Are we wasting our time?

I ran across an article this week that inspired me to think a little more carefully about what we are doing here. By “here” I am referring to this little corner of the inter-tubes called the GOPLifer blog. Are we accomplishing something useful with the time we invest in this forum, are is this just another form of entertainment that helps us while away the hours?

Dougald Hine wrote a piece for Aeon magazine questioning the value of the Internet and our endless access to information. The gist of it is that information, in an of itself, has no particular merit. The value comes from our engagement with what we learn.

Information is perhaps the rawest material in the process out of which we arrive at meaning: an undifferentiated stream of sense and nonsense in which we go fishing for facts. But the journey from information to meaning involves more than simply filtering the signal from the noise. It is an alchemical transformation, always surprising. It takes skill, time and effort, practice and patience. No matter how experienced we become, success cannot be guaranteed. In most human societies, there have been specialists in this skill, yet it can never be the monopoly of experts, for it is also a very basic, deeply human activity, essential to our survival. If boredom has become a sickness in modern societies, this is because the knack of finding meaning is harder to come by.

That mass of data can be a tool for enlightenment or a means by which we find the nearest coffee shop. Or it can be a numbing stream that leaves us alienated, disengaged, and frozen.

…if the deep roots of boredom are in a lack of meaning, rather than a shortage of stimuli, and if there is a subtle, multilayered process by which information can give rise to meaning, then the constant flow of information to which we are becoming habituated cannot deliver on such a promise. At best, it allows us to distract ourselves with the potentially endless deferral of clicking from one link to another. Yet sooner or later we wash up downstream in some far corner of the web, wondering where the time went. The experience of being carried on these currents is quite different to the patient, unpredictable process that leads towards meaning.

Personally, I use this space to work out the stream of ideas in my head, weaving them from a mass of twisted fibers into something that seems to make sense, something that can be more neatly stored and used. I suppose, however, that if that process is never paired with action, if this is just an electric journal, I might just as well be watching Gilligan’s Island reruns.

Could an entire blog be successfully devoted to the endless Ginger vs. Mary Ann controversy? Are we sure this isn’t the same thing?

About

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He is a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago.

Posted in Uncategorized
26 comments on “Are we wasting our time?
  1. goplifer says:

    For the record, I’m not suggesting that the blog is a waste of time or that our interactions here have no merit. The article just made me pause to think. Seemed like a good, provocative thing to share.

    There is always a fine line between engaging in entertaining politics and being entertained by politics. Personally, I’m loving this new forum and the relative freedom it’s offering. Thanks to all of you for your contributions.

  2. Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

    Your viewpoint that Ginger vs. Mary Ann represents a controversy makes me question your perspective and the existence of this blog in general.

    Smart, pretty, crop top, short shorts, and makes a mean coconut cream pie? Seriously, you even have to ask the question?

    This blog is a monumental waste of time, but it can be entertaining, and it can be informative. There have been more than a few times when I’ve been stumped with a “hmmm, I can’t figure out a good way to argue against that point” from the other side. Plus, there have been more than a few times when I learn something new (either confirming or repudiating my original point of view).

    Very few minds are changing among the regular group here, but some of the arguments might be effective in shaping ideas in the real world.

    I would love to have a more moderate Republican voice in the mix. Heck, at times I feel like the liberals are trying to argue the Republican standpoint. Lifer normally starts the process, but then drops out. It would be a full-time job to try to respond to each posting (although some of us try), so I understand the hesitance to wade back into the mess.

    Sincerely, no offense to Buzz and Stern (and I think you would count it as a compliment anyway), but you guys do not represent “mainstream” Republicans.

    It would be fun to argue with some folks on the other side that mount legitimate arguments for spending cuts, tax cuts, and education and welfare reform that do not start from the positions of “cut everything except the military by 20%, we need a flat tax, and the federal gov’t has no business being involved in education or welfare”.

