Citations Please!

citation needed
citation needed (Photo credit: Dan4th)

You run across someone on Twitter or Facebook who is making claims you know to be false or misleading. While you are aware that these claims are false, it is unlikely that this is common knowledge. That is, there will almost certainly be people who come across these claims and accept them as valid without giving it any thought. But you know better, and so you calmly and respectfully expose the inaccuracy in a gentle and non-confrontational manner. The party making the claims argues with you, revealing himself or herself to be even more poorly informed than you initially thought. And out of nowhere, he or she hits you with the commonly heard demand: "Citations please!"

If you are anything like me (and I wouldn't wish that on anybody), you pause for a moment upon hearing this. Something like the following runs through your mind:

Does this person really expect me to provide them with a list of scholarly references to show them that they are mistaken? With some effort, I could do so. But how much time and effort do I want to expend attempting to show them that they are wrong? For all I know, this is not even a serious request and would be nothing more than a waste of my time.

I have fallen for this on a couple of occasions, taking the time to do the research and provide the requested citations, only to have the person refuse to even acknowledge that I did so. I am not terribly inclined to do so now unless I truly believe that the party in question genuinely wants to learn something rather than just argue. And I must say, this genuine desire to learn is not something I see often from others I encounter on social media. There are exceptions, but most of the time continued argument appears to be the goal. And that seems like a waste of my time.