Zoo Station

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Conflict and Commonality

Posted by Chance on July 7, 2006

Lee has a couple of posts about how the Republicans and how the Democrats are mean (being an understatement) to each other within the same party when there is disagreement among them.

I think it is always interesting looking at conflict among members that share some commonality. It seems like no matter how much members of a group have in common with each other, they can always find stuff to disagree on, breaking the group down into smaller groups. This happens in the real world, but I have noticed it a lot on online forums, which are always ripe with debate.

Say that you have a general forum. You always find discussions/debates between non-Christian groups and Christians. You see civil discussion, but you also see a little bit of flaming and name-calling. It’s like the two groups are united. But say you have a forum that is composed of mostly or all Christian members, like christianforums.com or crosswalk.com. One sees a further breakdown of groups, in which the once-saved-always-saved debate with those of the opposite opinion, or the Methodists debate against the Baptists. But let’s say you even have an all-Baptist forum. Then you have a debate between the reformed Baptists vs. the southern Baptists, etc. The same goes with any category. Take a U2 forum, in which you think a love of U2 would unite all fans, but then you have a debate between 80s U2 and 90s to now U2.

I have noticed the same concerning rival colleges. Driving or hanging around any random place in Oklahoma, I feel like I have a common bond with people with an OSU (my alma mater) sticker, and those with OU stickers are like “the others”. I may even forgive an OSU person for cutting me off, whereas I would be less likely to do so for an OU person. However, if I’m actually in Stillwater, OK, where OSU is located, this bond is not so strong. I am less forgiving of people who drive stupidly, even with OSU stuff all over their car. It would take something else for me to feel something in common with that person, maybe an “OSU Engineering sticker”.

I suppose these are not really novel observations; I am just fascinated with how we feel bonds with other people, and these bonds weaken as we move from a more diverse environment to a more homogeneous one. It seems like a comparative process. It is not so much someone has in common with us, it is how much commonality there is relative to everyone else.

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