    • flypusher says:

      “I would love to have a more moderate Republican voice in the mix. ”

      Agreed. That would expand the discussion greatly. We also seem to be short on the pro-Ginger faction too!

  3. Crogged says:

    Man, I was giving into the nihilism after I read this yesterday. Then a friend of mine posted something which gave me a little respite.

    Time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

    Supposedly Lenin said it……….

    Not that one, calm down Usual Suspects….Lennon, John,

  4. glennkoks says:

    I visit blogs not just for the authors viewpoints, but those in the “comments” section as well. It’s why I tend to like the free flowing non edited comment sections that do not have to wait for the hosts approval.

    Often I am given food for thought or come away with a different point of view. Which is a good thing.

  5. Bobo Amerigo says:

    ´╗┐Do I think I waste time online? I do.

    Do I think your blog is a waste of my time? Not yet.

    I’m a lover of words, but I admire action, too. [You work within your party's structure. That's action. I sorta work to turn Texas blue. That's action, but it my case, abbreviated.]

    Is your blog a substitute for some forms of citizenship? It could be.

    I don’t know if our country’s history ever included a time when the responsibilities of citizenship were discussed frequently and openly. Surely in the early days, they must have been.

    Some of us need to discuss, in complete sentences, the ideas and behaviors we are prompted to think about as citizens.

    This blog offers opportunities to do that. Maybe we’re all kidding ourselves, but it feels worthwhile.

    So, soldier on!

  6. Turtles Run says:

    Let me start with the most important question first. Mary Ann, hands down.

    This blog is definitely not a waste of time or energy. Are we changing any minds here? No, but the dialogue is most enlightening. I have learned many things from the people that comment here. Some of the people here are extremely intelligent and I often use them as a reference when I converse with people or out in the web.

    I have yet to find a group of people that can express intelligent thought along with a good mixture of crazy added in to spice up things on the internet. I often post on Politico (with Dowripple) and the Salt Lake Tribune and I often am able to use our conversations as a source for reference in expressing myself. The only other blog I go to is bearingdrift.com (a VA conservative blog) and though it is a good site, it does not hold a candle to GOPlifer.

    So like fifty said Quit being a jerk and stop thinking this blog is a waste.

  7. geoff1968 says:

    Commune, communicate, and communion. Derived from the Latin verb munero, to give or present. What are we, and I mean Republicans, communicating to the general public with our words? Are we communicating competence and trustworthiness, or are we communicating something more id like? I’ll venture the latter. The party is heeding bad counsel.

    It’s the time for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The public will support conservative, but they won’t support nuttery. They should expect us to do the job the right way. The right way should not be pre-formatted. It should include all available evidence, not just the evidence that supports our prejudices. We should acknowledge the “left” as a functional input in all decisions.

    When the road needs to be built right and left are of no consequence. When a child is hungry right and left are of no consequence. The right and the left must not be allowed to dictate the course of events, that should be left to our generous middle.

  8. CaptSternn says:

    Legitimate question. Some say we are wasting our time posting here under your blog, on the Houston Chronicle, ABC Message Boards(haven’t been back there in a very long time), or other news sites, religious sites and so on.

    There are so many blogs, and so many more people posting under blogs and othe sites, that it would seem a voice, a blog, or several, would be lost in the wilderness. A couple of decades ago the only people that were really heard were in the mainstream media, politicians and a few others. We, the people, had no real voice and were not really exposed to other views or ideas than what the talking heads wanted us to hear. Information was restricted, research materials were very limited and not easy to find.

    Now there is a flood. Many times the mainstream media wants to ignore some stories and promote others, and it was the blogosphere that made the information, the story, public knowledge. Exposed it to the light of day.

    I think it comes down to a simple question: Does it change minds and/or views on certain topics? Have any minds or views been changed. If yes, how many? Is one enough to justify all of this? Two? Ten? More or less? What if what we do changes one mind? Then that person takes the new view and expresses it with friends, family and coworkers, at least causing them to think or rethink thier own views? Maybe they will not change, maybe they will, but they will think.

