RECENTLY (although it already feels like months ago), my family and I visited relatives in Canada for the first time in years.

Not to bang on about it, but the break was wonderful and had an unexpected benefit - living in an area without WiFi meant I was absent from social media for pretty much ten whole days.

If you’ve ever temporarily given anything up - Dry January or Lent, for example - you’ll know there’s a little niggling feeling that can have you counting the days until it’s time to have chocolate, booze or crisps again (unless you’re so enamoured of life without these things and just give them up forever, in which case, well done you).

With social media, that’s replaced by FOMO - fear of missing out - but there was a sort of bliss that came about within just a day of going without that made me remember what life was like without Twitter and Facebook. Engaging with the real world, real people, enjoying real experiences, having real conversations and learning about new topics I wasn’t previously familiar with.

Returning to the UK and social media for the first time, I did a double take and thought it must be the jetlag - it looked like the feeds hadn’t updated in the week and a bit I’d been out of the loop. Everything was the same, only the dates were slightly different.

I was watching the same arguments play out that I’d rolled my eyes at ten days previously, sometimes with the name of a different public figure or political party inserted for good measure.

Of course, I call them arguments, but that’s not necessarily accurate.

Anyone who knows anything about British comedy remembers the Monty Python sketch The Argument Clinic, in which Michael Palin pays John Cleese for a session of disagreement, and is unhappy when it just turns into a series of contradictory statements (“yes it is”, “no it isn’t”, etc). If you don’t know it, get yourself on YouTube and enjoy.

Now, even in its longest form, that’s a six-minute sketch. It’s funny and exhausting and while I thoroughly enjoy it, I’m almost glad when it’s over.

Coming back to social media after ten days without, I realised with some dismay that Twitter is essentially a worldwide version of The Argument Clinic, stuck on an endless loop.

The only difference is, the characters in the sketch are happy to be taking part in an argument and even if it’s a simple one, they’ll play the game. Well, until Palin leaves the room to complain.

In recent years, the world seems less interested in taking part in a discussion which hears the other side. There’s a mentality on the internet that, when faced with an opposing view, instantly tries to shut down the opposer - either through bullying, name calling, or reporting to the authorities because some feelings have been hurt.

It’s true that some people who complain about political correctness are often just complaining about politics that they don’t believe to be correct, and that people have confused the right to free speech with some sort of eternal protection from being offended.

But by instantly shutting down an argument - whether you’re complaining to the Twitter police or the real police - all you’re doing in burying yourself further in your own mindset.

When engagement does happen, often ending with stalemate, both sides claim the win - twisting comments and opinion to suit their causes, then their followers - who don’t care to take in the whole event - share the short version.

Once upon a time - and it does feel like a fairytale these days - people would listen to both sides of an argument and make their own mind up.

People respected the views of others and would engage with opposing opinions, either to try to change them, or to find out why they believed them so strongly. Now it’s usually fewer than three replies before someone brings up Hitler, calls someone a Millennial or sets their followers on their opponent while deleting the tweets that look like they’ve lost the argument then tries to get them kicked off social media.

There’s no real solution to this online tribalism and refusal to get round the virtual table, which is a shame, because hearing why someone believes what they believe is a better way to understand them.

Ignorance of that is at best irresponsible, and at worst dangerous.