I was asked, for reasons I won’t go into here, to stop following someone on a social media channel by a friend of mine. There was good reason for the request in that the person asking felt that this other person actively hurts with their comments and stance.
Whether this is true, and who they are, are not for discussion here. I just wanted to state why I often follow people I disagree with, and these are the reasons I gave my friend.
- It is almost impossible to construct a rational argument against something unless you know, or have heard, that thing. The people I disagree with are still a source of the information I read (especially when they provides links to articles or discussions) to help formulate arguments. Whether these turn out to be favourable or something I oppose. Knowledge is power, know a thing to defeat a thing.
- If I only follow those people who I believe are right/good/decent/etc. I run a real risk of just enforcing my own cognitive biases spurred on by social media algorithms that encourage such. It is a big issue and one that means you have to look at arguments as objectively as possible, and looking at an opposing argument is a good way of seeing where the balance might be. The opposing point of view can often reveal faults in your own thinking and gaps in your understanding.
I feel the two above points are why I still follow people that I disagree with, in some cases massively dislike their stance and opinion and find them almost revolting.
I don’t retweet or promote their messages Following them is not a support and any claim of such would be easy to discount as overly-simplistic polar opposition.
I like to try and see the whole argument even when my immediate response and feeling is to dismiss.
Post Scriptum: I almost called this Thesis-antiThesis-Synthesis but felt it was too wanky.