Fear and loathing on the internet is at an all time high. We seem to living in a “hive mind” generation where clicks and likes matter more than empathy and compassion. We are living in a time when people want to identify as <insert label> instead of as human beings with similar needs/wants/desires.
What binds us is far more powerful and strong than what divides us but one must be willing to operate not only with an open mind but with an open heart. Do we engage with someone we disagree with in a constructive way? If we disagree, and the debate gets heated, do we follow up with that person and accept our differences in a positive manner? There is no shame in an agree to disagree mindset.
How we engage debate is as important, if not more so, than what we disagree upon. Too often we adopt a linear manner of thinking with no thought that we might learn something by simply listening and hearing each other out. Never stop learning is a great mindset and is the key to keeping your mind and perspective fresh. Never be afraid to admit when you are wrong.
Social media represents the best, and the worst, of humanity. Free and open engagement is a strong and powerful mechanism for those who have traditionally been disenfranchised and marginalized. Its little wonder women and minorities are among the more vocal and influential social media users. It allows these groups to challenge preconceived notions and to inform the world about our experiences which challenges the status quo.
How social media communities deal with trolls and harassment, while also promoting free and open debate, is a hot topic right now. To frame it as a free speech issue only is to ignore the reality and promote less than open debate. Targeted harassment is an attempt to silence someone, mostly women and minorities, which is the antithesis of free speech. Even in the public sector where the First Amendment operates there are limits to the doctrine when used to silence those with whom we disagree.
Friday’s podcast focused on these issues and arose out of my weekly chat with Matt Wood, “Chopping It Up With Matt.” The genesis of the discussion came from articles published in the non believer community. The first, by David Smalley, was entitled What’s Killing the Atheist Movement and contains a very good discussion of the issues presented above.
As a counterpoint, PZ Myers wrote an article called What If the Atheist Movement Needs To Die? which represents in a more practical sense how we tend to generally operate. You may call me a dreamer, and I hope I’m not the only one, when I say it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let’s learn to engage each other with more empathy and understanding and less hate and name calling. Our lives, and by extension our worlds, will be a better place.
You can listen to today’s podcast below. Follow my friend Matt Wood on twitter at @w00dstok.