Polarization

I’ve been trying halfheartedly to blog more lately about issues that are important to me. This hasn’t happened for a myriad of reasons including the novel I’m writing, the children I care for, and the husband who ocassionally wants to interact with me. 

The biggest issue, I must admit, is that I’m tired of the Internet. Tired of how polarized things have become — or maybe they’ve always been this polarized and now it’s just more apparent to me. Tired of the gross simplification of serious issues. Tired of talking with people I don’t actually know about important issues that they’ve already made up their minds about. Tired of people who spout memes about everything and egregiously misunderstand nearly everything I type if I don’t completely agree with them about every detail, even though I’m generally trying my best to actually hear and understand what they’re saying.

Because, apparently, in the Internet community, if you don’t completely agree with one or the other of the media-fueled “opposite” sides on hot-button issues, then you’re on the “other side” and are the enemy. To be debated and countered, but never actually listened to or heard. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. I can often pinpoint exactly how two “opposing” sides are talking past each other. It’s fascinating, albeit frustrating, to watch and I know I’m not immune either. It’s always more obvious to me when other people misunderstand each other than when I’m in the thick of it myself and I assume that others have similar experiences.

Anyhow, my truth is that I’ve almost never found the extreme sides, the ones the media seems to delight in perpetuating, to be correct about important issues. Reality is complex. Reality cannot be easily summed up into the memes and pithy soundbites that people online delight in. The reality almost always lies somewhere between the two extreme sides and I generally find myself agreeing at least partially with people on all sides of extremely intense issues.  

We have amazing access to people’s opinions and thoughts, yet it seems as though many people aren’t interested in listening, only in talking. I guess that I also haven’t wanted to participate lately in the cacophany of opinions on the Internet. 

But I also believe that the following is crucial: 

The solutions to the big problems our families/communities/countries/world face cannot be solved as long as we persist in fighting each other at every turn and aren’t actually listening to or hearing the concerns of our fellow human beings. 

I’d like to ask a few simple questions for anyone who reads this (including myself) to think about.

1. Why are only two “sides” presented as being possibilities in almost every single hot-button issue? Why are those sides then pitted against each other and seen as irreconcilable? 

2. Why are so many people stubbornly resistent to seeing issues from another person’s perspective even as we have access to so many other people’s perspectives now?

3. When did agreement and the conversion of people to one’s own way of thinking become more important than building relationships and caring for our neighbors?

Perhaps we could try listening, working together, and trying to find common ground. Instead of getting stuck in the confirmation bias feedback loop. Instead of posting memes or inflammatory articles. Instead of opposing people from the “other side.” Instead of trying to win converts to our way of thinking. 

That would be quite refreshing. 

~B.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: US Election Aftermath | Barefoot Betsy's Thoughts

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