Phil Friedman

6 years ago · 3 min. reading time · 0 ·

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Finding Your Way Back to Intelligence

Finding Your Way Back to Intelligence

The Road Chronicles - Ix


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:


"Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to Speak"

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:

"Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination"

"Cynicism Can Be the Final Refuge of Idealism"

"Reaching Beyond Me"

"Do Not Mistake What Is For What Should Be"

"The Syndrome of the Long Goodby"

"Finding Your Way Past Self-Reflection to Action"

"Living in Third Person"

"Finding the Route Around Self-Pity"

If you'd  like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

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.


Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Image credits Phil Fnedman, Google Images. and FreeDigitialPhotos net




PH siogoets]

Em LEE] 2 huencer


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Phil Friedman

6 years ago #46

Thank you Franci Eugenia Hoffman's advice, and go swim in the pool this afternoon. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #45

@Peter van Doorn - With all due respect, exercising one's intellect has nothing to do with being, in your words, "more intelligent than some and more stupid than others'. Speaking bluntly if I may, if one of us is treating people in a condescending manner, it is not I. In this piece, I offer my opinion and, yes, my advice -- for what it is worth -- to those who choose to read it. As a teacher at both the university and community college levels, I taught logic to all manner and level of students, and learned that just about everyone, myself included, benefits from learning to organize their thoughts, understand the difference between "fact" and opinion, perceive the structure of arguments, and learn to have confidence in their own beliefs and views. However, as I point out, its like physical training -- you don,t get anywhere without some effort and struggle. If you or anyone else thinks I am full of bull chips, it is your prerogative to ignore my opinion and advice. I'm not forcing you or anyone else to do what I recommend. And if you will take the time to read carefully -- as few on social media are wont to do -- you will see that NOWHERE in my post do I denigrate anyone who chooses not engage. I only argue that you can't build a intellectual six-pack on a diet of Twinkies and pop. Oh, and BTW, nowhere do I say that one needs intellect as a prerequisite to writing and publishing on social media -- for that clearly runs counter to observable fact. Thank you for raising and engaging on an interesting question, and affording me the opportunity to clarify and amplify my points. Cheers!

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman

6 years ago #44

Phil Friedman, I was also disappointed in what I saw on beBee last night. My way of adding my 2 cents, was to write a poem rather than add more fuel to the fire. I don't mind people speaking their mind if done with tact and diplomacy. It's not about if you can't say something nice because we can and will disagree, but it is about selecting your words carefully and showing respect.. I have always found your articles and comments respectful. Thanks for the poem - makes sense. Cheers!

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

6 years ago #43

Cheers my friend!!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #42

Thank you, Javier beBee. My best to you. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #41

Thank you Mamen Delgado for the exceptionally kind words. You make me feel remiss that my Spanish language skills are not better, while your English is so nearly perfect. But in English or Spanish, your supports is touching and highly valued. Thank you again. And cheers!

Javier 🐝 CR

6 years ago #40

I fully agree with Mamen Delgado ;-)

Mamen 🐝 Delgado

6 years ago #39

Thanks for tagging me again Phil Friedman. As I just said in another post, it's becoming difficult to handle so much information with both the Spanish and the English speaker sections on beBee. One thing I admire deeply when I come into this social network is the amount of time you have to develop as you say a 'frank and open conversation". I wish I could... I'm "guilty" of some trivial comments as you say in your post, and as far as I can participate more actively, I do it. And I understand that not everyone can have neither the time nor the need for a great conversation. I would, and in fact I do when I can, but it is not always so. The good thing about this communication media is that there is no obligation and the only applicable rule should be respect. Everyone does what they can and at least in my case I am grateful for comments that provoke conversation and also for those ones telling "great post" to record their reading and appreciation. Probably who says "great post" hasn't read it, but I don't feel it is so important because when I say it I mean it, and I absolutely agree with your idea of seeking out comrades to exercise intellectually with. Actually I have at home my personal "comrade" to do that. Let me finish my comment with a "great post!!". ;)

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #38

Milos Djukic - Thank you for the kind words. Both your friendship and your high level of intellectual engagement are always valued highly by me. Best wishes and cheers!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #37

Robert Bacal, I'm the ugliest fractal troll.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #36

