Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Facebook Has Us Talking to Those Who Think Like Us—and That's Not Good Enough

I do the same thing, scrolling down through my Facebook page and agreeing (for the most part) with this or that comment. Perhaps we all do. As the US gets more and more polarized, there are only two sides, only two ways to understand an issue: our way and the wrong-minded way.

Foolish as that may be, it’s comfortable. It’s nice to have your opinions well regarded. It’s an ego-booster, makes you feel good and sleep well, but it doesn’t do a single thing to change minds. Minds are changed by listening, carefully listening to another point of view and looking at a world-view through another pair of eyes

We live in a very complicated country and, for the most part, grew up with our tribe—those who went to the same schools, came from pretty much the same economic background and shared political thoughts, if we ever took the time to do that. So it’s hard for a middle-class, white-collar guy like me to truly understand what it’s like to have a livelihood simply dry up. I’ve never been out of a job. Since I was twelve and delivered prescriptions on my bicycle, there was always a job there.

But if you’re a third-generation coal miner and politics or the environment or the seam simply runs out, it’s not so pretty. There’s no place else to go. You don’t know another trade, your house is half paid off and your kids are in school. Healthcare, retirement benefits and a good paycheck are suddenly gone…and you’re scared shitless. How could you not be?

I saw an interesting remark by a writer who lived in the mid to late eighteen hundreds, a guy named Arthur Helps: “Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.”

We’re reading (and writing) more today than ever before, yet we pretty much tweet, text, read and communicate with the like-minded. It doesn’t have to be that way, but Facebook, MSNBC and Fox News are organized to keep us in our comfort zones.
It can’t stay that way if we’re ever going to fix this country.

Think about that the next time you check in to social media. Just sayin’.

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