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”- seeBy 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
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.
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