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ihavereturned's avatar

Do you think consuming fringe material has any benefit?

Asked by ihavereturned (540points) 3 weeks ago

Recently I got into an argument with a friend of mine. My friend says I give no shred of credibility to mainstream opinion, which made me mad because I said popularity has nothing to do with truth.

I tend to flirt with fringe topics, not mysticism, but stuff on the edge of the mainstream. I think it has helped me get lucky in some areas by being able to predict some future directions of technology (which has benefitted me financially), and challenge my thinking. I remember an older video with Steve Jobs where he says innovation comes from the fringes and not from the mainstream, which influenced me. But recently I’ve been wondering if it is doing more harm since it might make it easier to loose touch with certain people, potentially develop an unpleasing personality, or make my life unnecessarily difficult. I’ve always been more of an introvert so that may be a cause.

I’m not sure how to best summarize but should I be giving more credibility to opinions solely because many people think they’re true? Would my life be better off in the long run if I avoided fringe material for practical reasons?

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10 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

it helps to know your audience. Some people aren’t open to discussing that stuff while others are.That’s all.
Imagination and asking “what if?” are a glorious thing, IMO. :)

ihavereturned's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille thanks for your answer :)

But i think I struggle with a concept of compromise. Like if I don’t believe something is true, but compromise may make working with others easier and more practical overall? E.g if i think popular opinion is wrong

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@ihavereturned -I suppose that depends on what it is.
If a compromise on your part will have a detrimental effect on something very important, definitely stick to your guns.
If it is simply a matter of opinion, you can let it go and let them be wrong. wrong like a ding dong Lol

Demosthenes's avatar

I think it can broaden your perspective and help you understand where people with fringe views and ideas are coming from. You never know when there might be some validity to it. A lot of great ideas started out in the fringes.

That said, I think if you are the suggestible type, it’s all too easy to go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and misinformation. Just because something is outside the mainstream and claims to be the truth “they don’t want you to know” doesn’t mean it’s valid or immune from scrutiny itself.

I’m open to fringe ideas, but I tend to subscribe to the principle that that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence (i.e. extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence).

ihavereturned's avatar

@Demosthenes I wouldn’t associate misinformation with fringe views. But I also wouldn’t associate truth with it either. My perspective is that they provide opportunity to discover new things, because if that wasn’t the case they would already be in the mainstream, right?

As an example in my personal life i’ll give $SNAP. This was when I realized how many opinions are hugely derived from others, even those many might view as authorities in the industry. I could hardly find anyone who shared my optimistic views of the company except a few fringe circles online. This really opened my eyes. I ended up taking a bet and they ended up being the best public stock in 2019. I also have a friend who became wealthy with bitcoin as another example.

It’s my view that the fringe can give some relief to highly socialized thinking and maybe provide some clarity on many issues. This reminds me of a psychology class I took in college, where I learned in many cases that mental illness is defined relative to a larger group of people. Yet what happens when everyone becomes “ill”? Would we ever know this happened? Sometimes a break from heavy socialization in the mainstream is needed i think.

Zaku's avatar

It depends on what you’re interested in, what you enjoy, whose company you enjoy, what you value, and so on.

I think in general most people tend to give VASTLY too much weight to popular and conventional opinions, which are often pretty poor.

I advise judging for yourself, neither biased in favor nor in opposition to what’s popular or conventional, but instead on what your actual values are.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think it is good to tickle your imagination with it provided you maintain the right context and don’t go over the deep end with it.

Zaku's avatar

The whole phrase “consuming fringe material” seems to me to have built into it a context of judgement, which seems inappropriate to me.

(It also sounds like eating carpet fringes…)

If you like or are interested in non-mainstream content, and feel like there’s some good reason to think it might not “have any benefit” because it is “fringe”, that seems messed up to me, to have that kind of confusion about whether you can find benefit it whatever you like or not. Of course you can.

If this kind of thinking is getting in the way, I would say you should look at why your thinking is organized that way. Ugh.

ihavereturned's avatar

@Zaku Thanks for your posts.

I’m not sure if you read the question details or my other posts on this page. I do believe there is immense value but I am questioning my thinking by posting here to make sure I’m not missing some blind spot in my reasoning.

I would even go as far to say that just the fact that something is fringe gives it some value in my opinion. It’s a place with unexplored ideas.

Smashley's avatar

Anyone who claims the majority or mainstream is always right is laughable. Social sciences have identified numerous prejudices, blind spots, and biases that individuals, groups, and societies can fall victim to. Of course innovation comes from the fringes, for that is where assumptions are most challenged, and where new truths can be glimpsed. That said, fringe thinking is more of a great experiment: throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Hits are remembered, and misses are forgotten, or at least marginalized.

Unfortunately, the fringes also attract the liars, frauds, and charlatans. In spaces where people are encouraged to discount the prevailing thinking, accept things on a certain amount of faith, and distrust authority, it is all to easy for people to be preyed upon by the ruthless liars. The wellness industry is lousy with them, for example.

So venture on, but keep those perception skills sharp, and don’t fall prey to the wolves.

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