Message Boards and Comment Sections Part II

In my last post “Message Boards and Comment Sections” I talked about how debates in these particular forums almost always turn into a battle of egos rather than an honest and authentic discussion of ideas. True to form a debate followed in the comment section where this very dynamic played itself out. Ostensibly the debate concerned whether there are any free societies and whether the freedom of citizens is a good and proper goal to which a government to aspire. But as the process played out I found myself in the anxious situation where I felt the need to respond to every comment (or risk tacitly conceding a point) and then dreading seeing the the little red circle pop up indicating that a new comment had been made.

Although to a certain (not insignificant) extent there was an interesting and legitimate exchange of ideas there was also an underlying current of egoism which over time increased in importance. Eventually, the ideas of the discussion became the weapons used to fight a battle of egos. I certainly am not accusing my worthy opponents of being entirely responsible for this. I, by no means am innocent of this process. (In fact, I wrote a book about my prior experiences and lessons learned in this world.) Perhaps because of these experiences I am simply more aware of of the dynamic. I suppose I also have to accept the possibility that I am the only one who is really experiencing this dynamic and that I am projecting my experience on to the other people. But, I say that more as a disclaimer because I truly believe this is what is playing out despite any potential denials or protestations I might receive in the near future.

More and more I find this decent into egoism to be a drain on my energy. There is certainly a part of me (my ego) that has a strong desire to jump back into the game and in the short run this game can be very exhilarating. But like all addictions, the short term benefit gradually becomes overwhelmed by the long term detriments.

At this point I am weary of writing another post on a political topic because I (sort of) dread the debate that ensues in the comment section. I dread the feeling of having to respond or risk a humiliation however small. This is not to say that I will never reengage with the game. Like all addicts I suppose that I will relapse and come back to the well eventually. And honestly, I do feel lately I have been gaining an education and questioning some liberal beliefs I have held that frankly could use some questioning.

I even have a topic in mind that I have been mulling over. These topics tend to sit in the back of my mind for a while gaining mass and organization. At a certain point they achieve a critical mass and then push themselves forward out onto the page. This is the way it always happens. The cycle will repeat.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Message Boards and Comment Sections Part II

  1. donnie

    Sorry to hear how dreadful our earlier back-and-forth was for you. I myself very much enjoyed our lengthy discussion. Generally I enjoy any spirited disagreement that remains respectful and civil. I’m afraid I assumed you must have found it stimulating as well, my apologies for that.

    I never got the impression that our disagreement was anything other than an honest and authentic discussion of competing ideas. Obviously egos are in play, but egos are always in play when closely held beliefs are being challenged. When I first came to the political understanding I have now, it was a humbling experience. I’d like to think that original experience (and several similar ones like it) has greatly reduced my pride and ego in regards to these sorts of things. But I am reminded of Franklin’s famous quote, “There is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride… for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”

    And honestly, I do feel lately I have been gaining an education and questioning some liberal beliefs I have held that frankly could use some questioning.

    Glad to hear this. Ultimately this is why disagreements are so important to hash out. You may not realize it but I actually have learned quite a bit from you as well.

    God bless, Winston. And here’s to better disagreements in the future.

    • Unless I am misreading you it seems that my post has bruised your ego. Donnie, please know that was not my intent. I was really just trying to articulate my own mindset when I engage in this type of activity. Although it is telling that you responded the way you did. No judgement of course…

      • donnie

        Ha! Actually if there has been anything you’ve written that has bruised my ego it was your last post. But more important than my ego was the fact that I thought it was an unfair criticism of people who, at least in my experience, are overwhelming reasonable and civil – certainly by internet standards.

        Perhaps the ego flare-ups have more to do with cognitive dissonance than anything else. We perceive of ourselves a particular way, and then feel the need to fight and defend when that self-conception comes under attack. You may see yourself as a proud American, a patriotic citizen of what you believe to be is a free society. So when you stumble upon a group of folks on the internet whose ideas, if true, would be hard to reconcile with that self-conception, you feel a need to defend against them. Likewise I see myself as one who, not so long ago, set my preconceived conceptions aside and accepted some difficult to embrace, but ultimately (in my estimation) true notions of politics, authority, liberty, etc. I like to think this process has humbled me so that I will more easily be able to update erroneous beliefs in the future but it could also be true that, per Franklin’s quote, I’ve become proud of my supposed humility.

        As far as I know, the only way we can ever rid ourselves of these ego obstacles is to simply follow the example of the Saints and imitate Christ. But in the meantime, perhaps the ego-flare ups aren’t as bad as they seem. Perhaps recognizing when they occur can help us come to truths which we would otherwise be too stubborn to see.

  2. I don’t mean to criticize anyone so much as describe a dynamic I have seen played out time and again. I don’t mean it as a personal attack, in fact I think I have articulated that I am just as affected by this dynamic as anyone else. I certainly concur that everyone has been for the most part reasonable and civil.

    As for the whole freedom discussion. Once we reach the point where we are just repeating arguments already made the exchange of ideas has pretty much run its course.

    That said, your side has made some fair points and I have been continually processing the logic.

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