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.


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

Foreign Perspectives – South Korea

South Korea – “Land of the Morning Calm”

This is an apt description of this beautiful country, based on my recent visit in September 2016. My brother Tim and I traveled to South Korea for a two-week visit with my daughter, Erin.

The canal below Erin’s apartment building in Incheon, South Korea – a tranquil place to walk, exercise, bike, rest…my favorite place!

Erin has been working as a foreign teacher of English to Korean children since February 2016.  Introduced to the culture through K-pop and drama, she had started learning the language via the internet/social media during her first year after college graduation.  After several months of study, she was hired as a teacher at a private school (hagwon) in Incheon. Erin spent her very first day in the country finding her way by bus and subway into Seoul without a guide- what an intrepid girl! She just wanted to see the sights and experience the culture!

After having lived in New York City, I found the area of Seoul and Incheon to be very similar to NYC, with two exceptions: the language barrier, and the fact that 99% of the people in Korea are actually Korean. It was very hard for me to NOT be able to read anything when walking around! Tim was more dismayed that he couldn’t converse very well with any one. We hardly saw any Caucasians, and I don’t remember seeing many other people besides Asians. In NYC, even Chinatown, there is a large percentage of Caucasians and ethnicities on every street.  Here in South Korea, there are few non-Asians, at least in the areas we traveled. I was fine with that, but Tim was a little unsettled!  However, I am a New Yorker and Tim is a rural Western cowboy type -he was  out of his comfort zone just being in a large metropolitan area!  But he enjoyed himself and had a good time.

Tim (brother) and I shopping in Seoul, land of “cute”!!

Our first great experience was to go with Erin’s class on a school field trip.  The children arrived at school in their traditional Hanbok clothing – so adorable!  We rode in a plush purple velvet school bus (with curtains, seat doilies, fringe and all) to an historical site where the children played traditional Korean games. “Erin Teacher” was busy keeping 12 kindergartners on task, while Tim and I took pictures and enjoyed the morning. Four- and five-year old children are pretty much the same all over the world…an adorable handful who make you smile! Their antics were exactly as my grandkids in America would be, and their grins were just as wonderful.  The kids really loved Tim’s cowboy hat, as did the pretty young teachers…he just smiled, and took more pictures!

Erin Teacher’s kindergarten class, dressed in tradition Korean clothing for a field trip
A “receiving room” in the Korean palace area

That first weekend we flew to Jeju Island, the Korean “Hawaii”, for two days. A beautiful hour-long drive along the coast brought us to the area where we would stay in a guesthouse next to the beach, and we also enjoyed a special art exhibit.  “Inside Van Gogh” (who is one of my favorite artists) was a delightful presentation of Van Gogh’s paintings in 3-D with various lighting and technical displays.

The beach was black lava rocks and sand (Jeju is an inactive volcanic island).  Beautiful! The sound of the surf, maybe 500 feet from our open bedroom window, lulled us to sleep on the three hard beds of our guestroom – none were very soft.  I happen to like sleeping on a hard bed, and Erin has gotten used to it over the last six months, but Tim’s poor bones were the subject of just a bit of complaining! LOL

A panoramic view of the coast on Jeju Island, an inactive volcanic island

Our next special event was the Korean holiday of Chuseok, rather like our Thanksgiving as it is a time of family and food and ancestral history.  We went into Seoul with Erin’s friend, Joon, who is Korean but spent his high school and college years in America, so we communicated easily. He was able to show us around some pretty amazing sights, including a beautiful palace and grounds, a museum, and a Buddhist temple.  We happened upon several traditional events due to the holiday, which was pretty cool!  Thanks, Joon, for opening doors for us to experience South Korea more fully!

Changing of the guard at the Korean palace grounds during the holiday
Buddhist temple grounds, Seoul
Erin and Joon, on palace grounds, Seoul

I can easily see living in a place like South Korea if I learned the language. Like Erin, I would not want to live where all the ex-pats live; I would rather experience their culture and language than be “comfortable” with English speakers.  The area where Erin lives and works is a new development and has a beautiful canal running through it, with patios and places to rest, exercise, play games, and eat(!!!) all along the length.  While there are minor differences in culture that one must accept, people are people, everywhere.  We all want safety and happiness for our families, and a good education for our children.

While there are drawbacks to such a high priority on education as the Koreans have (teen and childhood educational pressures are very high, and suicide is not unknown), I did see happy families everywhere, treating one another with respect and gentle kindness.  South Korea is a high-tech society that is respectful of people and soooooo calm (serenity permeates the canal area where Erin lives and works) – hey, the police don’t even carry guns!  There is little crime or violence, and the elderly are especially honored, and education is highly valued.  We watched families walking and biking along the canal parks…so sweet!  Tim was a bit bothered by the lack of eye contact/smiles by strangers, but once we were introduced they were very friendly and kind (see – just a cultural difference!)  I can see why Erin is enjoying her time in South Korea!

Beautiful pool on the palace grounds, Seoul
The black sands of Jeju Island
Receiving rooms at palace grounds, Seoul

Thanks for taking a little tour with me – it was an amazing vacation!

Scout – out!

What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf:

“Lucy, every marriage is a dance; complicated at times, lovely at times, most [of] the time very uneventful.  But with Mickey [diagnosis of bipolar disorder], there will be times when your dance will be on broken glass.  There will be pain.  And you will either flee that pain or hold tighter and dance through it to the next smooth place….You can’t fix him.”

–Dancing on Broken Glass   by Ka Hancock, 2012


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