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A Farewell to Civil Discourse

Jeff Campbell

Posted on September 30, 2018 07:24

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Social discourse is heading for extinction in America. Social media is speeding up the process.

There has never been a time in our existence that we have had more means for fast and massive communication. So, why, in a slap to the face of science, does it feel like we have not only stopped evolving, but are beginning a de-evolution process towards ancient tribalistic behaviors?

One might think that if we communicate more, we would fight less, find more commonalities as humans. Therein lies the rub. If one were to perform a regression analysis, one would find that the increase in communication technologies not only doesn’t predict better quality of communications, it would actually show a corresponding decline in the other half of communicating, listening.

Technology has given us the opportunity to communicate at the speed of light, without thinking, without any meaningful insights, without concern for effect, and without concern for listening for a response. Maybe it is the impersonal nature of much of our technologically advanced communicating.

In Michael Crichton’s non-fiction book, Travels, he talks about the importance of Direct Experience, the importance of communicating, learning and visiting other peoples and other cultures so that one feels a better and personal kinship with others. Technology is providing ever more effective means to render Direct Experience physically unnecessary. It is, however, very necessary from a quality of human interaction standpoint.

Another side-effect of the social media epidemic is that we are unlearning listening skills. In the vast sea of social media there is a silent deafening noise that one must rise above to be heard, by becoming ever cruder and lacking of intellect. One must use a sledgehammer approach to smash through the surface of the millions of voices clambering for attention. This becomes habit, and when one then does have direct and personal interactions, the same learned habits apply.

Shouting at each other and working very hard to make sure you are the only one heard are becoming the new rules of discourse. Therefore, we have entered an era of unlearning quality and civil communications that is sped by the changing technology landscape. Science, through corporations, creates without regard for the effects of its creations on the human condition.

People have spent a lot of time lately worried about threats to democracy, nationalism and a resurgence of fascism. The foundation of our country was designed to withstand idiots in power at any given time as long as we continue to effectively engage in civil discourse and believe in that very foundation.

The real threat to democracy is within each of us and our struggles to maintain effective and civil communications with each other and listening and understanding is a critical part of that. There is the saying, “Let’s talk it out.” If we are truly communicating with each other, which involves more than just talking or shouting at someone, we will be strong and lasting despite who is in power at any given time. If we continue along the road we are currently taking, all bets are off.

Jeff Campbell

Posted on September 30, 2018 07:24

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Source: NYU News

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