Although January is already over, I thought it would be wise to look back on the phenomena of New Year’s Resolutions and see just how successful we all have been at sticking to them.
If you are anything like me, each year you set yourself a lofty goal with the expectation that you can achieve it. Somehow it seems that the concept of another year older and another year wiser is true enough that it will have some bearing on your success when it comes to following through with your resolution.
This year I decided to focus on something that I could see meaningful impact from. There are the usual resolutions of course: eat healthier, be more active, read more and be less dependent on technology for everything that we do.
To be honest, I have tried and failed with each of these in the past so rather than try and achieve something that I am clearly not going to be able to do, this year I decided to try something radical, something totally different: I decided I would stop reading the comments on any internet news posts or stories.
Now, I know what you are thinking, ‘that sounds easy!’ and that is what I thought too, but it ends up being far more difficult to not be lured into the black hole that is the comment section of a popularly shared news story.
The reason for this is very simple, the comment section for any of these articles is where intellectual mentation goes to die and ignorance is reborn from the ashes. No matter what I would read it would quickly devolve from a sensible debate into uninformed gibberish that is so hyper-partisan it actually is nauseating.
My real motivation for doing this, besides avoiding a constant upset stomach, stems from the fact that those who make the initial posting, who write news article or the Facebook post, or the speech of a politician, are the ones who decide what will be debated.
Look back through the comments section, they do not engage in the rancor of unintelligible dialogue, they remain well above the fray. In all instances the opportunity remains for us to either be the one that sets the conversation or the one that endlessly debates it with those who will never accept your arguments let alone address in an intelligent and respectful manner.
These are people who you would never be able to convince in person that your position is sound, so how would you be able to achieve this sitting in front of a keyboard?
The greatest example in Ontario in recent memory was during the 2011 provincial election. While the opposition parties were busy trying to frame a narrative for discussion, the provincial Liberals came out and said the election will be fought over education and the costs for post-secondary education.
The opposition parties tried to re-frame the debate, but it was too late, the mould had already been cast. No matter what the opposition did to refocus the conversation they were forced to discuss the priorities of the governing Liberal Party. This is no different then the conversations that we see take shape on internet forum or Facebook posts.
While I still catch myself reading the occasional comment, I have found my interest noticeably reduced and it’s refreshing. I will participate in debate as long as I have an opportunity to craft and frame the discussion rather than wading into the midpoint of a narrative which is already well established, albeit incoherent and ill-informed.
It’s a philosophy worth considering and as a relatively wise character once said, “You can’t argue with all of the fools in the world, much easier to let them have their way and then trick them when they are not paying attention”.