POP that filter bubble!

 

As we all know, or SHOULD know, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter filter what we see on our sites…according to what we LIKE and FOLLOW.   So if you are a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat, a monogamous heterosexual or any other sexuality/identity, a Christian, Muslim, pagan, …and any other demographic (even sexual offenders, rapists, and pedophiles), your news feed reflects your opinion.

Our social media is turning into bubble wrap, each person is enclosed in their own bubble with like-minded individuals and organizations.  Facebook and other social media will send to your news feed other articles and posts that are similar to your opinion.  The underlying thought was good – this is what this person likes to read.  However, what has happened is that we have normalized whatever our opinion is and we feel that most of the world agrees with “us” because that is pretty much all we read.

The New Yorker had a great article recently about “myside bias”- see February 20, 2017 issue, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds By Elizabeth Kolbert. “Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.”  Research has shown that when people read an opinion different from their own, they will dismiss evidence or facts and continue (or dig in deeper) in their own side/bias.

We block friends and family and acquaintances who have a differing opinion because we just don’t want to hear/read/acknowledge the opposing side as valid. We want to stick with our own beliefs, faith, truth, way of life.  Often we post “attacks” based on our opinion. I have to say I am deeply ashamed when I (often) see Christian friends/family posting hateful or nasty things about others, whether political or otherwise. How often do we think about how our words can hurt those who think differently?

Critical thinking is SO important to develop, improving how you interpret opinions and rationalizations, problem-solving, and developing empathy for others. (It was one of my highest goals in raising children.) Critical thinking is the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. (Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014 Dictionary.com, LLC)

How can critical thinking develop where there is no discussion, argument, debate, conversation?  If we do not listen to other viewpoints, we are uninformed, and unable to:

1. validate/express our own viewpoint honestly

2. appreciate other people in their value system

3. grow and develop as a well-rounded person

4. adequately make good life decisions/choices

Personally I was raised in a conservative Christian home where everything in life was to be based on the Bible as our primary guide, or to be more accurate, the current preachers’ interpretation of that Bible. We were discouraged from even attending other churches, much less get involved with “sinners” (except to convert them, of course), and especially not those regarded as sexual deviants, or pro-choice, democrats, alcohol or drug users, card-players, dancers of any kind, theater/movie goers, pagan, agnostic, Catholic, or atheistic…we were even discouraged from attending secular higher education for concern that we would be corrupted.

Fortunately, as I have grown up, I have learned to appreciate other people and their viewpoints. My faith and values are not threatened by others who view life differently. I am not going to hell because I associate with Muslims or lesbians or alcohol drinkers. I can read or discuss with someone their pagan beliefs and still care about that person and validate their life choices – as they are free to choose what they believe, just as I am free to choose what I believe.

So how do we break out of our filter bubble, whether imposed by Facebook or Twitter, or by our parents or faith or political party?

1.READ, read, read, and read some more – find books and articles that are well-written and expose you to other viewpoints. Read your own viewpoints as critically as you read theirs.

2.LIKE and FOLLOW other people and organizations with a differing viewpoint so those are added to your newsfeed – expose your mind to their arguments and discussions. Find reputable sites that represent the best thinking of that argument.

3.Get out in your community and MEET NEW PEOPLE from different walks of life – different socioeconomic group, different sexuality or gender identification, different religion, different country, different political party. Involve yourself in community that is not limited to faith.

4. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.  Stop thinking about how you will reply or how they are wrong based on your opinion, just LISTEN. Take it home and think about it.  At least, stop talking until you have a solid foundation of trust.

5.ASK QUESTIONS.  Thoughtful questions that show you respect their opinion and truly want to hear their viewpoint. Drop your conversion agenda. Don’t stop at what you think you know, keep learning. Don’t just interrogate with the intention of proving them wrong.

6.DEVELOP a foundation of friendship and mutual respect with others. I am not talking to you because I want to convert you to my way of thinking; you are a valid person worthy of respect, and I want to just get to know you and appreciate who you are, and listen to your story…and I want you to respond in kind.

Critical thinking requires a person to dismiss the shallow, knee-jerk, easy pat answers…and dig deeper. Just because a person refers to God in a press release does not make them a Christian…anyone can say words that others want to hear.  Anyone can recite the Lord’s prayer or the Declaration of Independence or that latest buzzword – we need to be responsible adult critical thinkers no matter who we are talking to or about.

I have lately been reading a great deal about pre-Nazi days, and the parallels to today are scary.  Journalists/Press as “the enemy” is one of the scariest! “Alternative facts” is another scary development. Divisive posturing on any level is also horrific, with horrible consequences.  Government leaders who are not critical thinkers or serious readers or surrounding themselves with a variety of wise voices are a nightmare.

We need to be active individually to balance the divisiveness and help bring open, inclusive rhetoric to our social media platforms.

Don’t accept the bubble wrap mindset – we are all humans worthy of respect and we are all important to this nation, and the world!

I would love comments on this blog post, and although I will remove any disrespectful comment, I welcome all to join in.

Scout…out!

From my bookshelf —

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about these things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I am haunted by humans.”

