The AM5 - Oct 16, 2020
Why you should seek out information you "don't like." The dangers of the echo chamber. How the Internet is probably our greatest threat.
Last week’s newsletter won the award for “most aggressive replies to an email I’ve sent.”
It’s strange because times in the past when I thought I pushed the envelope a bit, I get mild replies or none at all. Then when I send something that I think is mild, to some people, it is not mild at all, apparently.
I’m torn on how to think about this because I’m sure most of these “upset” replies resulted in an unsubscribe.
Some people will say that’s good because you attract your core “audience” by filtering through the people that “don’t belong.”
In that regard, I agree, which is why I’ve never felt bad about unsubscribes.
But the more I think about it, and the more I think about Big Tech, censorship, America in 2020, and the dangers of the Echo Chamber that is the Internet, I’m not sure it’s a “good thing” anymore.
You see, if only the people that “agree” with me read my stuff then what effect am I having?
Am I making a difference and helping people challenge their own ideas?
If they unsubscribe because they don’t agree with my ideas, then probably not.
But what is the answer? Write boring, PC drivel that is already the norm on the Internet?
No. Thank. You.
I’ll think about this more and see if I can come up with ideas for maybe moving words around or perhaps adding a certain disclaimer as a means to encourage discussion rather than blatantly hostile disagreement.
In his book, Resilient Identities, Dr. William Swann, Jr. says, "...our self-views lie at the center of our psychological universe, providing the context for all our knowledge. Should our self-views flounder, we would no longer have a secure basis for understanding and responding to the world."
This excerpt above is why people respond aggressively to ideas that conflict with their own.
People can’t handle ideas that create cognitive dissonance.
They take things personally as if every word in an article or video or podcast is directed at them personally.
They can’t fathom the idea that someone has a different opinion based on their own experience and research and is not, in fact, an idiot.
After all, we all believe we are at least mostly right about things. Right?
To be confronted with an idea counter to your own and still retain the ability to function while considering the merits/shortcomings of that perspective without devolving into tribalistic aggression is, quite possibly, one of the most profound skills you can acquire as a modern human.
I’m not claiming to be good at this, though I am actively thinking about it so I can get better at it. I’m also reading this book How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide.
Maybe you are like me and get caught up in online debates in the comment thread. I was pulled into one such thread that seemed to go on for an entire day, with multiple people coming at me over the discussion of GMOs.
This thread was full of whataboutisms, ad hominin attacks, hypocrisy, and sidestepping my every point—all standard fare for online text-based debates.
I’m sure NO one came out of that exchange with different ideas. In fact, based on research, we all are now more rigid in our beliefs than before.
This goes on every single day to the tune of billions of online comments.
This is why I now believe that the current version of the Internet that is owned by Big Tech monopolies is the greatest existential threat to America and the world, to humanity.
If we continue on this tribalistic path of more polarization to extremes, there is going to be conflict. Humans resolve conflict through violence, and anyone that thinks we are “beyond that” is delusional. Raising a young family in America in 2020 has now become a risk. I wouldn’t have thought about that before. Now I do.
I would LOVE IT if I am wrong here. I will celebrate being completely wrong if we can somehow move through this epoch of human evolution WITHOUT massive conflict.
What are some things we should keep in mind so we can be aware of these dangers as our world becomes more connected?
-Seek out ideas that conflict with your own - This will make your current understanding stronger should you decide you don’t need to change your mind. And if your beliefs need updating, you’ll be able to do that as well. A win-win.
-Avoid online debates - Yes, avoid them completely because they don’t make a positive difference and they most definitely make things worse.
-Facts don’t change the human mind - This is a fact.
-Social media is rotting your brain - If you are going to use it, like I still plan to in certain ways, create rules around it. Don’t let it use you.
- People mean well most of the time. Some people don’t mean well and are pathetic excuses for life. You’ll spot these trolls a mile away. When you do, don’t give them the clicks, votes, or any algo juice whatsoever. Starve them of oxygen. Don’t’ engage. Block. Delete. Ban. There is NO reason to let toxicity have a microphone on your platform.
-Spend more time in nature and more time with other people IN REAL LIFE - Life is for living, so get out there and live it.
-Find a person or persons you can have challenging discussions with, then listen intently and ask a lot of questions. This will make you a better conversationalist and more empathetic to different ideas and viewpoints.
Life is a miracle that is trillions-to-one against.
Let’s not let the Internet and the countless lost souls that populate it disabuse us of this reality.
Here’s a book I’m excited about: Ready Player Two (the first one is a must-read)
A book I’m reading that’s so far so good: Don't Eat for Winter - The DEFoW Diet: Escape from the Infinite Autumn and Unlock Nature's Secret to Reveal Your True Body
“I remained a socialist for several years, even after my rejection of Marxism; and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important than equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”
― Karl R. Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography
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