and oth­ers—what do you think is go­ing on here, and how do you think we might cir­cum­vent it? If on­line dis­cus­sions could be made more effec­tive at caus­ing peo­ple to ac­tu­ally change their minds, this could po­ten­tially prove ex­tremely use­ful.