Posted by: Paul | 07/15/2009

Read All About It … Or Not

In many ways, the Internet is something of a double-edged sword. Each advantage seems to carry the seeds of an equal disadvantage.

Take what is widely considered the Internet’s greatest asset: the sheer breadth of information available at your fingertips. No longer are you limited to the news and opinion your local newspaper brings you every day. You can troll the Web sites of almost every paper that exists. You could spend every waking minute reading and still not get to them all. Add in the countless blogs (even gems like this one!), and you’ve got some serious information overload.

So how do we cope? Mostly by settling on a few trusted sites. And that’s where the downside creeps in. Because let’s face it — being human, we gravitate toward people we agree with — and avoid those who think differently.

I’m not saying that our reading diet shouldn’t consist mostly of those whose views we share. However, when we seldom encounter a dissenting word, our wits become dull over time, and our arguments lackluster. You can’t become an effective voice for your own views without seriously considering what the other side says and trying to figure out why they think the way they do.

Looking at counter-arguments carries another benefit: It makes us less like to demonize the “other side.” You start to realize — assuming it escaped your notice before — that no one has a monopoly on the truth and that no individual fits into a neatly packaged box.

To keep myself from getting too immersed in the conservative echo chamber, I make a point of perusing the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post every day, along with various other blogs and books. I try to get the books through the library, though; why give the lefties my money?  😉

So I’ll close by practicing what I preach — and recommend a column on this very subject by Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist I not only read but follow on Twitter.

Reading the “other side” can be a scary prospect for many people. But if you’ve got the truth on your side already, what are you worried about?

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Responses

  1. I could not agree with you more.

  2. […] Amid all the upsides to the Internet Age, I’ve noted a downside: the tendency to self-balkanize. All of us, whether liberal or conservative, naturally gravitate […]


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