Hi, my name is Jason and I’m an egoholic.
It’s an interesting exercise saying this out loud. I will preface this post by saying I’m posting it as a user; not as staff. My hope is that readers might see it as food for thought.
Human beings, myself included, tend to have an inherent need to be right, rather than correct. This becomes especially destructive at a time in history when there is so much divisiveness, exasperated by a deadly pandemic. After seeing some topics surface on this forum, and user avatars being changed to depict a need for forum social justice, it got me thinking more about how a healthy community thrives. Or more importantly, heals.
It’s not lost on me that this is a forum for a flight simulator. We’re not changing the world. But we are a community. Life-long friendships are formed and solidified here, and some of our members will inevitably go on to make a lasting impact in their communities and the world. This can be for good or bad.
The flight sim community can be a tumultuous place. Inherently, it’s a group of people who’s aim is to know as much as possible about a topic so as to simulate it well. Disagreements arise out of a desire to provide the perfect response, and to scrutinize even the finest of details.
What social psychologists find is that some of the people who are the most ignorant on a topic are the same people that are most blind to their ignorance on that topic. This makes it extremely difficult to confront someone on this, and it also makes it quite difficult to realize it in ourselves. Our ability to over-estimate our own knowledge on a specific topic is so prevalent, that’s psychologists have given it a name. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect (named after the two psychologists who did the initial research).
The graphic above depicts what Dunning and Kruger found in their research. When you’re completely ignorant on a topic, you know it. It’s easy for me to stumble upon two friends talking about the latest trends in Chemical Engineering and say I know nothing about that topic. I have no opinion other than, “wow, you seem to know a lot about that!” But as soon as a person starts learning about a topic, their estimation of how much they know about that topic climbs much faster than their actual knowledge. As shown in the graphic, your confidence on the topic skyrockets to that of an expert based on what little you know.
At the top of the ignorance curve (or the peak of Mount Stupid) is where we are our most judgemental selves, and where we are the most dangerous. It’s where a person has very little knowledge and an extreme amount of confidence. It’s where some people choose to stay.
It’s very difficult to be in a learning posture at the peak of Mount Stupid because a person always feels as though they have something to teach others. Pride is this person’s most dangerous trait.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to stop there! If we continue to learn, our confidence will inevitably decrease to a level that’s in tune with reality. As we can see from the graph, a constant posture of learning (and I will add, humility) will take us into the area of wisdom (do I know this, or do I need to keep learning?), and eventually, expertise. It’s no surprise then, that the expert will often have an attitude of wanting to teach and continue to learn.
So what do we do with this on the IFC? One more anecdote first. As many readers will already know, I’m in the process of working on my PPL in Canada. I started knowing a lot of pilots, and what I considered to be a lot of knowledge about aviation. I went into my training at the peak of Mount Stupid and I stayed there until about my third lesson in the airplane. I landed the airplane myself on my discovery flight. Attitudes and movements; no problem. But as I progressed, and did so without having caught up with ground school, I began to realize that the principles I needed to know as a foundation to my training were not there. Not even close. Why couldn’t I remember when and why to lean? It wasn’t because my instructor didn’t tell me; it was because I hadn’t learned the fundamentals of engines, fuel systems, pressure, and on and on.
A forum-centric community will always have many challenges; language barriers, wide age-ranges, cultural gaps, intellectual differences, and so many more. What I believe we can take from the Dunning-Kruger example is that we can all (myself included) use generous helpings of humility and grace. Humility to know that no matter the topic, we have something to learn. Grace to realize that as much as it may pain us, someone else may know more than us and have something to teach us.
An added complication in our setting is that almost everyone here is a user (and therefore customer) of Infinite Flight, or was at some point. This adds a sense of ownership. Speaking from a staff position, we want you to feel heard when it comes to feature requests, tech support issues, and of course, satisfaction (cough 5-star review cough)! For the sake of this topic, I’d like to suggest setting that fact aside. We’re all aviation lovers, and we’re all here because of Infinite Flight. I’d like to suggest that instead of demanding change in others, let’s all first look at ourselves. Frustrated with mini-mods? What small bit can we learn from them? What fundamental issue is steering their actions, and how can we help?
My one wish as the person in charge of marketing and communication for Infinite Flight is that we would all ask more questions. The thing we all love to talk about the most is ourselves. Fighting the urge to use “you” or “I” when expressing a thought can be a good strategy to avoid putting someone on the defensive. Asking questions and inviting someone to express themselves more clearly is often the easiest way to deescalate a potentially volatile situation and set a tone for a respectful conversation (or in our case, topic).
I think our forum community can continue to be a source of incredible information and ideas if we all open our web browsers while asking ourselves one question: what can I learn from this amazing group of people today?
Credit: Some topics and ideas in this post came directly from a talk by Bruxy Cavey, author and advocate of peace teaching.