Do MetaFilter discussions ever change your opinion on anything? October 27, 2001 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Do MetaFilter discussions ever change your opinion on anything? [more inside]
posted by gluechunk to MetaFilter-Related at 12:33 AM (31 comments total)

I know the point of MeFi isn't to win people over to your point of view, but have there been threads that have caused you to change how you think about certain topics? It seems that everytime I open up a "discussion thread," someone is tossing a topic into the air (Chomsky, Florida ballots, etc.) and the usual suspects are busy hitting each other with Nerf® bats while grinding their heels into the ground.

posted by gluechunk at 12:34 AM on October 27, 2001

Personally, not really. But I'm a bit of an asshole that way. I'm very binary. I have come to appreciate some of the programming on NPR a bit more, though.
posted by owillis at 1:36 AM on October 27, 2001

For myself, probably not.
I think the part of the reason is that MeFi's comments just aren't set up for having a conversation where this might happen. Actual back and forth discussions do sometimes occur between people, but for the most part it's more of a big corkboard where everyone tacks up their idea.
For that matter, I recall comments in MeTa threads that, to me, basically question whether discussion really has a place, ie: suggesting there's not much reason for a person to comment multiple times on a link post.
posted by Su at 3:31 AM on October 27, 2001

Total conversion? Not yet. Shifts in gradation, broadening of understanding of both the topic and the opposing views? Frequently.
posted by rushmc at 6:17 AM on October 27, 2001

I don't think it's even possible to change one's mind on big issues in such a short timeframe as to be able to say "that" -- whether it be a MeFi discussion, or even a book -- "changed my mind." Change occurs gradually. A point made in a discussion might plant doubts in your mind that only much later, as a result of more thinking on the matter, cause you to change your opinion. By that time, you've probably forgotten the original discussion.

Another point is that discussions may well help younger people to form opinions about issues they'd never even considered before. That's one benefit of arguing your opinions here, I think. Convincing people with contary opinions can't be a high priority if you don't want to be very frustrated.
posted by mw at 7:50 AM on October 27, 2001

Not yet, but like my love for Chomsky, I love it when I have a vague thought or feeling and someone else here finds a really good way of saying it.
posted by chrismc at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2001

What rush+mw said, more or less--I've been shown implications to my positions that I hadn't thought about, had my contradictions pointed out, etc. I'm not as concerned with "winning" arguments as some people here, so maybe it's easier to change my mind. On the other hand, stupid, thoughtless or insulting people make me dig in my heels.
posted by rodii at 9:25 AM on October 27, 2001

Yes. Of course Mefi was just the start of it. I went away and thought a lot, and when I came back I had a totally different viewpoint.

Yes. Thoughtful, well-formed discussion/arguments can change minds. Unfortunately, those are far and few between on Mefi.
posted by fooljay at 9:38 AM on October 27, 2001

I rarely change my mind totally on subjects, but often discussions help me out in a couple of ways:

1. giving me better rationale and logic for some of my more poorly-thought-out ideas

2. humanizing people who disagree with me, by letting them speak their whole side of the issue as well, and just getting a feeling that "these people live in the world too, learn how to get along with them"

3. helping me learn how to make sense and seem reasonable to people who disagree strongly with me, and not just getting good at preaching the choir or wandering off muttering "idiots!" under my breath.

posted by jessamyn at 9:44 AM on October 27, 2001

Yes. Or rather, MeFi gets me started thinking about something, and I go and think and research it some more before changing my mind.

Interestingly, the more that I contribute to a thread, the more I get entrenched in my positions. The opposite is also true. Maybe it's just the act of forming and stating an opinion that does it, or maybe it's the opposition I often get to my conservative values. Either way, I often seem to learn more by just listening.

Anyway, fooljay's right: good, reasoned discussions don't happen all that often. That's not MeFi's fault, it's just human nature, I think. In fact, the amazing thing about MeFi is that they happen at all. I've rarely seen that before, particularly online.
posted by gd779 at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2001

I've made many small changes in my opinions based on MeFi discussions. Nothing major that I can recall, though. I do remember someone, during the endless McVeigh death-penalty threads, admitting that I had helped convince him to oppose capital punishment. One of my happiest MeFi memories...
posted by jpoulos at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2001

It wasn't MeFi per se, but I gave up Christianity because of discussions on small BBSs in the late '80s.
posted by kindall at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2001

Pretty much everyone except rodii, kindall, rushmc, mw, owillis, jpoulos, chrismc, gd779, fooljay, gluechunk, jessamyn, and Su have interesting things to say, and I listen to them all the time.
posted by gleemax at 12:15 PM on October 27, 2001

"metafitler makes nothing happen"
posted by clavdivs at 12:36 PM on October 27, 2001

Total conversion? Not yet

Not yet, exactly. Changing one's opinion is a sign that it's worth not changing one's mind. Opinions should be changed frequently and MetaFilter is very good at that, because, I think, people state them without proselytizing and this raw honesty, shared with strangers and with nothing to gain, is actually very convincing.
Intelligence and common sense, when forced through the sieve of sensibility and awareness of other people's differences, is probably the most effective combination for opinion-changing(or -nuancing, or -qualifying)there is.
rebeccablood, rushmc, jpoulos, Summer and a few others have all made me change my opinion by almost 180º. I'm much more of a lefty than when I first came here. I hope this isn't written into the code, begorrah!

