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  • Writer's pictureNick Klingensmith

Screaming Blind: The Death of Intelligent Debate

The problem with social media isn’t the baseless, hate-spewing shouting matches. It’s not the false ideologues, ignorant memes, faux constitutional scholars, infectious disease specialists or statistical geniuses either.

It’s not even the unfettered promotion of false, unchecked, media posts intended to incite and divide. In fact, the problem isn’t the people you disagree with at all.

The problem with social media is actually the people who agree with you – The Echo Chambers.

The danger of echo chambers is that they tend to lead to a lack of original thought, dissenting opinions, and challenging ideas. We cease to think for ourselves.

Social media once promised to be an incredible medium for high-minded debate. With immediate access to all of the world’s known information and a platform for a free, rapid exchange of ideas from unlimited sources all over the world, social media removed barriers between people who wish to learn and share ideas.

Unfortunately, an unintended consequence is that instead of being better informed and exposed to ever-broadening viewpoints, Americans today are more polarized and draw from shrinking sources of information.

Our attentions spans and thirst for knowledge have been replaced by soundbites and memes.

Debates have deteriorated to shouting matches and personal attacks. We’ve reduced complex issues to punch lines and cartoons and assume that anyone who doesn’t validate our beliefs are either evil or stupid.

We mock the younger generation, but we aren’t setting the bar very high.

It’s understandable that in efforts to be heard while avoiding attacks, we seek a like-minded audience – groups, communities and other circles of influence in which you only encounter beliefs or opinions that validate your own.

Our natural instinct to explore new ideas has been replaced by hearing only the facts that fit our desired narrative. We’ve removed all intelligent debate.

In nearly every college classroom, there exists that one obnoxious, opinionated, short sighted know-it-all. You can shout louder, attack them personally, or dismiss them as either stupid or vindictive. Or you can choose to study, raise the level of debate and elevate everyone.

I recently responded to blatant propaganda posted on Facebook by asking for supporting facts. Instead, I got deflection, innuendo, and blame-shifting. I was called “Sheep” and told I need to “Stay woke.” Yet, I never took a position. I never offered an opinion. Their world view was so threatened by the facts that they took it as an attack. And then others piled on.

Revelation of facts contrary to what you already believe shouldn’t be considered a threat. It’s called progress.

Facts shouldn’t be denied, they should be sought after. When debating complex issues, 250 words should be the minimum requirement.

The best way to understand ideas and beliefs that do not conform to your own point of view is through actively seeking out people and groups who candidly disagree with your own perspective.

When I started my Consulting business, there was someone who routinely, respectfully trolled my posts. His comments irritated me, but rather than get defensive, I supported my case with facts. Week after week he forced me to be better. And week after week I was. I hope he reads this and finds a way to disagree. #gostride

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