Coexistence Earthly Experience Governance

Social Media: Help or Harm?

The way that social media adjusts its algorithms can have a tremendous impact on the public debate.

The term “echo chamber” is already in common usage, describing how we self select into groups or channels of media consumption that reflect our own beliefs, reinforcing them, whether right or wrong, and filtering out any opposing views.

So to increase “engagement,” does that “outrage factory” Twitter only feed us more of what it thinks we already believe?

Does Youtube only show us more videos like the one we just watched and “liked?”

Does Facebook show Antifa more Antifa, and Proud Boys more Proud Boys?

The danger of social media, as well as 24 hour 700 channel cable is that it distorts our perception that our often niche, sometimes kook view of the world is some objective reality. An MSNBC junkie thinks “all reasonable people are democratic socialists” or a OneAmerica addict thinks that “our party and our politicians are ordained by God, thus we must ‘walk by faith’ and support them unconditionally.”


Do humanists see religious viewpoints (and vice versa)?

Do capitalists see socialist viewpoints?
Do Democrats see Republican viewpoints?

Remember, open-mindedness isn’t agreeing with the opposing viewpoint, but rather an openness to understanding it. This is an intellectual version of the emotional trait called empathy.

My fear is that net empathy, along with intelligence is decreasing, as we are fed artificial-intelligence driven iterations of ever narrower versions of what we want to hear: these new media organs, computer controlled (while the computers are programmed and controlled by flawed, biased, clueless humans) algorithms say “he likes that politician, give him more just like that! He likes that preacher, give him more just like that!

After all, it drives “engagement.” 

Yeah. But what about critical thinking? Empathy? Compassion? The notion that you and your tribe just might not hold a monopoly on “truth?”

For all practical purposes, social media didn’t exist ten years ago. Only people in the future will be able to tell if this is as impactful to history as the Gutenberg press, or like CB Radio (A good portion of readers will have no idea what this even was!) something whose time had come–and gone.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay 
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On Civility in Boys

"The Fight Interrupted" (boys fighting outside school) engraved by Lumb Stocks after a picture by W.Mulready, published in The Art Journal, 1875. Steel engraved antique print.
  • Don’t foul the staircases, corridors, closets, or wall hangings with urine or other filth.
  • Don’t relieve yourself in front of ladies or before doors or windows of court chambers.
  • Don’t slide back and forth on your chair as if you’re trying to pass gas.
  • Don’t touch your private parts under your cloths with your bare hands.
  • Don’t greet someone while they are urinating or defecating.
  • Don’t make noise when you pass gas.
  • Don’t undo your clothes in front of other people in preparation for defecating, or do them up afterwards.
  • When you share a bed with someone in an inn, don’t lie so close to him that you touch him, and don’t put your legs between his
  • If you come across something disgusting in the sheet, don’t turn to your companion and point it out to him, or hold up the stinking thing for the other to smell and say “I should like to know how much that stinks.”
  • Don’t blow your nose onto the tablecloth or into your fingers, sleeve, or hat.
  • Don’t offer your used handkerchief to someone else.
  • Don’t carry your handkerchief in your mouth.
  • Nor is it seemly, after wiping your nose, to spread out your handkerchief and peer into it, as if pearls and rubies might have fallen out of your head.
  • Don’t spit into the bowl when you are washing your hands.
  • Do not spit so far that you have to look for the saliva to put your foot on it.
  • Turn away when spitting, lest your saliva fall on someone.
  • If anything purulent falls to the ground, it should be trodden upon, lest it nauseate someone.
  • If you notice saliva on someone’s coat, it is not polite to make it known.
  • Don’t be the first to take from the dish.
  • Don’t fall on the food like a pig, snorting and smacking your lips.
  • Don’t turn the serving dish around so the biggest piece of meat is near you.
  • Don’t wolf your food like you are about to be carried off to prison, nor push so much food into your mouth that your cheeks bulge like bellows, nor pull your lips apart so that they make a noise like pigs.
  • Don’t dip your fingers into the sauce, and the serving dish.
  • Don’t put a spoon into your mouth and then use it to take food from the serving dish.
  • Don’t gnaw on a bone and put it back in the serving dish.
  • Don’t wipe your utensils on the tablecloth.
  • Don’t put back on your plate what has been in your mouth.
  • Do not offer anyone a piece of food you have bitten into.
  • Don’t lick your greasy fingers. Wipe them on your bread, or wipe them on your coat.
  • Don’t lean over to drink from your soup bowl.
  • Don’t spit bones, pits, eggshells, or rinds into your hands or throw them on the floor.
  • Don’t pick your nose while eating.
  • Don’t drink from your dish, use a spoon.
  • Don’t slurp from your spoon.
  • Don’t loosen your belt at the table.
  • Don’t clean a dirty plate with your fingers.
  • Don’t stir sauce with your fingers.
  • Don’t lift meat to your nose to smell it.
  • Don’t drink coffee from your saucer.

From “On Civility in Boys” by Desiderius Erasmus, published in 1530

I first heard this in Steven Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” which I highly recommend. It made me laugh out loud, but then again, aren’t most of these these timeless? Not just for boys, but I think for everyone. Some things don’t go out of style.

Headline Image:  “The Fight Interrupted” (boys fighting outside school) engraved by Lumb Stocks after a picture by W.Mulready, published in The Art Journal, 1875. Steel engraved antique print

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Applied Virtue Coexistence

Why Be Good To Others?

If your motivation to do good to others is because of fear of a hell or supernatural punishment, if your motivation is to attain a reward, a post-mortem heaven, or to return to life in a higher caste, you are still unworthy.

The correct reason to do good is simply because it is good. That is the best reason. It is the end unto itself.

But when we help others, when we do good for others-with others, we still are planting a seed that will be harvested later. When we are good to others, whether to people known or unknown, it spreads; especially when combined with the acts and gestures of others. Not every act or gesture and not every time, and not even with every person. Every drop does not raise the level of the creek, but countless drops together do create the flood.

People generally think of a smile as an expression of happiness. A smile can also create happiness. You smile and you feel better. If you are sad, you are slightly less sad. If you are in a bad mood, smiling makes you less cranky. (Try it if you don’t believe!) Doing good works the same way. Do good to others, and you are doing good to yourself. This doesn’t need any supernatural lever to make it true. Sorry, no hocus pocus. Comfort others and you are comforted. Help others and you are helped. Nothing supernatural is necessary.

In the larger sense, the result is that we create a society, a humanity with a higher propensity to be good to one another. That means there is a higher propensity that others are good to you, and if we keep feeding our humanity with goodness then we create a better future for our descendants.

Your only reward is more goodness. Don’t do it and your only punishment is less goodness.

But isn’t that enough?


Image: 2011 Holi festival in Broward County, Florida sponsored by the Indian Religious And Cultural Center. My daughter, second from left, and I were invited by friends.

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