Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Isolationism in Online Communities

As I've mentioned before, my FB feed is often the source of fascinating material to write about. Here's a snapshot from my feed recently:

I have a feeling that I may be the one whose posts have now been hidden, although the timing is a bit off - I haven't written a blog post on the subject of guns in a little while. I may also have been hidden by this individual some time ago for the same reason.

My purpose here isn't to embarrass or criticize an individual, which is why I tried to hide all of the identifying information. I'm also not interested here in the specific issue or the positions on it. Rather, it's the response itself I find fascinating. It's a celebration of isolationism, a "three cheers" for blocking oneself off from people who disagree with you.

I agree that people who disagree can sometimes be disagreeable about it, but that's another matter entirely. And I am willing to guess that the use of the term "ignorant" here is a synonym for "thinks differently from me". Even in cases where somebody is, in fact, ignorant (that is, lacks certain information) about a topic, I may still learn something by listening to what they have to say. Ignorance is not a moral failing, but we tend to treat it as one.

This is the sort of "citizenship" that I wrote about earlier in the Brexit context. If we're going to live in community - whether in physical space or the virtual world, or often both - we need to do better than simply shutting out the folks who disagree with us. I'm not saying that we should all bathe ourselves in a mass of opposing views. And negativity is certainly worth avoiding, because of the psychic costs it brings. But disagreement and negativity are not the same thing - and if we avoided all negativity on the internet, we'd shut the whole thing down anyway...

Ultimately, people are going to do what they want to do. If you want to shut out the views of those who think differently, you can do that - FB has apparently made it easy to do so. But don't then complain that you live in a world in which nobody listens to your side anymore. They will only be following your example.

No comments:

Post a Comment