Thursday, December 20, 2007

Forums: Can we actually have intelligent discussions and debates?

I've seen this off and on since I've been a part of Internet forums and chat-rooms (I used AOL for DOS and BBSs before that). What I'm referring to is the fact that intelligent responses to a topic are often ignored in favor of emotionally charged ones.

I'm not suggesting that there is no room for emotionally charged responses in forums and the like, but they overwhelm the intelligent well thought out ones.

Being a Buddhist (though certainly not a requirement) I tend to shoot for the middle ground and offer thoughtful insight into the topic or defend one side or the other with intelligence. I keep the emotions in check as best as I can and do not encourage or start flame-wars. Yet my comments are virtually ignored and the thread continues down it's course. Usually these kind of threads die because other forum users derail the thread or moderators lock it.

I'm not the only one I've seen this happen to either. Other well thought-out comments are often ignored. I don't have to agree with an author to respect his/her thoughts but apparently I'm in the minority with that frame of mind.

It's easy to blame this all on the anonymous nature of the Internet. To a point that may be correct, but I've seen it IRL (In Real Life) also. Many people just don't want to think and are fine responding to events with virtually unfiltered emotion. People want their perspective respected but they have not earned it. Why should I respect a point of view that you cannot even adequately express?

I'm not guiltless of this I'm sure. There seems to be an unhealthy cultural shift here. Are we headed into a new dark ages where the intellectuals are largely ignored? I certainly hope not, but things don't look so good.

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