    For some it is entertainment, a little community, mental exercise, to learn more, to be exposed to other views, to try and understand or explain where those views come from. For others it is some of that and some activism mixed in.

    So, do minds and views actually change because of this? My answer is simple, yes. My views of homosexuality have been changed. My study and research of the constitution and founding principles have helped my find the foundation of my belief in individual liberty and rights. My research on history changed my mind about the 2003 invasion of Iraq (I strongly disagree with decades of decisions that led to it, but once at that point it was the only proper choice).

    Lifer, you have more reach and influence than most people, having your blog published in major news outlets and sites. You run this blog now, and people are showing up and discussing. Not all blogs are successful. I won’t name names, but more than one person that posts or posted on the Houston Chronicle started or still have a blog, with few to no visitors. I could recreate the one I started in the late 1990s and post a new article every day, and maybe Tutt would occasionally check it.

    Are you wasting time? Are we? Since I really disagree with you most of the time, it might be in my best interest of my views to convince you that you are and have you shut down the blog. Then again, I get an avenue to voice my opinion against what you say. If you did not allow comments, your blog would almost certainly have no visitors. Isn’t that why you moved here when the Chronicle shut your blog comments down?

    Well, a bit of a rant on my part. I guess the short answer would be no, neither you nor us are wasting our time. The other thing to think of is that while many of us that blog or comment under blogs are entrenched in our views, I believe that there are many lurkers. People that read but do not comment. Their minds and views can also be changed and we would never know about it.

  9. kabuzz61 says:

    Right from the start: It depends on my mood on Ginger or Mary Anne. Most of the time Mary Anne but there are other times…

    The internet for me is a researchers dream. The information that is available to me is awesome. I agree with JG. In a way, the internet levels the playing field to a degree. We can now get information that in the past could be hidden. There are unscrupulous people also that purposely spreads misinformation and exploits people. That is wrong and some time down the line it will be figured out how to handle those people without trampling on their rights.

    This particular blog does offer value. No moderation, which is excellent if not abused. At times, well thought out debate especially on subjects I am not strong on but eager to learn.

    Overall, it comes down to entertainment and I am sure that is the main attraction for all of us. It always comes down to that.

    Don’t quit. Keep it going. You are wrong most of the time, but in a good way. :)

  10. rightonrush says:

    I think you have done an excellent job Chris. This blog has attracted several of the brightest minds and I learn a lot from their posts.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Well thanks, RoR. I am flattered. ;)

      Many times, like this one, I like to read Lifer’s entry and comment without reading other comments. Seems I am not the only one that thinks this is not a waste of time.

      • rightonrush says:

        Actually I was referring to your better half. However, I do give you lots of credit for choosing such a nice common sense lady.

      • CaptSternn says:

        I’ll go with that. She is very intelligent, thoughtful and respectful. I am blessed to have her in my life as my lady.

  11. flypusher says:

    The internet (especially blogs) is what you choose to make of it. Some people can use it to learn things and exchange ideas. Others can act like 2 year olds.

    For me, as someone who started posting on blogs/ message boards at the end of 2001, one very tangible benefit is that my writing skills went up a few levels (practice, practice, practice). While we have usually made up our minds on a lot of things, I do periodically read things that I had not considered before. Also one’s views can benefit from a bit of testing. So, no, this need not be a waste of time and thanks for writing it Chris!

    Also, for me, being able to Google things gives me a feeling just like being a small child on Christmas morning. Caveat emptor, of course, but it is so great to have so much info just a few keystrokes away (and searching gets better with practice too).

  12. fiftyohm says:

    The internet has provided us with a great deal of information, indeed. And, for perhaps the first time in human history, an equally massive amount of misinformation. When we were in school, libraries, and to a lesser extent newspapers, provided us with nearly all information. In general, and though not without exception, the publication of same was, to a greater or lessor degree, refereed. Such is not the case with the internet. It then becomes incumbent on each of us, (assuming we wish to arrive at the ‘right’ conclusion), to filter and referee the data between our ears. How can we reasonably do this if we’re not ‘experts’ on every subject?

