This will come as a surprise to very few, but it is of interest on a few levels. The first point of view which is surprise to absolutely no one is that we humans are a simple group to figure out. We intensely like one thing above all else: the unquestionable pleasure of being entirely and totally agreed with.
It really doesn’t really matter about what, if someone says something, and the dumbest bastard to ever live, the one person that the speaker could not stand and despised to his very core…if the dumb bastard said “I totally agree”…the speaker’s opinion of the dumb gentleman would brighten, at least momentarily. This is human nature. We like to be agreed with and we especially enjoy it when multiple points of our opinions are agreed with at one time.
Social Media is a classical example of this, but it’s hardly the only place. Thing is, back before “social media” in the days of the internet message boards, still it became a love fest and those who agreed with the right people (genuinely or just as a facade) had a better time than the outliers. In my own tenure as a forum owner and administrator, I found myself gravitating toward people who, shock of all shocks, agreed with me more oft than they disagreed. The guys I was bumping skulls with on a regular basis, they could “get away” with far less, they could stray much less outside the rules, they could wander much less off-topic, and had to toe a much finer line.
This does not mean I was a “bad” admin, it just means that I was in the same trap many have been in: I like it when people agree and like many forum admins I liked members of the forum who agreed with me most of all. If you look at most forums that are still alive today, every one of them will have two distinct groups: the kiss-asses and the renegades. Yeah, a third group exists, the group of people who occupy the middleground, but this group is usually occupied by a rotating group of members. Once they are courted and wooed by one of the other groups, they decide whether they pucker up or stir the pot.
Facebook, Twitter, those places are no different. I am a reader of several groups, and my friends are readers in many groups. The funny part is, every single group tends to be is own circular forum. A circular cavern where a shout thrown always is repeated by the echoes. Egos stroked with vigor, and very few dissenting voices.
The dissenting voices-I confess, they’re the best part. I like displays of intelligence, always have, and nothing lets you peek into the intellect of the individuals like someone who really digs into them and makes them have to think about what they like, believe, think, and agree with. Not the blanket-type of disagree, but the well thought out but intelligently delivered dissent. Not the “I hate old cars, they kill our planet!” tripe, but the “I had a ’68 Chevelle from ’69-’80, fastest most exhilarating machine I ever drove, but man, that thing liked the fuel. I don’t go as fast in my Mazda, but I go farther.”
That kind of dissent…it’s tricky. It’s badmouthing the old iron, but it’s not as…outwardly unpalatable. The speaker portrays themselves as a fellow muscle machine owner, but then comes in with all this BS Mazda praise. It’s…the thinkin’ man’s dissent. It requires a response more well-thought and clever than “You suck!” or “Cubic Inches for Quarter Miles!”
Despite the temporary annoyance of the dissenting view, it really does make the group stronger. It helps everybody to really consider why they think they way they think, to consider other elements of the argument, and to really hash out their opinions. Usually this is done person by person, internally.
Perhaps one guy has a problem with…new cars. Well, the dissenting voice did not state the year model of his Mazda, and the company was founded in 1920. His Mazda could be as old as any “muscle beast”. One guy has a problem with slow cars? Some Mazda’s can clear a 0-60 in 6.5 seconds like child’s play. Maybe they have an issue with “Foreign” muscle? Well, new Charger’s are manufactured in Canada, but the new “Hellcat” has tongues wagging and drooling. And, of course, if the guy used to have a ’68 Chevelle for 11 years, he knows cars…but now he’s rockin’ a Mazda. Maybe that Mazda’s got some merit besides just 40MPG? Maybe it’s got a little sparkle there that others have missed due to their prejudice?
Maybe, the circularity of social media is actually a benefit? Beyond all the kiss-ass pandering and preaching to the choir, maybe down deep, there’s an actual benefit to the group as a whole? Besides just dealing with individuals of similar opinions, maybe in a way these groups and little cliques are actually beneficial beyond the superficial?
Perhaps. But as I have clearly demonstrated, only with the addition of intelligent dissent. A lone, sophisticated voice in the shadows that helps the group think and analyze, grow, and learn.
I’m a simple man. If I can teach one fool a lesson that makes him less foolish…if I can speak from the shadows and make others think before they shout me down…if I can offer a fool a reason to open his mind…then my dissent has not been in vain.