The Internet: A tool to broaden knowledge, not reinforce established beliefs

We live in an amazing time of communication. The Internet has allowed people to get messages out at blistering speeds to staggering amounts of people. The ability to take in other people’s content and create content is at a level unimagined by those even 50 years ago.

It has come with a price, however. Any concept at all, right or wrong, can be thrown out to be digested by millions of people. There’s no simple and easy way to vet what is written about on the Internet. Contrasted with the past where in order to be published, teams of people had to agree with what was being said and ensure that enough people would be interested.

The other drawback is how many people turn the Internet not into a resource to broaden their knowledge, but instead make it an echo chamber that only confirms what they want to believe. Not many people go out specifically looking for content that goes against what they believe.

I believe this is something that should be done by as many people as possible, as often as possible. There’s no value in spending time reinforcing beliefs that one already holds. Understanding how and why those that believe differently leads to mutual understanding, and only from there can progress be made.

I hate debate. Debate is an adversarial, aggressive fight. The point of debate is not to understand or to be understood, the point of debate is to win, to defeat one’s enemy. Any point made in a debate is roundly dismissed by the other party, with all manner of argument made against it.

To truly understand how someone else can hold a belief that runs totally contrary to what one believes is absolutely invaluable and something I personally find to be fascinating. From issues of racism, feminism, modern liberalism and socialism to esoteric topics like chemtrails, harebrained conspiracies, crystal healing power and obscure religions, understanding how someone believes what they do instead of rejecting it outright is a rewarding experience unlike any other.

Take the flat-Earthers, for example. The vast majority of us know the Earth is roughly spherical. We can all throw out all sorts of evidence and reasoning and logic to argue for a spherical earth, but who can explain the thought process of those that believe the earth is a flat disk?

It’s rarely easy, however. Challenging the deeply-held beliefs that we hold is a difficult, taxing activity. Looking into enough crazy theories and seeing how many people rabidly and unquestioningly follow them can strain one’s faith in humanity.

Not only can it be depressing, it can be scary. It’s scary to consider the fact that one might be wrong. To give even a little bit  validity to the other side can lead to a complete change in one’s beliefs. But really, what’s more important? To actually be right, or to feel comfortable in not having one’s ideas challenged? It’s worth it in my book.

The ability to understand and take in different points of view is a skill that carries over into everyday life. Conflict is a fundamental part of society, every day there are disagreements and misunderstandings, tension and fighting.

Whether or not the Earth is flat or the government controls the weather is one thing, but the mundane issues that pop up in all of our lives benefit from being able to understand all sides.
I find myself not getting quite so angry at other drivers on the road, because it’s entirely possible that what I consider to be completely inconsiderate and reckless driving may not have been intended to be completely inconsiderate and reckless. To not get so bent out of shape about something as silly and inconsequential as the daily commute is really quite wonderful.

Take in opposing ideas. Compassion and empathy is what makes us human and never leaving one’s own intellectual comfort zone wastes the capacity to understand our fellow man.