From The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, 2005

Anxiety? Depression? Coping strategies on the road

The mind is our greatest battlefield!

So, everyone who travels in an RV must be happy and fulfilled every day, right?  Does the sun always shine brightly?

I know I’m not the only person who has chosen the travel lifestyle but still battles with anxiety, depression, and/or other mental health issues.  (And how many of us battle physical health issues?  spiritual health issues? emotional health issues?  relationship health issues? etc.)

Just like the sky is not always sunny, so too we as human beings don’t always have internal sunshine.  Some days there’s clouds, or wind, or rain, or tornadoes/hurricanes/major storms.  Some days are dark and we struggle to get through the day…hour…the next 5 minutes.

Part of the reason I chose to full-time RV is that I was struggling with a full time job in the midst of some serious anxiety, and bouts of depression.  I have suffered from these battles off and on for most of my life.  At times I have needed to turn to medications and therapies, and it’s a smart person who recognizes when the red flags are waving and gets outside help.  Most of the time, though, I have ridden the waves pretty well with self-monitoring.  However, in 2016 I found myself struggling more and more with anxiety and depression, and while medication and therapy were helpful it just wasn’t enough.  I felt my work performance was slipping and it was increasingly difficult to show up every day and concentrate. Just the thought of a meeting or a snowstorm or just going up the staircase with coworkers often sent me into a panic attack.  I tried going back on anti-anxiety medication but hated how my brain turned to mush – also not good for work performance.

Then, I was in a minor fender bender and several days later awoke to incredible vertigo and could not drive, or barely walk down a hall without my world spinning, which lasted for months.  I tried, for a few months, to do my work from home remotely, thanks to a wonderful manager.  But while the anxiety symptoms abated when I was away, a phone call or an on-site meeting would dump me right back into anxiety for days before and days after. So I came to a critical point:  If I needed medication in order to do my job, and that medication messed with my brain, did I want to continue that route?

During the early part of 2016, I had decided to purchase an old van to renovate into a solo camper for vacations and possibly as a “tiny home”.  I moved into the van I found on Craigslist and renovated while living in it at my son’s home (see other blog posts for more info).  During this time I was battling the depression and anxiety, and then the vertigo.  Within weeks, due to the decreased stress of no rent, etc., and the fresh air of van camping, and working remotely, and other external circumstances changing, I found the depression was lifting.  The vertigo was handled with an OTC medication as needed, and it lessened bit by bit.  The anxiety, though, was still kicking my butt.

By August of 2016, I felt my best choice for good health was to resign from my job and begin full time RV travel with some type of part time work to support the traveling.  While it was difficult to resign from a job which I really enjoyed and paid decently, I didn’t want to continue with a medicated lifestyle. Now, seven months later, I am medication-free, depression-free, and almost completely anxiety-free.

I know from experience that depression and anxiety are life-long battles for me, and for many folks.  A concern of my family/friends is that I am off traveling alone – Would I slide into depression without my support system (family and friends)?  Would I let my health deteriorate and no one would notice? Would I hole up in a campsite somewhere and not take care of myself?  Yes, these are valid concerns for those who love me!  I don’t fight their loving concern, but I also don’t let that concern make decisions for me.

My red flags are familiar to me, and I mitigate those symptoms by a few simple daily routines:

*Complete B vitamins – sustained release

*Outdoor exercise (simple walking 20+ minutes)

*Journaling, creative stuff

*Healthy eating

*Healthy sleeping

Due to the freedom of the RV lifestyle, I can be alone or get together with people according to how I feel at any given time.  I don’t have a schedule or deadlines.  I purposely “go with the flow” instead of making a hard-and-fast itinerary.  If I choose to spend a day in bed reading, that’s okay.  If I want to visit someone, that’s okay.  If I just want to sit at a beach and stare at the surf, that’s okay.  If I want to walk in the woods, that’s okay. If I want to eat at a restaurant surrounded by chatter, that’s okay.

Since I do need to fund my travels, I work a few days a week for a few hours.  The schedule is mine to book, and the work is not stressful for me.  If I start to get anxious, I can take a break – I am only required to work 7.5 hours a week.  All I do is spend 1/2 hour at a time with a Chinese child online speaking English with the teaching PowerPoint provided. (See other blogs for work information).

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and this lifestyle choice would not work for everyone. If I find myself not doing well for a couple of weeks and not able to rise above those dark days, then I would head to family for support and reconsideration of what is best at that time.  But for now, this is working for me and I am happy and content with my choices.  I like having a clear head, and enjoying the fresh air and freedom of the camping life.

Do you have a battle you are fighting? What steps are you taking towards health? How are you coping?  Hey, just being honest with each other can go a long way to making a difference.  I bared my soul…doesn’t hurt and it might help someone else!  Feel free to share…

Scout…out!

From the bookshelf:

“There are two truisms about a person.  The first is that they do not change. The second is that they do not remain the same.”


Aspen Allegations by Lisa Shea, 2013

 

Please remember, if you are ordering online via Amazon/Audible and would click through the link at the end of this post, I will make a small commission to help fund my travels. (no additional cost to you) –Thanks!