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Making Fools of Those Who Disagree

I was reading a blog by Alan Jacobs on www.bigquestionsonline.com that reminded me of what is sorely lacking online...

Respect.

Perhaps it is just nostalgia for a time before my time, but it seems that at sometime in the past, there were understood societal rules that gentlemen followed. (The Art of Manliness explores these rules for men and their application to today)

When I read C.S Lewis's God in the Dock, I was surprised at the tone that Lewis took with those who he disagreed with. He acknowledged them, respected them, appreciated their willingness to engage with him. While he disagreed, he showed respect for the people he was addressing, never belittling them or turning them into caricatures.

We just don't disagree well online.

I used to think that the reason people were rude online was that they could be anonymous. But that isn't even true anymore. People just shout their disrespectful opinions right from their Facebook and Twitter pages. They try to make fools of those who disagree with them rather than make conversation with them.

Perhaps these are just the growing pains of having a new medium to communicate in with little real social rules around it. Will we come back around to a time where it is honorable to speak with respect... but this time online? What will it take?