Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tortoises and Birds

I've always viewed the most important part of skepticism and scientific thinking is the ability to ask questions and receive criticism. How is a person to learn, to grow, and to correct themselves without criticism and dialog?

Lately, I've felt really frustrated because I can't seem to stimulate the kind of dialog that I want and I'm not getting the kind of criticism that I need. I'm tempted to blame this on the internet trolls who have pretty much taken over every sphere and made the place inhospitable for people who operate in good faith. But as tempting as this would be, it's possible that the problem is my own. So I'm going to tell you all how I feel and maybe you can help me figure this out.

There are two groups of people that I'm having difficulty with: tortoises and birds. I don't really understand them and I don't know how to work with them. The first group, the tortoises, stay in their shells a lot and don't chime in much - especially if they disagree. They seem to be afraid to speak their mind for fear that the wrath of the internet will fall down upon them. By not participating in conversation, especially when the topic is controversial or feelings are running high, we lose their insight and perspective.

The second group of people are the birds. These people aren't interested in constructive criticism or adding anything to the conversation. All they want to do is swoop down and poop on someone in order to shut them up. I feel frustrated by these people because they don't offer any correction or help - they just drop in to tell me that I'm wrong or wasting everyone's time. 

I almost feel as if people have just gotten to the point where they expect others to jump down their throats and treat them like crap so they don't say much of anything. I can see the temptation but I don't want anyone to expect such bad behavior from me. I think we have a serious need to learn how to criticize ideas without tearing down people. How to achieve that though if some people are too afraid to talk and others delight in shutting down those who do?

Anyone else noticed this or am I just having a crappy week?