Dear Phil Friedman, my friend. Despite numerous heated discussions and disagreements our friendship is solid as a rock. And so it is.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #35

FYI: Milos Djukic.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #34

@ Franci Eugenia Hoffman - I am very tired tonight and immensely disappointed with the high level of hypocrisy being displayed on beBee today. For the record, I have never, never initiated a personal attack on anyone, and if some of replies have been harsh, they have been in response to Trolls and others who believe they can say anything derogatory and get away with it. I will put my published work up against that of anyone, paragraph for paragraph, and I defy anyone to show where I've done anything other than argue rationally a position and and opinions. With respect to comments, I have never written harshly to anyone, and certainly never said anything other in disagreement than that I do not concur and why. It is particularly disheartening to me to see now a frenzy of ad hominem attack, defamatory innuendo, and character assassination initiated and fomented by a beBee Ambassador. It is equally disheartening to see a number of bees. who have never been treated by me with anything other than tolerance and respect in discussion, participating at best ambiguously in that scurrilous attack, or at the very least failing to stand up and repudiate it. Since you like poetry, here is a bit of doggerel for you. (BTW, the "you" in this ditty is the generalize you, not you personally.) I may disagree with what you say, But never in any personal way. Yet, you reply with a character attack And claim you have compassion I lack. Of course, you never really read what I write, Too busy are you with commenting in flight. I don't really get your consistent election To throw onto me your acts by projection. My best to you.

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman

6 years ago #33

You and I We may disagree Can you not see It’s meant to be That we get along And stay strong Sometimes our pride Must be taken in stride Disagree? Let it rest There’s no test To be the best Let’s all pause For our common cause To be a beBee bee is to be Signed Franci Eugenia Hoffman aka the bufferlayer

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #32

No, Peter van Doorn, what in the world would make you say that? It is about encouraging people to spend more time actually reading the expressions of thought and opinion of others, and making the effort, and taking the time to formulate meaningful question and comments, even disagreements -- all with an eye to stimulating genuine intellectual exploration and exchange. It is about recognizing that to ALWAYS post a complimentary, but essentially shallow and meaningless comment, which does not even evidence that one has, in fact, read the post upon which the comment is being made, is not really being "nice" or supportive to anyone. As an undergraduate applying for a Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Fellowship, I was frustrated by the fact that after four drafts of my application essay, my sponsoring faculty member, a Professor of English, was making me do still another draft. I went to complain to another good friend in the faculty, a Professor of Philosophy with whom I had taken many classes. He said to me, "Wake up, buster. If she didn't think you were worth the effort, she'd just have taken the first draft, and said 'Good job', and would have been done with it. By driving you, she's actually showing you respect and care." The only other academic or former academic I know on beBee at this time is Milos Djukic, and I wonder if his experience agrees with mine. Thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #31

Scene 1. The Troll says to the beBee Producer, "Hey, you are a jerk, and don't know what you're talking about. If you had half a brain you'd understand the truth of this." The Author replies, "Actually, I have extensive experience in this field, and what exactly is it that you object to in what I said? It seems to me that YOU haven't said anything at all, and are just blustering about in pursuit of attention. I find little point in talking to the hind end of a donkey." The Troll returns, " How unfair and mean you are being to me, calling me an a@#hole. More so for just not simply accepting my judgment on your post. Don't you have any manners?" Scene 2. The Commenter says, "With all due respect, I don't agree, because it seems to me that always making a positive comment indicates a lack of genuine engagement." The Author replies, "See, that's what I'm talking about. You're always attacking people, just as you have just attacked me now. You are an insensitive, mean-spirited clod." The Commenter observes, "I don't think I said anything about you as a person, as you just accused me of doing. I disagreed with something you are saying, or perhaps doing. And aren't you actually doing exactly what you are accusing me of doing, when you attack my character and goodwill?" The Author closes, "Well, nevertheless, you are part of a marauding wolf pack roaming the beBee landscape terrorizing people. And if you don't stop disagreeing with people, me and my group of supporters will drive you off the platform. Won't we guys. Eh?" Summary We can write all such exchanges off to misunderstanding. Or we can make a rational effort to truly understand and evaluate each respective position. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #30

