On Internet Advice

I am, again, at crossroads with this blog.

On one hand, I like sharing what I have learned, so the journey to learn to dance would be easier for others. On the other hand, I am deeply frustrated and disillusioned about how much you can actually transmit about dancing by written text.

Human psyche is just constructed that way. It seems  we aim for stability in our world views. This is natural — otherwise we would hemming and hawing all the time. But the side effect of the stability is that we tend to bend the evidence so that it supports what we already believe. Cognitive dissonance is old news to anybody who knows anything about psychology.

It means that every time we read something in the internet, we either agree or disagree with it. If we agree, we use it as evidence to strengthen our prior belief. We tend to seek the kind of information we agree with. And even when we accidentally read something we disagree with, we tend to figure out ways to discredit it, and again strengthen our prior belief, instead of incorporating the information to our world view. Because all world views are ultimately limited, reading something actually hurts us, instead of helping, because we hold to our dear limited beliefs even more.

The only way to overcome this stasis of prior belief is through bitter, repeated experience. Most of us does not learn from the first time, so it depends on personality how many times we need to repeat the lesson.

Furthermore, if we read something that somehow overcomes the built-in resistances to change, we have only learned about the thing theoretically. Then we think we know how it goes, so we stop learning about it.

Now we come to the worst problem with internet advice. Learning about something before we have any experience, is how we form the original belief, which is probably very wrong.

So reading advice on internet not only hurts us, but blocks the natural remedy that would cure the wound created by this hurt. And the wound is so bad that it actually gets worse over time.

I guess it applies to this blog post too.


About Mikko

A man hopelessly bitten by the argentine tango bug.
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4 Responses to On Internet Advice

  1. Chris says:

    Dance communicates what words cannot. So no surprise that words are so inadequate for communicating on dance.

    On dancing tango especially, words are far more effective at communicating misunderstanding that understanding. This applies on the internet as much as it does on show-and-tell based dance classes.

    Mikko, I think your blog has done better job than most of overcoming this problem.

    • Mikko says:

      Great, thank you Chris!

      I do not believe either that most discussion about dancing, for example technique is very fruitful. I have tried to communicate here two things.

      First, things about where there is no argument. For example my own emotions and physical sensations I have had during dancing and learning to dance. These are just facts.

      Secondly, I have occasionally tried to express ideas that would pave way for a new of thinking that might change help people to approach learning dancing in a new way.

      Group classes is actually a great example. If one believes as you that the current form of group classes is harmful, nobody would change their opinion about group classes if they would express their belief about it in the internet. Furthermore, each time they would write their opinion, people would currently going to group classes would probably become more unlikely to change their opinion about group classes. So, one wishes that people also try other ways of learning than group classes, what should they do?

      • Chris says:

        Mikko wrote: “So … what should they do?

        They can try to communicate to the best degree that words allow, for the enlightenment of any readers with sufficiently open minds.

        In the matter of the commercial class model, I disagree with you that “nobody would change their opinion”, but I agree that many won’t. Closed thinking is in the very nature of that business model, and one of the main reasons it survives despite its poor success rate.

      • Mikko says:

        I like talking about concrete examples, because in my experience it helps us to overcome disagreements.

        It seems we agree that many won’t change their mind about group classes. I also give you that “nobody” was too harsh of an expression. It did not intend to imply that it would be impossible to learn something from the internet. It is just highly improbable that people do in my practical experience.

        It seems to me that what you are calling “being closed-minded” is actually description of normal, well-functioning human being with “robust” or “stable” personality. You need to be “closed-minded” if you wish to be self-confident.

        On the other hand, “being open-minded” is highly untypical, neurotic, not very confident human being with “anti-fragile” personality.

        To me, “being open-minded” is more valuable than “being closed-minded”. Many people believe they are “open-minded”, but in actuality do not seem to be when confronted by new facts or theories. Furthermore, “open-minded people” are valued in official speeches by the society in general, but in reality the the status, power, money etc. are given to people who are self-confident, and thus also “closed-minded”.

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