Over the weekend as I sat in the hotel bar I got an opportunity to witness a social phenomenon, I found it quite interesting and would like to get your opinions on it.
Although I have never studied sociology or psychology academically I am quite a fan of people watching. A guy, possibly from the “smoking cessation workshop” was magnetically fascinating to me. It wasn’t just his massive frame and booming voice but what he was saying. In isolation his conversations were not out of the ordinary, they were the sorts of conversations you would hear in a bar anywhere. Loud, opinionated, and full of unsubstantiated “facts”. The part that interested me was how this 400lb social butterfly would change where he stood on any issue depending on who he was talking to. Not just subtly, moderating his more extreme stances or taking the edges off for the more timid audience. No, he actually would switch sides on debates or swing from cautious optimism to overwhelming cynicism.
Luckily for me he would always hold court in the same place and his audience would gravitate towards him (perhaps his bulk caused a localised gravitational field). Perhaps with some self knowledge of his tactic he chose the far end of the room. Little did he realise it would not matter where in the room he chose, his voice carried right the way to the bar at the other side. Yes there was a lot of alcohol being consumed but surely another member of his party must have also discovered what was happening? Nobody seemed to mind.
As I listened to another complete conversational about-face I wondered if this man was a more exaggerated version of the rest of us. Perhaps we all do this to an extent? There are certain things we might do or say comfortably amongst friends that you would not dare in front of your in-laws for example? Perhaps when visiting your Gran you might reduce the number and frequency of cuss words that escape your lips?
I would like to think I am flexible with my view points on world affairs and am willing to bend my opinion when faced with a good argument or new evidence. Having said that I doubt I have ever changed opinion so radically or quickly. If something seems right though it should be ok to change opinion. There is actually nothing wrong with deciding you think differently when you think about it, otherwise what is the point of trying to persuade another to your point of view? If you think less of someone for changing opinion then why attempt to change it? Flip-flopping is seen as a bad thing, especially when done so swiftly and obviously as the man I was watching, but could it be a valuable, laudable trait? Perhaps it is good to have compulsive empathy?
So what does this have to do with blogging?
Well for a start if this man was a blogger then he would almost certainly need to be using a pseudonym. After going on record with his first opinion he might need another whole blog to put forth his new one. Perhaps this fear of sharing your real, most extreme opinions is why there are so many blogs written under aliases?
But the main thought I had relating this subject to blogging was how visible a change of opinion is when there is possibly years worth of audit trail for all to read. There is not just a momentary conversation but a whole backlog of thoughts and ideas to mine. My wife is an expert at remembering things I have done or said for the 14 years of our relationship but even she is no match for a quick Google.
So on the one hand, I was thinking, it is ok to change your opinion, on the other people think flip-flopping is bad. Presidential races have been affected by the accusation. In social circles it is regarded as being “two-faced”. What is the solution? I guess whenever you change your opinion in public you need to explain what you used to think, what you believe now and what changed your mind. Doesn’t seem a very elegant approach but neither does sticking to old patterns of thinking when faced with new ideas.
What do you think? Stick to your guns or flip flop? What ought a blogger do and which is better or worse? Do you blog under your own name? Why? Is it ok to shift opinions and do you moderate your thoughts in case they cause offense?
Please comment, I would really like to know …