One of the great things about these here interwebs is that you get exposed to lots of people. Sometimes those people expose themselves to you, and sometimes you go out looking for them yourself.
That’s pretty much true even in the non-skeezy sense, isn’t it?
You can find virtually everyone and everything on the internet. But strangely, you can insulate yourself pretty well out here in cyberspace too.
Despite the vastness of the online world, it’s surprisingly easy to carve yourself out a little niche, notice only those who inhabit your neighbouring niches, and tune out pretty much everyone else. You ‘friend’ and ‘follow’ only those who share your interests and opinions, your Pinterest and Instagram pages reflect only the creativity of people who share the same tastes as you. A certain search engine which won’t be named (I’m still smarting about that virus thing) is pretty good at guessing whatever you’re looking for at any given time. Social media is exceptionally skilled at analyzing your activity and serving you up other pages and profiles it thinks will align with your interests.
This is a good thing in lots of ways; if you enjoy cooking rhubarb pies, the internet will easily find you lots of posts and recipes about pies, baking, and rhubarb. Soon you’ll be the most prolific rhubarb pie – baker in the land!
But there are some downsides to living in our bubbles: pretty soon, one’s thinking can become rather insular. If when you put an opinion out there into the world you are only met with Likes and positive responses, you might soon become convinced of your own genius. Except – most of us aren’t geniuses.
Nobody likes to have someone point out their faulty thinking. It stings and can incite debate, but more often it just leads to resentment and division because we’re generally not real good at thoughtfully discussing our ideas even in real life, let alone online. There is a reason Facebook only has a “Like” button – we don’t take too kindly to disapproval, even of the emoticon kind.
Despite this, it can be an enlightening challenge to venture out there searching for opinions that don’t match your own. Or even better – people with life experiences that don’t match your own. It will certainly start with discomfort, maybe anger and disbelief, possibly some scorn. If only these people could hear your own thoughts on <random issue>, they would surely see the error of their ways!
You’ll feel these things, but stay the course. Resist the urge to add your comments! Keep reading, keep exploring. Take the road you wouldn’t normally take, the one that looks unfamiliar and misguided. Let yourself think about things from a different perspective, with the understanding that you don’t have to change your viewpoint one bit. There’s no pressure online. You can read everything and agree with nothing.
Or, you can read something and mostly disagree with it but sort of also agree to acknowledge that some parts kind of make sense.
There’s a reason why they say stagnant water is unsafe to drink – if water stays still for too long it breeds bacteria. But water in a running river stays fresh. People are the same way. We have to keep moving to stay healthy. This is true not just for our bodies but for our minds.
I’m not saying that you should change your opinions because of what you read online; if you can be swayed by the first Reddit post that pops up in your search engine, you probably haven’t given an issue enough thought in the first place.
I *am* saying that you should actively search out things written by people who are different from you. Read them and hear them. Discard them if you want. Or maybe take a small part of them for yourself. That’s how the water keeps moving.