But sometimes sincere bluntness also works, if it's felt enough - it adds complexity. The bad thing about poorly expressed, simply this-is-me-so-fuck-you remarks, is that they confirm one's own prejudices. This happens a lot at MetaFilter so you get people being pushed further and further into their own, ok, pigeon-holes.

People who are adamant and cling to their opinions as if they somehow identified them and clothed them are either safety-mad or just stupid. What William Goldman famously said was the first law of Hollywood - nobody knows anything - is also a wonderful philosophical starting-point.
Hell, you can always go back to your previous opinion if things don't work out.

The more you stick to your principles, values and personal loyalties, the easier it is to change your mere opinions. All you have to do is think back 10 or 15 years, look at the clothes you wore, listen to the records you adored, read your old diaries or the underlined passages in your favourite ideological manuals to realize this. It's not humbling - it's empowering. It means you can - and must - think.

Of course, the converse of this - thinking you're actually wiser and cooler today - is just as phobic and silly.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:44 PM on October 27, 2001

your mind is changed by everything it encounters ... like it or not

happily most changes tend to be minor in nature, or we'd all be the same
posted by walrus at 2:41 PM on October 27, 2001

Tell that to the Taliban, you haiku-writing hippy! :-)

No, if you're blinkered enough you can actually go through life in black and white, manichean-like, seeing everything either totally right or totally wrong. It's the same when you're a weather-vane, swivelling at each tiny breeze.

It takes guts to change. We're all too different anyhow. If there's one thing certain in life is that no two people can ever be the same.
At times of crisis I wish we all were. Bad, bad thought, I know...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:03 PM on October 27, 2001

Three of La Rochefoucauld's Maxims come to mind:

Those who obstinately oppose the most widely-held opinions more often do so more out of pride than lack of intelligence. The find the best places in the right set already taken, and they do not want back seats.

Our self-love endures more impatiently the censure of our tastes than of our opinions.

At times we are different from ourselves as we are different from others.

And then one from Oscar Wilde:

In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.

I quote from memory, more or less, but fairly have the gist of each--and not much more to add except that here are four corners within which Metafilterian opinion is boxed.

posted by y2karl at 4:38 PM on October 27, 2001

I never much cared for the All Your Base thing, but after seeing it discussed on MeFi, I now hate it with a white-hot passion.
posted by willnot at 4:41 PM on October 27, 2001

My opinions change very slowly, I think because they've developed over a long period of varied experiences and mulling over said experiences. The opinionaters I find very frustrating appear to not take into account the multiple levels of any (serious) issue, and I tend to shut them out. I have chosen to adopt some rigid stances (anti-death penalty, pro-choice) but these are only come after long consideration. Sometimes, a beautifully articulated statement of something I have been trying to untangle is all it takes.
posted by dness2 at 4:44 PM on October 27, 2001

I guess what I can not quite articulate is how it is as easy for us to change our minds when we discover a new truth as it is hard when someone else points it out to us--especially if that someone is pouring a dressing of contempt or obnoxity on the salad served. People's manners do matter. I have been half baked, half serious, disconnected here at times but to watch and read when people are trying fairly to articulate what matters most to them does move me. I especially admire those who are well mannered and play fair, and, especially abhor those who bring, from the net historical, that passive aggressive nastiness of flames. Nothing is more contemptible than fuck wit fighting words from a thousand miles away... Which is not to say we can't be playful--it's just finding that balance.
posted by y2karl at 5:07 PM on October 27, 2001

y2karl.somethin TA sayyyy.(likeCOPies guy from SNL:)"All Your Base thing" what does this mean? really, not being a wise ass.
posted by clavdivs at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2001

I like kittens now, really.

I'm also pro-choice and against capitol punishment (neither being the case 2 years ago) but I don't think I can contribute that solely to MeFi
posted by Mick at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2001

I like pancakes.
posted by sudama at 9:01 PM on October 27, 2001

All Your Base thing" what does this mean? really, not being a wise ass.

Do I know what it means?

Not I, Clavdivs

Suppose it's on the level of that kiss blowin' Turkish guy everyone spoofed so much that even I had vague idea of who 'n what he was...

But with so few brain cells left to fill with useless and pointless knowledge I'd rather be selling roadmaps for the soul to the old folk's home and the college
--that is, if it paid.
posted by y2karl at 9:02 PM on October 27, 2001

2Clavdivs Now turn off that computer and go to bed! Don't make me come up there!
posted by y2karl at 9:21 PM on October 27, 2001

It takes guts to change

Happily neurons are quicker and cause less gas.
posted by walrus at 1:19 AM on October 28, 2001

What Clavdivs said. (Not about AYBABTU -- the "changes nothing" thing.)

One fuzzy further: Too much discussion tends to entangle you into a collective, and any collective tends to circumscribe boundaries appointed by the mass at its center.
posted by Opus Dark at 4:54 AM on October 28, 2001

posted by willnot at 7:02 AM on October 28, 2001

I'm relatively new here, but the one post I made regarding Afghanistan resulted in interesting comments. While they didn't change my mind, they helped me look at what I thought about the situation from different points of view. That's a good thing.
posted by kittyloop at 11:29 PM on October 28, 2001

As usual, I was going to post something substantive about this, but have decided it's better not to express one's opinions on MetaFilter. Whether you are willing to change your opinions or not, someone will surely excoriate you for having them, no matter what they are.
posted by briank at 7:52 AM on October 29, 2001

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