Melissa Hefferman - Thank you for reading, and for the kind words. I agree that questioning of ideas and opinions, and civil disagreement, are the mother of intellectual growth and authentic engagement. I frankly do not understand the violent reactions to that position, other than that it is misunderstood by people who cannot tolerate the least bit of questioning of, or critical comment on their ideas or opinions (not talking about personal attacks). The following is a quote from a comment thread attached to a recent post that accuses anyone who deems to question or disagree of being part of a roving wolf pack: "They are constantly complaining that niceness is akin to lack of intelligence." Did you or anyone else find me saying that here? Or anywhere in anything that I've ever written? Did you or anyone else ever see me saying that people should not be nice to one another? No, you didn't. Yet, I can show you numerous instances of where the "Nice Bees" seek to eliminate all vestiges of exchange that do not conform to their picture of what is acceptable, by propagating the view that if you can't be completely complimentary about what someone publishes, you should simply stay quiet. And by further interpreting any form of question or disagreement, however politely and authentically expressed, to be tantamount to a personal attack. Thank you for reading and commenting. You are always welcome, by the way, to disagree with anything that I write. And BTW, I personally can even tolerate not-nice comments expressed in an aggressive manner, if -- and this is the key point -- those comments are on point, and not just a statement of how my mother wore army shoes or some such other complete drivel. Cheers!

don kerr

6 years ago #29

Milos Djukic In the vein of 'damn, i wish i'd written that' your comment "That's the beauty of complexity and diversity: final reconciliation with the ubiquitous chaos without obvious signs of unpleasant fear." is brilliant in both its complexity and simplicity. I'm not smart enough to write like that but neither am I so stupid as to fail to recognize the inherent truth of what you say.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #28

Then, Milos Djukic, I stand corrected. It is not the first time in my life that I have misunderstood someone, nor likely to be the last. The good side of this is that you and I are committed to driving forward together to reach understanding and truth. Cheers, my good friend!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #27

Phil Friedman, Your statement is not true: "I recognize that you (Milos) believe it is a kindness to feed those on social media who care only for receiving compliments" - Phil Friedman. I do not believe that, nor do I think that. It's just your interpretation, please see my previous comment. Thank you my friend.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #26

Phil Friedman, I wrote an article in which I expressed my thoughts on this subject and our disagreement only about the approach in a special kind of art continues: " I think that criticism is useful for everyone, but social media criticism modeling, that will have fruitful effects (stretch and grow), is a special kind of art. Nice words and iron door opens!" A nice word does not need to be only agreement or approval. Well, all becomes much clearer once you understand the power of constructive discussions. Only then, the truths becomes more difficult (more complex), but ultimately attainable. That's the beauty of complexity and diversity: final reconciliation with the ubiquitous chaos without obvious signs of unpleasant fear. Everyone has the right to make an error in judgment, but also to correct its position, if it is not too vain. For that reason, I emphasized the importance of personal preparedness and "Willingness to answer boldly and to be corrected". If someone has an aspirations to make tough decisions and to be a leader, then this is the absolutely necessary skill." - from "Leadership and Successful Human Conversations" - form "Leadership and Successful Human Conversations", LI long-form post

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #25

Phil Friedman, I wrote an article in which I expressed my thoughts on this subject and our disagreement only about the approach in a special kind of art continues: " I think that criticism is useful for everyone, but social media criticism modeling, that will have fruitful effects (stretch and grow), is a special kind of art. Nice words and iron door opens!" A nice word does not need to be only agreement or approval. Well, all becomes much clearer once you understand the power of constructive discussions. Only then, the truths becomes more difficult (more complex), but ultimately attainable. That's the beauty of complexity and diversity: final reconciliation with the ubiquitous chaos without obvious signs of unpleasant fear. Everyone has the right to make an error in judgment, but also to correct its position, if it is not too vain. For that reason, I emphasized the importance of personal preparedness and "Willingness to answer boldly and to be corrected". If someone has an aspirations to make tough decisions and to be a leader, then this is the absolutely necessary skill." - from "Leadership and Successful Human Conversations" - form "Leadership and Successful Human Conversations", LI long-form post.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #24

