In the course of conversation I expressed frankly what I actually do hold to be a rough & ready approximation of my attitude toward discussion: I have almost no interest in persuading anyone of the truth of my particular views on any issue. This was relevant in that context because on occasion people try and draw me out as to the details of my disagreement with the consensus on an array of topics, when I often have no interest in expending the mental energy to do any such thing.
Yet on a one-on-one basis I am much more likely to be open to a deep and thorough exchange. Why? The dynamic of signalling and group conformity is strongly dampened by removing third party observers from the interaction. With that tension removed I myself often feel less irritated if I have to invest a great deal of background information to make my own position clearer. Similarly, I often feel that my interlocutors are much less likely to trot out hackneyed and unpersuasive, but group approved, arguments. There is quite often idiocy in crowds.
This nicely supplements what I was trying to express recently. It also illuminates some of what I find annoying about so much writing in the blogosphere, especially in the age of social media: people are always writing with an audience in mind, always putting on a performance, always playing to the groundlings. I appreciate my small group of readers for their attention and input, I do, but I also don’t take them into consideration at all when I’m writing. As a rule, I aim to write as if I’m having an email conversation with an individual, where, as Razib says, the lack of an audience’s attention allows more energy to be devoted to substance rather than posturing and competing for status.
I am not a Zen Buddhist; I’m not advocating Zen Buddhism; I’m not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell: I’m an entertainer. That is to say in the same sense that when you go to a concert, and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything, he doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart’s music as opposed to say Beethoven’s. And I approach you in the same spirit: as a musician with his piano or violinist with his violin, I just want you to enjoy a point of view which I enjoy.
— Alan Watts
I don’t know if I’ve ever expressed this clearly or not, but just because I’m opinionated, it does not mean that I want to persuade anyone else to agree with me. What I enjoy most is encountering new perspectives on familiar subjects, especially well-written ones; I have no interest in making them converge with mine. And this is an entirely selfish pursuit, this blog. Essentially, I’m just talking to myself in a public space here, without taking much heed of the voyeurs and eavesdroppers. The mere act of writing about whatever interests me at any given time sustains me, especially if I meet my aesthetic standards while doing so. I know when I’ve written something good, which isn’t often enough for my liking, but still, it doesn’t detract from my satisfaction to know that only a few people will ever see it. I make no claims to be especially knowledgeable about anything important, but I’m secure enough in what little I do know that I don’t feel the need to gather allies for support. If too many people started agreeing with me and attempting to flatter me, I’d either pick an argument with them in return, or use another pseudonym and start trolling my own comments to tell myself how much I suck.
Hell, I even resent the fact that Blogger’s recent template overhaul refuses to allow me the option of removing that goddamned G+ Share button up on the toolbar. If you lazy fucks want to share something I’ve written, you can damn well walk to your email client like we did back in the old days!