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4 Sep 2014

Rise of Self-Censorship

Self-CensorshipLife requires effort. Just as it’s easy to be inactive and not eat right, it’s easy to associate with people who are like us and who agree with us. Similarly, just as the absence of challenging, healthy practices has ramifications, so does the absence of challenging relationships.

Homophily describes the natural, human, social tendency to interact with “birds of the same feathers.” It’s powerful, underpinning the force in peer-to-peer marketing for example. When we couple this with our tendency to avoid conflict, we get self-imposed censorship. Just as tension makes stronger muscles, it makes stronger minds too, helping us through mental blocks and delivering better problem-solving capabilities.

Two articles, “How Social Media Silences Debate” (The New York Times, August 26, 2014) and “Social Media May Discourage Free Expression, Even Offline” (CBS News, August 27, 2014), discuss conflict avoidance. Social media, it seems, encourages most of us to suppress negative emotions and controversial views, creating a faux happy virtual world. For those of us who regularly participate in social media, this extends into our realities too, making us about 50% less likely to express our views than those who don’t regularly participate.

Moreover, just as the lack of physical challenges can fatten our waistlines, lack of mental challenges can fatten our worldviews, making them more dominant, seem more righteous. In both cases, this fat constrains flexibility and adaptability, increasing rigidity in movement and thinking. Such fat makes “thinking outside the box” very difficult, reducing creativity, innovation and basic problem-solving.

So, exercise your mind today, interact with someone different and disagreeable.

8 Responses

  1. Jim Hopkins

    Nice post Mike. Social Media could easily be called “anti-social media” – very little balance, fact checking, or responsibility taken for posts. Akin to typing “FIRE” where everyone is fanning the flames!

    1. Mike Lehr

      Thank you for the compliment, Jim. I appreciate you stopping by for a visit and comment. I like your new nickname for social media. Enjoy your next run! ~Mike

  2. Commenting on an article in Science News the other day, I defended a person that other commenters wanted to “vote off the site,” calling him and those of his opinion a fraud and a liar. I pointed out some of the reasons to question trace gas global warming, and I was likewise called a fraud and a liar, confusing the naive and irritating the scientifically sophisticated. In the process, he badly paraphrased me, in quotes. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/fertilizer-produces-far-more-greenhouse-gas-expected?mode=topic&context=60

    1. Mike Lehr

      You’re right, Rycke, we need to support those who ask questions about prevailing policies. I appreciate you visiting and commenting. I don’t know if you’re familiar with cognitive dissonance, but it is a concept with exploring. Enjoy your day. ~Mike

  3. Good observation. We would rather keep our opinion to ourselves to avoid unnecessary conflict. But my Q is, how do you balance expressing your views and avoiding the trolls who are capable of tearing your life apart thus cyber mob and black ops.

    1. Mike Lehr

      Thank you for visiting, Sonnie. The post presents two sides to self-censorship. One you express. The other is excluding ourselves from information or perspectives we don’t like, restricting our information flow very much like authoritarian regimes do for their populations. At least you are exposing yourself to these trolls.

      Yes, it might not be wise or worthwhile to argue with them but remember that is one of their objectives, to silence you so it seems your viewpoints are non-existent to others. In many ways, it’s much like the Ukraine. While many people in the disaffected areas would like to remain, they are intimidated by the armed, lawless groups supporting independence, closer ties to Russia or integration into Russia.

      Still, also consider the other aspect of the post, exposing yourself to opposing views and perspectives. While you might not be able to enjoy success on one front, you can on another.

      Again, thank you for visiting and commenting. ~Mike

    2. Trolls are a pain, but it is easy to show that one is stupid, simply by not being stupid in your own argument. After a bit of back and forth, it is best sometimes to just say that you are done arguing. You just have to go on long enough to show how ridiculous they are.

      1. Mike Lehr

        You’re right, Rycke. The point is not to change their minds but to let them know people are willing to stand up to them. That’s all. Thanks again for visiting and leaving your insights. ~Mike

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