@Ali Alani - You are correct, for if we were all alike, we would be like the Borg Collective of Star Trek, and resistance to assimilation would be futile. As I mentioned to Milos Djukic, it may be a greater sign of respect to disagree with someone than to agree without underlying conviction. Thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #23

Brian McKenzie, I'm not sure that we're not mixing up threads here, but no matter. Why do you assume, for example, that some of us haven't already spent time with Emerson and Thoreau -- the latter of whom, despite all his words about simple independence, depended on the largess and patronage of Emerson and a couple of other benefactors for the two some years he lived at the cabin on Walden Pond? I understand the desire to unplug, but social media is the cat that cannot be put back into the bag. Indeed, as I understand it, your computer connection is vital to many of your business activities. Like you, I view it with suspicion most of the time, and with outright dismay pretty frequently. But it is the vehicle by which I have met and corresponded with people all over the world, who never would have touched me had it not been there. For instance, you and I would not now be conversing, and I would be without another soul in the world who properly appreciates the delights of driving a Bugeye Sprite. Life, my friend, if I may use that term of familiarity, is what it is. We can try to make it better, but we can never trade it fully for another. Waxing philosophical late on a Saturday night. Or very early on a Sunday morning. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #22

Exactly as you said Phil Friedman, my freind. We have overcome the fear of dissent.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #21

Milos Djukic, the problem is that glossing over the fact that some work may be mocre or plain wrong-headed is not always, indeed I believe rarely a true kindness. The was once a pro boxer named Chuck Davey who amassed a 42-win record against much stronger opponents like Rocky Graziano, who admitted later he had been ordered to throw the fight. Anyway, Davey was groomed and told how great he was, while his owners and manager made sure he never faced fierce or legitimate competition. Then came a big billed match against Kid Gavilan. I actually saw the fight on TV (black and white) at the time, and even as a kid I could recognize how pathetic it was. It got so bad that at one point Gavilan dropped his dropped his arms to his sides and refused to hit Davey again, even though Davey's manager had not thrown the towel into the ring. To the best of my knowledge, Davey never fought again professionally. Did his handlers who protected him coming up all the way treat him with "kindness"? Not on your life.

Ali Anani

6 years ago #20

I can tell from the comment if it is "In-return favor", or that it is sincere. I divided comments into four types with only one type giving me real value. Some comments are "templates" and you read the same comment for all posts almost invariably. I don't normally give weight o those comments. My last two buzzes here and comments by @CityVP refer to comments and their value. I explained why having disagreements is a healthy sign. In nature we may have complete disorder,, but the reverse is not true. We differ to learn and grow, hopefully. I appreciate the comments of both of you Franci Eugenia Hoffman and @Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #19

I understand what you're saying, Franci Eugenia Hoffman. And I agree in the main. I have no problem with making positive comments, even if one isn't exactly wowed by a post. Sometimes I will do that because, as a former magazine editor, I recognize that my personal taste and judgement does not necessarily rule. And so I may like or comment positively (within reason) in order to #LETTHEAUDIENCEDECIDE. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #18

Yes, Milos Djukic, I know that, and you and continue to disagree on the effect of doing so. I recognize that you believe it is a kindness to feed those on social media who care only for receiving compliments. I believe that doing so with an endless diet of "great post" or the equivalent does not in fact contribute to anyone's growth or long-term well being. Against that, I admit that many of us did the same on LinkedIn, especially in the cases where we felt a post merited at least better distribution than LI would give it, if we didn't like, comment on, and share it. So we sometimes did that without reading the post in detail. But that was a matter of independent writers' unity, and should not, to my mind, be adopted as a way of life. I like to be read and complimented just as much as the next person, but I find it almost insulting, however well meant, that someone tells me "great post", but doesn't deem it worthwhile to read the piece. I'd rather have someone read my work and disagree with it. But others should understand that this disagreement between you and me is long standing, and does not interfere with our mutual affection and respect for one another. Cheers, my friend.

