One thing that can be noted from the various camps in the Philippines’ sad “political debate” is that the starting point of assertions is always one’s political or personal loyalties. As such, the goal of most participants in this “debate” is to re-enforce beliefs rather than engage in an intellectually-honest search for the truth.
Facebook has, of late, been under fire for applying an algorithm that prioritises content by inferring what users want to see from the behaviour they exhibit while logged onto the site (or its suite of apps). According to its critics, it magnifies the effect of confirmation bias and multiplies the effect of herd behaviour which then contributes to the spread of “fake news”.
In reality, Facebook is not the only tool intellectually-dishonest users use to cocoon themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded cronies. Every social media site allows users to “mute” and “block” other users whose content they prefer not to see or hear. This is perfectly sensible when one is dealing with “trolls” and “bots” as well as rude and offensive people. However, these are also features certain “influencers” use to block and mute people who respond with valid or well-articulated points. What these “influencers” don’t realise is that by muting arguments counter to their beliefs and, in the process, progressively surrounding themselves with people who agree with them, they are also mimicking the behaviour of the very Facebook algorithm they criticise.
Discussing amongst like-minded pals is easy and gratifying. But true intellectual challenge lies in engaging people who disagree and pose compelling counter-arguments to one’s theses. In short, people who are lazy thinkers find comfort in the embrace of communities of like-minded folk. True intellectuals seek the challenge of testing their ideas in hostile territory.
There is much more to be learned from people who disagree with you than from people who agree with you. When you find that a discussion is too congenial and all participants in a forum are acting like cheerleaders rather than exhibiting a balance of healthy skepticism to what you say, the more intelligent response to such a situation is discomfort in comfort. A life spent cloistered in a comfort zone is a life spent allowing one’s faculties to progressively be blunted by lack of challenge and one’s character dulled by a lack of routine reality checks.
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