    This blog provides a (largely) rational discussion platform for all sides of an issue. It’s contributors, pretty much to a man, (person), give each of us a point of view often different than our own. Many challenge us to re-evaluate our biases. We referee each other. It’s *interactive*.

    We all pretty much know each other here. But. more importantly, it really is a pretty dang serious exchange of ideas – without the social strictures imposed by the conventional ‘politeness’ of dinner table conversation. And the discussions are much more focused. The act of writing stuff down forces (most of) us to actually form coherent thoughts rather than throwing out half-baked notions meant only for the guy across the table to nod at or segue away from.

    Honestly, I don’t bother much with any other blog anymore. Most are far inferior. Most are far less challenging. None are as comfortable. Certainly the move here was a great loss to the Chronicle. Oh well.

    So Chris – you think this blog is a waste of time? Don’t be a frickin’ jerk!

    • fiftyohm says:

      Oh yeah – Definitely Mary Ann! (And Betty too. How’d she end up with that little runt?)

    • flypusher says:

      “Certainly the move here was a great loss to the Chronicle.”

      One worthwhile blog for serious discussion remains- Eric Berger’s SciGuy blog. Just for the hurricane coverage alone he’s worth twice his weight in precious metals (I refer people there constantly). Add to that the fact that he’s a very good science journalist who posts a variety of interesting topics, and the blog attracts a lot of people who know their science.

      I also really liked Dr. Jill Carrol’s religion blog, but last I heard she was facing cancer and I haven’t seen her blog for a while (I really hope she is OK). I’ll look at some of the political blogs, but there’s seldom any good discussions going (I blame the posting format).

      I honestly have no strong feelings on the Gilligan’s Island issue.

  13. bubbabobcat says:

    Well Chris, I feel an exchange of ideas is always productive even if you do nothing with it other that to keep it in the deep recesses of the human RAM/ROM. Even if it is never used again, it was accessed once and stored. And the brain is more sophisticated than a compooter. Data is analog and way more complex and not discrete bipolar bits (yes, bad pun) in the grey cells. Who’s to say the data is not accessed again ever, subtly, even unconsciously, in future data calls/discussions, reads, etc? Even if your consciousness is in full denial? And that’s not a bad thing towards enlightenment, no?

    I have over 900 MP3 songs on my phone. I don’t necessarily listen to every one of them over and over again. Some maybe just the one time when I downloaded it. I still think I have a cool, very useful and enjoyable (and personalized) library and I do not want to delete any of them. Not even Joe Tex’s “ain’t Gonna Bump No More” or Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lette’s “Get Dancin’ “.

  14. John Galt says:

    And, Mary Ann, definitely.

  15. John Galt says:

    The internet provides access to unimaginable amounts of information and will be seen as one of the most important technologies every devised by humans. But there is a problem in that the information can be overwhelming: you don’t have one choice of opinion, you have thousands. This blog has been a forum through which Chris introduces ideas and links to sources whose value can then be debated for merit. I am well aware that our discussions will not fundamentally change the minds of any of us, but perhaps we will be better informed – as I feel I am.

  16. way2gosassy says:

    Chris,
    This isn’t the first time you have expressed doubt about the Blog that you have tended with much care and consideration. Or is the doubt more rooted in the direction the Republican Party has been headed?

    While I do not agree with you on every issue I do find that I have become more open minded about issues that previously I would not have considered anything different than my own strongly held notions. There are some here who will never change their minds or even consider another persons view as having value.

    I am at an age where I feel I have been abandoned by both parties at one time or another and it is within this blog that I find I am not alone. I have learned a great deal from all those who take the time and commitment to comment here. Your commentary is well written and thought provoking whether all who read it agree or not.

    I hope that you continue, even if for my own selfish reasons.

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