Phil Friedman in Communications and journalism, beBee in English, English Writer/Editor | Marketer | Ghost Writer | Marine Industry and Small-Business Consultant • Port Royal Group Jul 27, 2016 · 3 min read · 4.1K

Finding Your Way Back to Intelligence

Finding Your Way Back to Intelligence


Preface:  This series of somewhat self-indulgent literary and philosophical reflections began with "Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination". This installment looks at how constant positive reinforcement on social media can cause one's intellect to soften and eventually atrophy. Links to the previous articles in the series will be found at the end of this post, should you be moved by this one to sample them.

Whatever it is that most people seek on social media, it is not intellectual growth...

For if they did, they would neither welcome, nor partake of the almost constant stream of sugary sweet, trivial comments that are posted hour by hour on blogs and updates. And by the same token, they would not take such utter offense at the fact that some commenters are so "inconsiderate" as to disagree.

Intellectual engagement involves more than just good social media manners...

The ironic fact about exchange on social media is that the endless stream of colorless, generic comments that are nothing more than image pats and ego strokes is that they actually evidence a high level of disengagement. Both intellectual and social.

How many times do you see comments from which you can gather absolutely nothing about the post upon which the comment is being made. Comments like, "Great post, insightful." Or, "Wonderful insights." It may not be true in every case, but I suspect that in more cases than not, the commenter has not read the post, but nevertheless wanted to say something nice, be him- or herself noticed, and move on as quickly as possible.

I also suggest to you that the people who consistently make these kinds of comments are borrowing a page from the Facebook play manual, in which the openly avowed goal is to gather "likes" for one's page, irrespective of whether such likes are offered sincerely, or merely in answer to an appeal, or in some kind of frenzy of anticipated reciprocation.

Friends may not let friends drive drunk... but they also don't let them prattle on without having their ideas challenged...

If you were facing serious weight, and consequently life-threatening health problems, would your true friends surreptitiously slip you ultra-high calorie pastries and sugar-filled soft drinks?

Or would your true friends join you in an effort for you to slim down and shape up? I know my answer to that question; do you know what yours is?

Before writing comes thought... or at least it should...

So many, many people on social media proclaim that they want to write better. And, wouldn't you know it, those plaintive expressions are met by a slew of posts on how to write, in the main by authors who, at best, have been writing and publishing for a few months, and at worst, whose post on how to write is the third piece they've written in their entire life.

But that is to digress. The hard truth is that polished writing is but a tin man without a heart, if beneath the shell of style no substance is found beating and straining to get out.

The first step to improving the substance of what you say or write, is to improve the way you think. The way to do that is to find and connect with people who help you exercise your intellect, people who will challenge your ideas and statements, make you rethink and defend your assumptions and inferences, provide a resistance against which you can exercise your intellect.

As with physical training, in intellectual growth, there is no gain without at least some pain...

Sometimes it's the pain of admitting to yourself that you're not as smart or as knowledgeable as you think. Sometimes it having to admit that some of your most cherished beliefs are wrong. Or that maybe you haven't read enough, or researched something sufficiently to support and defend your ideas and inferences. But if you stick with it, and deal each time with your self-perceived deficiencies, your intellect will soon grow considerably stronger. And if you seek out comrades to exercise intellectually with you — as opposed to slipping you comments full of empty calories —you will soon find yourself enjoying the pleasures of frank and open conversation.  — Phil Friedman

Author's Notes:  If you liked this piece, you may want to read, one of my earlier posts on the topic:

"Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to Speak"

This current post is the ninth in a series of philosophical reflections which I've dubbed "The Road Chronicles" because they are organized around the metaphor of travel along a road. If you would like to read one or more of the previous installments of the series, they can be found at:

"Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination"

"Cynicism Can Be the Final Refuge of Idealism"

"Reaching Beyond Me"

"Do Not Mistake What Is For What Should Be"

"The Syndrome of the Long Goodby"

"Finding Your Way Past Self-Reflection to Action"

"Living in Third Person"

"Finding the Route Around Self-Pity"

If you'd  like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

About me, Phil Friedman:  With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.



