People, opinions and the Internet: LJC soapbox.
Last updated June 9, 2022
LJC is a forum for those interested in modern jazz , vinyl and hifi. The Internet enables people with a common interest, some in different countries and who are otherwise strangers, to interact. Many I have found decent, polite, smart, funny, and generous with their time and thoughts. In addition, there are people who don’t think very clearly, or who are mistaken in their beliefs, something they will mostly discover later in life. A still smaller number are very angry.
There are broadly three types of argument during internet exchanges: the factual (I did this, I found that) the appeal to authority (experts say , everyone agrees that… blah blah blah) and the ad hominem (if you think that, you must be stupid, or the blackmail: I can’t believe you think that”). The first is the only useful mode, in which you can learn and improve your outcomes, whilst the others leave you stuck where you are defending the indefensible.
When it comes to exchanging opinions, some people’s self-esteem depends on being right, or being agreed with, which they mistakenly take to be the same thing. The need to be “right” can be highly destructive. People will often fight to the bitter end rather than change their opinion, because changing opinion is an admission that previously they might be wrong, and being wrong is unendurable. I have friends who boast their opinion hasn’t changed in fifty years, as though consistency was proof of being right all the time. Or I suggest, consistently wrong. The most mendacious is the claim there is no right and wrong, no truth, all opinions are equal, post-modernism, which is the most wrong opinion of all time.
Experience teaches us that, at times, on some things, we have all been “wrong”. It is normal to be wrong – sometimes. The feelings associated with being right/wrong trace back to childhood, associated with praise or rejection: “You are wrong, therefore you are stupid, or bad” (fear you are not loved – a result of bad parenting, an inheritance of their own bad parenting).
Pointing out someone else is wrong (and that therefore you are right) can become an immensely gratifying act. It grants you permission to make others feel bad.
Admitting to being wrong (and having to change) is something some people find difficult. It should be an opportunity to improve, but often it comes with baggage (“You are wrong, therefore you are stupid”) The Ad Hominem is a lingua franca for some people, – stupid, gullible, ignorant – impugning the moral character of someone whose opinion you disagree with. It is the fallback of those who can not deal with the substance of the disagreement, or agree to differ.
It is not much of an achievement in life that you corrected a few mistakes made by others, but contributed nothing original yourself (safe from getting a taste of your own medicine).
Looking back at how my opinions have changed over the years, over very small things through to very big things, I conclude I have been wrong about lots of things at times. Worse, what was right yesterday may be wrong today, or tomorrow, and vice versa. Being wrong is a normal human condition. We experience an ever-evolving degree of wrongness or temporary approximate rightness.. Perhaps we shouldn’t feel so bad about it, as long as we are still committed to hopefully getting it “more right” as we go along.
Beware the self-righteous, in every walk of life. Do not mistake confidence with being right. They are absolutely certain they are right, but as likely to be wrong as anyone else.
I smart a little if someone points out that something I have written is factually wrong. Feet of clay! People unconsciously expect “expert opinion” on-line to be correct, and quite rightly so. However everyone makes the odd mistake, unintentionally, and make corrections, which improves my knowledge.
Opinions are not facts, however many people seem to believe their opinion to be “facts”. The problem is that one person’s experience is not the same as another’s.
The stuff written here is my opinion, honestly believed, at this moment in time, based on what I know to date. It is a racing certainty that some of it will turn out to be wrong. Borrowing the old adage from the advertising industry, half the stuff here is right: if only we knew which half. Personally, I hope it’s more than half, but I may be wrong about that too.
We seek opinion, we offer opinion, we live in a world saturated with opinion, from professional journalist to amateur and enthusiast online reviewer, customer reviews, trusted sources, comments on opinionated blogs, even. Given how much time we devote to garnering opinion, we need to become more discriminating as to the worth of the opinions to which we attend.
The most common opinion I come across is the “I like/ I don’t like” opinion. It is based on an impenetrable source – an individual’s unknown set of preferences, and is actually the least informative. A friend of a friend once persuaded me to watch a film because it was “the best film they had ever seen”. I thought it was absolutely dreadful. “Like” is a subjective measure not an objective measure of worth.
Praise can be a counterfeit currency. Everyone likes praise, it is a safe opinion, even if some disagree with it. Where you state a negative opinion, a reasoned opinion that something is not very good, not just a personal dislike, you will provoke a very negative reaction from those who “like it”. Cecil Taylor…
Another frequently-offered opinion is the sample of one. I have a Bildengurgle pressing and it’s really great! Or: I have a Nagasaki II DAC and it’s absolutely fantastic!! Really? Compared to what? None of us have experience of every possible variation, or would want to – life is too short. But your “opinion” should be tentative, open to change as a result of new experiences. AFAIK is the relevant disclaimer – As Far As I Know. I sometimes find my expectations ( I have them, like everyone) upset by experience. Experience is the only thing I trust. I test it often, and sometimes I have to change my opinions.
Another “mind-game ” I come across often is the expectation game. There is the Jeremiah prediction: “It may not be any good“. Even worse, the “double-bind”: “I fear it will turn out badly, but I hope I am wrong“. Or another phoney pony, Hey, this is better/worse than I expected! All this tells me is your expectations are way off. Why not just wait and see what happens. It may turn out OK, or it may not, but at least you will know, and adjust your expectations in future.
Keep room for what you have learned from your experience, and leave the door open for further discovery. Experience says there is a lot more to be discovered, but only if you keep looking. Accept there will be some disappointments along the way, disappointments are the price of progress, but a more rewarding outcome than avoiding disappointment.
Declaration of Interest: my graduate qualification included behavioural psychology, a long interest in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (Californian self-help mumbo-jumbo) and the Zen insights of the likes of Alan Watts (“On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” and other works). Yup, I’m a shrink-wrapped.