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman

6 years ago #17

I'm not a fan of sugary sweet comments but I accept it as part of the commenters personality. I find there are articles that give me more fuel than others therefore my comments may be more in-depth. By the same token, there are articles I like but I don't have a constructive comment, yet I still want to acknowledge my appreciation for the article. From my POV, if the intent is sincere than I'm okay with it. I think of commenting the same as making a HONEST statement about an item of clothing, for example "I like your hat". Or "I like your hat because of the style and the color. BTW, It is flattering and blah blah blah. Your article makes good sense, as they usually do. Thank you Phil Friedman

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #16

Great comment Dean Owen. Thank you.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #15

Kind and careful people still exist in this world and they are not plonker.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #14

Great post...:) Phil Friedman, very often I use comments like, "Great post", dots (...) or :), and then I actually read an article. For some users social media is nothing more that lightweight pastime, and for me this is pretty much acceptable. For some quality critical discussions, we need to have a theme, participants and the mood. Someone's writing must have color, clear personal touch and scent. Let everyone choose his style which does not have to be acceptable to you or me. You are a very demanding person, sharp interlocutor, Mr No-muzak and therefore my proven friend. Rage exist even in Eden.

Gert Scholtz

6 years ago #13

Phil Friedman Thank you Phil for the detailed explanation.

Kevin Pashuk

6 years ago #12

I may quote you on that one Phil Friedman... an impotent, I mean important distinction.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #11

I agree, Kevin Pashuk, except the relationship is probably mostly one way. How about this: Debate without critical thinking is blind and shallow. Critical thinking without debating skills is impotent. Wow! I think that might be quotable. (I probably stole it from somebody, and just don't remember, though.) Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #10

@ Gert Scholtz - No, to my mind, debate can incorporate a significant measure of critical thinking. This may not be universal, but I think of debate in formal terms as a competition of persuasive skill -- pretty much like politics. Plato makes the same point, when talking about Sophists whose skill was to make the worse case appear the better. Another simile would be litigation attorneys. You know in debate competitions the participants are often not even allowed to choose which side of a topic they want to argue. That is selected by drawing straws of other random method. The idea being if you are a skilled debater, it matters not which side of an issue you take, you still convince the audience. Yes, I know my reaction to the term 'debate' is probably a knee jerk, but I truly believe that, independent of the term itself, there is a genuine distinction to be made between arguing to convince and discussion in pursuit of truth. Cheers!

Kevin Pashuk

6 years ago #9

#11 I'm glad Phil Friedman that you highlighted the difference between critical thinking and debating skills. To me, they are exclusive but mutually dependent.

Gert Scholtz

6 years ago #8

Phil Friedman I like the way you distinguish "I personally like to distinguish between "debate", which to me means skill at persuasion, versus critical thinking, which designates the ability to question, assess, analyze, and form conclusions from data, evidence, claims, postulates, whatever." Would you say debate and critical thinking are mutually exclusive? Or is this placing a too absolute interpretation on what you say?

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #7

@ Kevin Pashuk - I agree with you about failing to teach critical thinking in schools these days. One of the problems in, for example, Florida is that the state has gone in the public school system to making average performance of students on the state's standardized tests a basis for budgetary (and salary and raises) allocations between schools. That means (big surprise) that a huge percentage of teaching time goes into preparing for said tests, which preparation emphasizes rote learning, not critical thinking. BTW, I personally like to distinguish between "debate", which to me means skill at persuasion, versus critical thinking, which designates the ability to question, assess, analyze, and form conclusions from data, evidence, claims, postulates, whatever. But I think in the main, Kevin, you and I agree on the principles involved here. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment in a thoughtful way. Great comment!

Kevin Pashuk

6 years ago #6

Nice post!' (kidding...) One of the unfortunate casualties of our educational system is the increasing absence of teaching critical thinking. Extra curricular activities (where they still exist) do not have long line ups for the debating club. The idea that there can be ideas that are diametrically opposed to your own is foreign to many people. The art of listening (and perhaps learning) from the argument of the opposite site is a mystery to most, as well as being able to present your side of a position with a compelling and respectful argument. "You SUCK!!!" seems to be where (sadly) many have ended up in their ability to discuss things. Perhaps this is why beBee has been so refreshing to many. We have dragged our battered souls over here from other platforms and found that there are others who can discuss issues, and leave the discussion still disagreeing. Feel free to disagree...

