19 Apr 2015

Withholding

It's been sorta a blur for the past few months since my last non-scheduled post.

So many events going by. So many events of fortune and calamity. News featuring figures of respect, and lightning rods of hate. So many new academic lessons. So much change.

Kinda odd why I never bothered to think of writing a post on any of this for this long. Lazy? Busy? Cautious? Probably a mix. I do have a strong tendency to not comment on current affairs online though. I am aware, but I usually stay silent on the Internet.

I've seen discussions of such issues go awry online very quickly. Topics can quickly morph into a very polarized binary debate. Comments get clouded by unnecessary hatred. The only way you could possibly score well in such a game - if you even decide to actually play - is to furnish out all your ideas into a digestible, rational, non-inflammatory package of ideas. But not many would bother such effort when you could just blurt out a few lines of biased/discriminatory/insulting remarks in a short comment.

And this isn't new behaviour. Even the simpler verbal discussion can, under certain circumstances, devolve into mudslinging. It boils down to a war of words, trying to crush the opponent's arguments with your clearly flawless logic. But "winning" an argument doesn't validate all the winner's points or completely tarnishes all of the opposition's ideas.

That's one reason why I'm not keen on debates. Two teams quickly preparing for a freshly chosen topic, presenting and rebutting in turn, all to show off their persuasion skills and ultimately gain a trophy or something similar. Yet persuasiveness doesn't necessarily lead to the "truth" - the supposedly "right" stance of an issue deliberated framed as a dilemma, with no room for other positions that don't sit on opposite ends of the spectrum of bias.

I'd rather see more spontaneous discussions rather than debates. Not a battle of ideas, but a congregation. Not a competition to see who is smarter out of all the heated attacks, but a session to see what we could all learn about the topic in question. Heck, there may not even be a definite "solution" that would come out from the discussion, but it's better than arriving at a flawed stance simply because the majority were more swayed with the proposition, or the opposing voices were bullied out of the conversation.

One problem though: who's to judge the objectivity of comments in such an online discussion? The arguments brought forth can't always be supported by strongly quantifiable evidence. And having several anecdotes seemingly pointing to a common relationship isn't always absolutely convincing. It's pretty hard for humans to separate bias completely from their opinions.

In the end, even if I somehow end up participating in an online circle debating/discussing/chatting about a hot issue, I hardly ever take comments seriously, especially if they get posted anonymously and they try to bring up their personal expertise/experience.

But most of the time I don't even bother. Not worth getting frustrated over.