Editor’s note: As part of Bridge’s examination of internet vitriol, we asked a number of our most frequent commenters if they’d like to explain why they choose to chime in on our stories so often. Duane Barns (who comments as simply Duane) took us up on it.
“An open mind is a free mind. The person who closes his mind to new ideas, concepts and people is locking a door that enslaves his own mentality. Intolerance is a two-edged scythe that on its backswing cuts off opportunities and lines of communication.” -- Napoleon Hill
I was asked, as a frequent Bridge commenter, to explain why I read and comment on Bridge stories online. My reasons are simple: I like to think, I need to think, we all need to think and online is a place we can find stimulus to think.
Thinking requires focus. Our thinking is improved by interacting with others, and online has the potential to be that place. We can more easily break down the barriers between us there. We have long standing problems that we need new ideas and to develop those ideas, we need conversations, and online can be that place.
Thinking, or thinking productively, is a skill, and it needs to be developed, it needs to be stimulated and challenged, it needs to be used. When I read I think, when I write I think more, when I listen to what is said I think again about what I said and why. Each conversation, in comments, gives me an opportunity to think.
The United States is great because people were exposed to ideas, were allowed to think about those ideas and make them their own, with others they made those ideas better, and they used them to make life here better.
Online has the potential to be that place today.
Thinking is most effective when it is focused, especially when engaging a diverse commenting community. Online has the potential of providing a place for structured/focused thinking.
Our relative affluence threatens the sharing of ideas. Abundance has allowed self-aggrandizement to supersede ideas. It has made us comfortable and fearful of losing that comfort, made our politicians rationalize against change, made our government about serving programs, not about people living their lives. Our abundance has created the luxury of making everything black or white and not allowing for the grey, it makes every issue partisan. The cost of that luxury is lost opportunities for conversations, for thinking, for competing ideas to be discussed.
Even here on Bridge there are seldom conversations about competing ideas. Are we so steeped in partisanship that people won’t risk a conversation, risk looking at their ideas from different perspectives, risk helping ideas evolve? Writers of opinion articles don’t encourage conversations, they don’t engage even few commenters.
Online, we have the potential to break down those barriers. Online doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t see you, so it gets around one barrier and gives us the choice of eliminating other barriers. We can choose to read and listen and think or we simply throw up the barrier of partisanship. We can choose to use online anonymity and open our minds to explode other ideas and other thinking or we can close our minds with blind partisanship prejudice.
I have learned that one person can have an idea, but it takes a conversation for that idea to grow and become a solution. We need conversations so ideas can be shared and developed. Online has the potential to be the place of conversations that give us that needed innovation.
You have heard my reasons for being online. Are you willing to challenge me? If so, then let’s have a conversation.
Pick a topic: Better-educated children, more stable families, less government spending, less government involvement, smarter government involvement, LGBT marriage, racial harmony, improving local economies, etc., and see how diversity in thinking would have changed results.
I learned the smartest thing I can do is to ask and listen to others to find ideas that will help me do better.
Why not test your own thinking and barriers, start that conversation?