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #5

@ Melissa Hefferman, I am pleased that you feel you have looked inward, learned something about yourself, and now feel more at ease, if not entirely at peace. But I have to say that I think, perhaps, you misconstrue the nature of being nice, and probably of being supportive. For those actions consist in more than uttering "kind" and supportive words. To my mind, being truly nice to someone is to take the time to understand what they are saying and, hopefully, what they are thinking. And to have something meaningful to say to them, whether that is agreeing or disagreeing with their thoughts. I have learned, for example, that one does not do one's children and good by shielding them always from the tension of competition and the pain of failure, by always telling them that simply showing up was enough, and here is your "participation" ribbon. It is much kinder in the long run to help them understand the relationship between effort and success, the understanding that some things are beyond one's control, and finally that failure does not reflect on them as people. So too, if I disagree with someone's statements, thoughts, or beliefs, and feel moved to say so, that is NOT an attack on them as a person, nor is it necessarily unkind. Indeed, depending on the circumstances, it might be kinder that simply stroking them with supportive, but effectively meaningless words. cont. Part II...

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #4

Melissa Hefferman - Part II - I once faced a grad student of mine in philosophy, a successful professional in a medical field who had taken a sabbatical from his business to study and become an academic philosopher. He was having some trouble keeping up with the whiz kids in the class, and he asked me if I thought he could make it through grad school and get a decent teaching job. It was a gut wrenching experience to stand there and tell him no, that in my considered opinion, I thought he would be better off returning to his already successful (and lucrative) career activities, and read philosophy only as a hobby. He choked back the tears, thanked me, and left. Several years later we ran into one another at a conference we were both attending, me as an academic, he as a hobbyist. He hugged me and said a heartfelt thanks to me for having the courage to tell him what he finally understood was the best advice anyone had ever given him. For as a result he had both a successful career and the financial resources to pursue his intellectual interests as a true "amateur." Again, indeed always, personally, I believe that those who always tell people what they think they want to hear are not really listening to them, nor really caring about them. But only about themselves feeling good as the result of making someone else feel good momentarily, whether or not the exchange in question bears any benefit long term for any engaged in it. As to the cynic and the idealist, I suspect you use the labels loosely, and suggest you look at: Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment in detail. For that is what engagement is all about. And engagement is what writing and publishing on social media is all about. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #3

Thank you, Zachary Ostin and yours truly prime the pump for strong discussions. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #2

@ Dean Owen - Thank you for reading and commenting. To clarify, I am not telling people what or what not to do. I am simply saying what I think would be better to do, similarly to what, say, health coaches do when they counsel eating better and exercising. Concerning your statement that you "...see no reason to criticise peoples efforts to write an expert piece without the necessary qualifications/experience to back it up...", you are obviously entitled to your opinion. Just as I am entitled to question the "authenticity" of instant experts. The bottom line here for me is that writing, publishing, and engaging on social media can be a pathway to intellectual growth, or a pitfall of self-delusion. I understand the advice to "fake it until you make it." Which I believe is intended to encourage people with ability but minimum experience in an area to take a chance on biting off more than they can easily chew. Unfortunately, on social media, it is too easy to self-certify and in the process of receiving a steady stream of generic pats and strokes, believe that you have made it, and never go on to really become expert. I have just had the experience of raising two daughters in a general social environment where showing up to an athletic or other competitive is considered sufficient for receiving a ribbon. I constantly had to remind them as they grew up that those sorts of accolades were not real, did not lead to improvement or growth. And I guess that is pretty much what I am trying to do in this piece. Cheers! And BTW, thank you for sharing the post.

Dean Owen

6 years ago #1

I have to agree with you on some counts Phil Friedman. The "constant stream of sugary sweet, trivial comments" does get a bit sickly sweet. That said, I see no reason to criticise peoples efforts to write an expert piece without the necessary qualifications/experience to back it up. Who are we to tell them they should stop? Perhaps for them, writing about how to write better is a means for self education. Perhaps if you want to break into a new passion with fervour, your first move is to write about it as a way of assessing your abilities. We all started somewhere. But back to the sugary sweetness. Some people are actually sugary sweet, and I expect their comments mirror their real life personas. For some, it is all about reciprocity, image pats, and ego strokes, but not all. One thing for sure, everything about you is genuine!

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