Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Alienation versus Persuasion

The internet and everything associated with it (the web, blogs, etc.) are powerful tools for the communication of information and the exchange of ideas. People living on opposite sides of the world are able to swiftly and easily communicate with one another and discuss, debate, and argue about any topic they choose.

In my case, I started Veritas last April for primarily two reasons: to persuade any readers of my blog about my views on theological, philosophical, or political issues, and to grow in truth through the exchanges which the blog might promote. The same two-fold purpose drives much of the dialogue I enter into on other websites and blogs, whether it be in comments boxes or, more rarely, chat rooms.

I think it's fair to say that the same motivation drives most of the other bloggers in the corner of the Blogosphere which I "inhabit" (see my links to the left). For the most part, we all have strong ideas about the nature of (various) things, and we use the internet to test those ideas with others views, in the hope of better understanding the nature of things and sharing that understanding with others.

In the course of internet communication, my own personal experience testifies to the fact that it is quite possible to get frustrated, impatient, and even angry with those with whom we dialogue and disagree. On more than one occasion I've found myself lashing out with sarcastic retorts because of what another person has said to me, whether it be out of malice or ignorance. I've also used labels in a negative manner to characterize or describe others' views, or even themselves.

I wish I wouldn't, and I'm making determined effort to avoid these kinds of reactions; such behavior is not only uncharitable, but is also unconducive to the two-fold goal of internet dialogue which I mentioned above. If I am really interested in persuading others -- as opposed to alienating them -- then I must to everything I can to prevent any negative emotions from impacted my communications. As they say, honey attracts more flies than vinegar... while I can communicate the truth in both ways, the chances that I'm going to succeed with labels, negativity, and sarcasm are much more remote.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only person who succumbs to this kind of communication. Nor is it something which other Christians (including Catholics) are immune to. Most of us who are online have done this kind of thing on occasion. What I think we need to remember is that if our goal is to persuade others, then we must avoid such actions at all costs. If our interlocutor persists in exhibiting such activity towards us, then the best thing to do is simply walk away.

Practice the art of persuasion, not the art of alienation, if your goal is to convince other people of your views.

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