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Peter van Doorn Aug 22, 2016 · #59

#57 It is me who must thank you.

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Phil Friedman Aug 22, 2016 · #58

#56 Thank you @Franci Eugenia Hoffman, for the kind words of support. And, of course, the poem. You know, I do from time to time review my articles and comments to see that I am not becoming particularly contentious. And I have to say honestly that I cannot find a single instance in which I've been condescending or mean -- except that I do tend, at times, to meet condescension and meanness in kind when it is thrown my way. What I am suggesting here, and which is something that many people on social media do not want to hear, is that always complimenting everyone, and never disagreeing or questioning, is itself a form of condescension and lack of caring. And note, I am not leveling that as a charge against particular people, or even against a given group, but only as postulate concerning certain behaviors, actions and inactions. Of course, it the show fits...and all that. I guess some people feel that it does, and so conclude that I am talking about them. Well, perhaps if they read and reflected more on what they read, and flash-commented less, they might be able to understand that. Me, I'm going to take John @John White, MBA's advice, and go swim in the pool this afternoon. Cheers!

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Phil Friedman Aug 22, 2016 · #57

#54 @Peter van Doorn - With all due respect, exercising one's intellect has nothing to do with being, in your words, "more intelligent than some and more stupid than others'. Speaking bluntly if I may, if one of us is treating people in a condescending manner, it is not I.

In this piece, I offer my opinion and, yes, my advice -- for what it is worth -- to those who choose to read it. As a teacher at both the university and community college levels, I taught logic to all manner and level of students, and learned that just about everyone, myself included, benefits from learning to organize their thoughts, understand the difference between "fact" and opinion, perceive the structure of arguments, and learn to have confidence in their own beliefs and views. However, as I point out, its like physical training -- you don,t get anywhere without some effort and struggle.

If you or anyone else thinks I am full of bull chips, it is your prerogative to ignore my opinion and advice. I'm not forcing you or anyone else to do what I recommend. And if you will take the time to read carefully -- as few on social media are wont to do -- you will see that NOWHERE in my post do I denigrate anyone who chooses not engage. I only argue that you can't build a intellectual six-pack on a diet of Twinkies and pop. Oh, and BTW, nowhere do I say that one needs intellect as a prerequisite to writing and publishing on social media -- for that clearly runs counter to observable fact.

Thank you for raising and engaging on an interesting question, and affording me the opportunity to clarify and amplify my points. Cheers!


#43 @Phil Friedman, I was also disappointed in what I saw on beBee last night. My way of adding my 2 cents, was to write a poem rather than add more fuel to the fire. I don't mind people speaking their mind if done with tact and diplomacy. It's not about if you can't say something nice because we can and will disagree, but it is about selecting your words carefully and showing respect.. I have always found your articles and comments respectful. Thanks for the poem - makes sense. Cheers!

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Peter van Doorn Aug 22, 2016 · #55

#40 The comment #37 was meant for Phil Friedman. I know I was not very clear in this. Sorry, my mistake.

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Peter van Doorn Aug 22, 2016 · #54

#39 It was this, I thought could be discouraging for a lot of people:

'The first step to improving the substance of what you say or write, is to improve the way you think. The way to do that is to find and connect with people who help you exercise your intellect, people who will challenge your ideas and statements, make you rethink and defend your assumptions and inferences, provide a resistance against which you can exercise your intellect' @Phil Friedman.

I just could be very wrong in my assumption that the majority of us will give up if they feel they need intellect, challenge and resistance. It may sound like going to war to many of us. Us being mankind. Personally I agree with you. I want to test my skills, how else will I be able to know me? Failure is an option.

Many of us fear to fail. I don't, but I have learned to not hold that against them. Doing that took me nowhere, or them.

I am more intelligent than some and more stupid than others. I think we can all say that.

These thoughts motivated my comment.

Mamen 🐝 Delgado Aug 22, 2016 · #53

Cheers my friend!!

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