Principles for sharing on the Internet
5 principles for sharing on the Internet
Heavy weeks. I have been patiently waiting, I suppose, for the right thing to say.
It’s Saturday. I am sitting in my backyard, listening to this song and going through my Sublime library. The idea of writing a few principles for sharing on the Internet feels more and more attractive.
Principles are easy to have, hard to uphold. I share these here as a standard for myself in hopes that they resonate with you too.
1. Do the work required to have an opinion
Resist the temptation to have an opinion on matters that exceed your understanding.
Make a point of seeking and interrogating viewpoints you do not necessarily agree with.
Cultivate a desire to learn more than a desire to be right.
Learn to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you.
It’s easier to hate than it is to learn.
Doing the work required to hold an opinion means you can argue against yourself better than others can.
I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's quote:
I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
2. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind
Our sense of truth is inextricably linked to our tribal identity.
There is little correlation between climate change denial and scientific literacy. But there is a strong correlation between climate change denial and political affiliation. Sit with this for a moment.
We don't believe things because they are correct. We believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.
Keep your identity small.
Don’t run away from discomfort. Discomfort is how we grow.
When we keep our identities small, we become scientists searching for truth instead of politicians searching for votes.
"I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is a trap. It prevents nerds from working out, athletes from painting, and educated people from calling out terrorism.
3. Cultivate intellectual humility
The world is messy and full of ambiguities. Intellectual humility is about embracing complexity instead of trying to collapse all of our uncertainty into a neat, binary ideology.
Don't forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
I love this line from Morgan Housel:
Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.
Intellectual humility is about recognizing the sheer number of things that we do not yet know. It is also about accepting that we often need more time to digest and understand something before we can react to it.
4. Choose your words carefully
We often think of language as a means to an end, but rarely take the time to consider whether language itself is influencing our thoughts.
Words and ideas matter. They shape how we see the world, the stories we tell, and how we relate to one another.
There are so many worlds that we do not have language for.
Interrogate the meaning of words like apartheid, genocide, or ethnic cleansing before you use them.
New conditions demand a new way of thinking. New thinking demands new forms of expression. Expand the lexicon. Force your brain to think in new ways.
5. Be kind, even if you are right
Try softer, not harder, to change someone's mind.
Logic and language were the last frontiers of human evolution, and facts will never win over emotion.
To argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful, so be soft in your rightness.
A less sterile way to say all this is this.
Today, put away your phone for an extended period of time and pick up a long history book.
Instead of screaming at someone who disagrees with you on Twitter, gift them a book.
Try to be less wrong instead of more right.
Hold a warm cup of tea, interrupt the ceaseless flow of information and create infrastructure for sacred time.
Look in the mirror and consider the social and political kickbacks you get for your beliefs.
Understand and accept that social media is systematically pushing you towards ideological extremes.
Spend less time performing and more time connecting.
Ask stupid questions.
Be gentle in expressing your views.
Make fewer and better statements.
Show your little boy a song you love.
Think small — make one small part of the world as it should be.
If you long for peace, become it first.
This is how we draw it in, day by day.