Finding Your Way Back to Intelligence
YOUR INTELLECT IS LIKE YOUR BODY... A CONSTANT DIET OF SWEETS AND EMPTY CALORIES, WILL CAUSE IT TO GROW SOFT AND ATROPHY...
Preface: This series of somewhat self-indulgent literary and philosophical reflections began with "Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination". This installment looks at how constant positive reinforcement on social media can cause one's intellect to soften and eventually atrophy. Links to the previous articles in the series will be found at the end of this post, should you be moved by this one to sample them.
Whatever it is that most people seek on social media, it is not intellectual growth...
For if they did, they would neither welcome, nor partake of the almost constant stream of sugary sweet, trivial comments that are posted hour by hour on blogs and updates. And by the same token, they would not take such utter offense at the fact that some commenters are so "inconsiderate" as to disagree.
Intellectual engagement involves more than just good social media manners...
The ironic fact about exchange on social media is that the endless stream of colorless, generic comments that are nothing more than image pats and ego strokes is that they actually evidence a high level of disengagement. Both intellectual and social.
How many times do you see comments from which you can gather absolutely nothing about the post upon which the comment is being made. Comments like, "Great post, insightful." Or, "Wonderful insights." It may not be true in every case, but I suspect that in more cases than not, the commenter has not read the post, but nevertheless wanted to say something nice, be him- or herself noticed, and move on as quickly as possible.
I also suggest to you that the people who consistently make these kinds of comments are borrowing a page from the Facebook play manual, in which the openly avowed goal is to gather "likes" for one's page, irrespective of whether such likes are offered sincerely, or merely in answer to an appeal, or in some kind of frenzy of anticipated reciprocation.
Friends may not let friends drive drunk... but they also don't let them prattle on without having their ideas challenged...
If you were facing serious weight, and consequently life-threatening health problems, would your true friends surreptitiously slip you ultra-high calorie pastries and sugar-filled soft drinks?
Or would your true friends join you in an effort for you to slim down and shape up? I know my answer to that question; do you know what yours is?
Before writing comes thought... or at least it should...
So many, many people on social media proclaim that they want to write better. And, wouldn't you know it, those plaintive expressions are met by a slew of posts on how to write, in the main by authors who, at best, have been writing and publishing for a few months, and at worst, whose post on how to write is the third piece they've written in their entire life.
But that is to digress. The hard truth is that polished writing is but a tin man without a heart, if beneath the shell of style no substance is found beating and straining to get out.
The first step to improving the substance of what you say or write, is to improve the way you think. The way to do that is to find and connect with people who help you exercise your intellect, people who will challenge your ideas and statements, make you rethink and defend your assumptions and inferences, provide a resistance against which you can exercise your intellect.
As with physical training, in intellectual growth, there is no gain without at least some pain...
Sometimes it's the pain of admitting to yourself that you're not as smart or as knowledgeable as you think. Sometimes it having to admit that some of your most cherished beliefs are wrong. Or that maybe you haven't read enough, or researched something sufficiently to support and defend your ideas and inferences. But if you stick with it, and deal each time with your self-perceived deficiencies, your intellect will soon grow considerably stronger. And if you seek out comrades to exercise intellectually with you — as opposed to slipping you comments full of empty calories —you will soon find yourself enjoying the pleasures of frank and open conversation. — Phil Friedman
Author's Notes: If you liked this piece, you may want to read, one of my earlier posts on the topic:
This current post is the ninth in a series of philosophical reflections which I've dubbed "The Road Chronicles" because they are organized around the metaphor of travel along a road. If you would like to read one or more of the previous installments of the series, they can be found at:
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.
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