When the unusual becomes virtually usual

Dr. Helen said something with which I can readily identify:

...before the internet, I could count on one hand the number of people I felt I had anything in common with.
That is so true. I feel the same way. The Internet (especially the blogosphere) is great for finding kindred spirits who share similar philosophical outlooks. It is to non-conforming political and philosophical perspectives a bit the way ebay is to finding buyers for unusual items. Once the size of the overall pool is increased, the odds change.

Human nature (including my own) being what it is, though, it sometimes worries me that this wonderful discovery along the lines of "I am not alone!" might lead to an inaccurate misperception that there are more like-minded thinkers than there are.

For example, I'm a small "l" libertarian war supporter who loves pit bulls, a monogamous person who believes in maximum sexual freedom, someone who has not consume any illegal drugs but believes they should be absolutely legal, and a constitutional literalist. I lived for decades in both Berkeley, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I used to think that there were very few people like me. Of course, now that I've been writing this blog for over four years and reading countless more blogs, I know that there are others -- many others -- who share life philosophies similar to or quite compatible with mine. I am delighted to say that I have met a number of them and consider them friends.

This is indeed a wonderful thing. My only concern is that it should not lead me to develop a false sense that there are more like me out there than there really are. This is the real danger that when you surround yourself with like minded people, similar thinkers, and "kindred spirits," you can become insular, isolated, out of touch. So, while nothing could be nicer than knowing there are plenty of others more or less like me, I don't want to lead myself down the garden path into elitism or snobbishness of the sort typified by Pauline Kael's Nixon remark:

I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know....
I don't know whether the Internet is a rather special world, but I know a lot of people who voted for Bush, and a lot of people who voted for Kerry (as well as a lot of people who voted against Bush, or against Kerry).

While I think the elitist dangers inherent in surrounding yourself with like-minded thinkers are obvious, and the Internet provides infinite online opportunities to do just that, fortunately its very nature can simultaneously work against the blind, clueless insularity which worries me. Because, anyone willing to make the slightest attempt to see the other side of any argument will readily see that for every virtual community of like-minded souls or thinkers, there are numerous virtual communities of the "unlike-minded." Whatever it is you think or believe, you'll be sure to find plenty of people with diametrically opposing views.

Some of them might even want to kill you!

You might consider them foes, and you may even characterize them as "the enemy." As "insane." Or even as "traitors." (OTOH, they're free to characterize you!) You can ignore them, you can ridicule them, or you can say they should all be locked up or shot. For that matter, you might even try to engage them in civil dialog.

But it's tough to say you didn't know they were there.

Still, I have to admit that I am human, and I prefer friends to enemies. It may be self delusion, but I like to think the former outnumber the latter.

(Hey, I'm just going by the poll results!)

posted by Eric on 12.24.07 at 09:18 AM


THe blogosphere does bring people together.

ryan   ·  December 30, 2007 2:57 AM

Hi Eric! Trying to find a link to email you and I can't see your address anywhere (?) Sorry for posting on this thread, but can you email me back how to add to the posts you had awhile back about Morgellon's Disease? Thank you!

Enviro Girl   ·  December 31, 2007 12:10 PM

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