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I started writing this on asakiyume's blog in response to http://asakiyume.livejournal.com/561136.html but then it got out of hand and I don't have time to rewrite it as a post.

But go look at the question; it's a good one.

Anyways... Digressing a moment first, to make a point (with extra pomposity!)

The word is not the thing, as the map is not the road. All language is fiction, as all painting feeds on living light to represent dead life. All writing feeds on living thought to represent thoughts that have already been thunk.

So the Internet is a collection of representations. How honest is a person with their self, with their identity? It takes years to find out who you are, and if you're honest, you find you are many people. Each one of these people is an act, an artwork of its own, often blurring with other people, sometimes in strangely contradictory things, all of us dancing the song of ourselves like that childless lonely old bugger Walt Whitman.

I'd go so far as to say that only these eyes reading now, this breath pulsing now is the real self, and you are all alone, and all the other parts of you that you call "you" are constructs of memory and emotion. You feel attached to them and protect them as you would your own vitals, because they are the collection of behaviours that allow you to continue to be you, which is essential for your biological existence.

But we can create these people to some extent with any other representation. In fiction, we want engaging characters who make us feel alive, in non-fiction, we want to see those vistas of understanding that are granted by master teachers, and we read blogs to get a taste of someone's story, to briefly experience someone else's life. We dive into that exercise with the same kind of offering up of trust that we do to the others.

So when we offer up the I to be absorbed in the words, to build a picture out of them, we hope for honesty, that what we're getting is the real deal...

As long as it doesn't offend...

As long as it isn't wrong, or stupid or deceptive...

As long as we can agree with it, or at least see its point of view...

In other words, we don't really want honesty. We want affirmation. We want to find the part of our experience that intersects with the other in a way that we can bring meaning into our lives. That part of us that wants affirmation is not choosy about truth, goodness, or beauty, necessarily. It just wants what it wants, and is happy to decieve itself if it gets more affirmation.

On this rock, many ships of state are wrecked. I'm lookin' at you, Rupert Murdoch.

In other words, we're poachers after meaning. And as often as not, we toss back what we catch when we're tired of its flavour, or we find that the source is not entirely honest or untainted by bias.

So when we bring home some of these gains, when we incorporate them into our experience, the risk is always there that we have taken on something we shouldn't. Something that will do us harm. One of the purposes of High School is to try out some of the bits of personality we've picked up in our education and enculturation. Try them on for size. And my, aren't a lot of them things we really DO need to get out of our system early. It's harmless fun... mostly. Sometimes, these things stick with us far too long and do us harm.

So, I think I agree with most people that the least detestible of these examples is the computer programmer, since their material on offer is solid computer advice, and there isn't much room for harm taking this material on in ways that might be harmful.

Second is the librarian. They aren't passing on a lot of the daily hardships, dangers, and quandries a real firefighter can get into, but their research is good. The harm they might cause is to lead a person who isn't really suited to firefighting to ultimately lose their life fighting a fire. We can only hope that the recruitment process will filter someone like that out before they've wasted too many of their days.

But the child one is fraught with peril, since someone may take on that job, thinking it will be as rational and well-thought-out as the father's imagination exercise. That could lead to the permanent emotional harm of several people, at least one of which has no say in the matter.

But I think the most dangerous is the kind of person we have in "Ender's Game". The armchair politician that tries out ideas on people, bringing them into a political system that does not exist, that has not been "tried out" in real life. These sort of deceptions are open-ended, and they lead who knows where? Mien Kampf, Atlas Shrugged, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Dianetics... These are some deceptive blogs of earlier in the mass-communication era. Look what they did, getting people committed to uncompromising political agendas in a way that the "playing out" of their faults led to great evils... one even as far as genocide.

So I'm particularly distrustful of pseudoscientific "social science" theories written by untried academics, filled with made-up or strongly rewritten facts. Especially the ones that affirm hidden prejudices and seething resentments.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
May. 22nd, 2012 11:36 am (UTC)
Heh, that's interesting: seeing things like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Dianetics as the blogs of the past. And look how they continue to linger and influence....

Tell me more about the wanting-affirmation part. Are you speaking from the perspective of the blogger or the person who reads the blog? Or maybe in both cases we want affirmation--but then I find myself wondering what affirmation exactly means or constitutes. Is it as simple as wanting to be liked? Or one step up from that and wanting to hear that others have similar opinions, or react in similar ways in similar circumstances?

barry_king
May. 22nd, 2012 11:45 am (UTC)
Sure. Simple, I think.

People do this: when they like a person, they agree with what they say. When they dislike a person, they will work harder to find fault. In blogs, people often confuse friendship with agreement and vice-versa. Affirmation is that brain-reward feeling you get when you find someone you agree with and get a chance to unload. It's a rock-bottom part of being human. It's just like walking down to the corner to chat with your buddies, only you can be much more selective and narrow in your choice of buddies on the Internet.

So, in this way, the blogosphere, in which I include just about every forum mechanism, such as under the articles in an online newspaper, tends to be as much a divisive force as a unifying one. People cluster around other people of like mind and tend to avoid people they disagree with.

It's not a coincidence that divisive politics has suddenly plagued every nation where the Internet has been introduced. It's the ultimate playground clique-maker! And, amazingly, all built on that same instinct that will keep a circle of friends together for decades, or convince a bunch of boys to go down to the derelict mill and throw rocks through the windows.
asakiyume
May. 22nd, 2012 11:54 am (UTC)
People cluster around other people of like mind and tend to avoid people they disagree with.

Yes. What's interesting to me is to see cases of people brought into agreement on a certain issue when in other cases they'd be hurling insults at one another. Why can that happen some times but not other times?

I do get bothered when people online imply that if you don't agree with them on every issue, you are their personal enemy.
barry_king
May. 22nd, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
Respect and consideration, I think, are key.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )