January 23, 2013

Overcoming First Impressions: The Case of ReapSow Radio

English: Impressions at sunset by JoJan.
English: Impressions at sunset by JoJan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First impressions matter, and they can be difficult to overcome. I cannot count the number of times I have formed a negative first impression of someone or something only to learn I was wrong. I'd like to tell you about a recent example.

A couple months ago, I listened to an episode of ReapSow Radio, an irreverent podcast focusing on the conflict in the atheist community. I was not sure what to expect. Everything I had heard about the show was negative, but it had all come from the FtB/Skepchick/Atheism+ crowd. I had already learned not to put much stock in their opinions, so I figured I should check out the show for myself. If Reap was really the vile misogynist they insisted he was, I could move on.

While I did not hear anything during the show that struck me as misogynistic (except in this sense of the word), I was turned off by how angry Reap seemed throughout the show and his use of "fuck" in almost every sentence. None of his co-hosts did this, and I thought it made him seem like he did not have much of value to say. I found myself wishing he would step aside and let the others take over until he regained control of his emotions. My overall impression of the show was negative, and I told myself that I would be unlikely to return.

More recently, I decided to return and check out another episode. I believe it had something to do with Al Stefanelli being on the show and them addressing a topic I thought would be interesting. My experience this time was almost nothing like the previous episode. Not only was there nothing misogynistic (again), but Reap seemed far more rational and did not say "fuck" excessively. I enjoyed the show. While I have never been a big fan of podcasts, I can imagine checking this one out again.

This experience highlighted a few things for me; things I already knew but needed to remember:
  • It is often a mistake to blindly accept someone's condemnation without making up one's own mind. This is especially true if the source of the condemnation is known to be hypersensitive.
  • Basing one's opinion on a single exposure can be misleading.
  • First impressions are challenging to overcome, but giving something another try can pay dividends.
I was wrong to initially dismiss ReapSow Radio, and I am glad I decided to listen to another show. I will check it out again. I'll also try to remember what I've learned here in the hope that these lessons may prevent me from making similar mistakes in the future.

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