Opinions and biases and cognitive dissonance are like pinballs in a pinball machine. There’s enough triggers to keep the balls pinging and dinging indefinitely so there’s never time to reflect and think critically. Always a trigger ding, redirecting reaction ping, onto another trigger ding ding. It’s understandable after that sort of experience how most construct echo chambers. Not for confirmation bias but not peace and quiet and time to get on with the business of living life day to day.
The problem with this pinball pinging pinball machine mode of public life is it’s out of control and goes round and round the same game board. When enough of society is living out in public like pinballs in a pinball machine, the end result is inertia or worse still, being susceptible to organised hijack – typically by extremists – diverting the flow of triggers a particular way, to serve some agenda, millions pinging along unknowing unthinking busily triggered as their opinions are coopted, coerced, conditioned.
How can truth and objectivity and thinking space make space in this pinball arcade? Forget politics, agenda, nationality, identity etc. Thinking space is like oxygen: the essential breath of individual freedom, whatever the person’s eventual conclusion.
Here’s a “stating the bleedin’ obvious” antidote advisory:
1. Slow the pinball. Separate in your own mind your reaction from your response, i.e. what goes on in your mind from what you actually do.
2. Make your response include a contradiction, no matter what it is, so long as it’s authentic. This hammers home the importance of nuance and erodes mob-think. You never know when it’ll be you needing the nuance to fight some lowest common denominator misrepresentation.
3. Look over existing responses and reference or support by name those who deserve it but cut out reference by name if response is negative i.e. push conversation towards objectivity but leavened with interpersonal positivity.
4. Spend a minute fact checking and another minute opposition checking. Correct factual error with reference to your sources. Pushing the conversation away from bullshit prejudice and parroting, towards critical thinking and individuality is important.
5. Start by assuming the protagonists in a debate are sincere and believe themselves not just right but good. Find the good angle in the things you most disagree with. It helps humanize everyone. It keeps your response nuanced but what is lost in cheap reductive rabble rousing is more than made up for by understanding the opposition deeper, more personally, exposing real weak-points that at least have a shot at adding insight while countering the points you’re disputing.