How Access To More Information Is Making Us Less Tolerant
For the first time in history we have access to news from all over the world.
In days gone by, we were limited to our local news outlet. And sometimes, those didn’t even exist.
But today, we have access to anything and everything. We should be getting smarter, more complete pictures of world events, right?
In some ways, yes. But in others, we’re really only building our own “echo chambers.”
Now we can cherry pick which news outlets we listen to. We can choose which blogs we read. And we choose who’s comments we see in a Facebook News Feed.
This distorts how we see the world. Our worldview can seem dominate, while other opinions appear to be less widespread.
Individuals who disagree with us appear to be on the fringe of society… but our view of society has been distorted.
Those individuals are merely on the fringe of our perception of reality.
This isn’t malicious. People are not doing this on purpose. But it is REALLY easy to do.
How We Create Our Own Reality Distortion Fields
Let’s say you’re a conservative Christian. You probably don’t watch a lot of CNN or MSNBC because those news agencies fare fairly biased to the left. That doesn’t jive with your worldview, so you probably gravitate towards Fox or the Wall Street Journal.
And then, most of your friends will probably share your values. They are probably a similar demographic and are part of a similar socio-economic circle. And they will post things that re-affirm your values.
So, what you see very day is a bunch of people who agree with you, and you listen to news that leans in your direction.
Do you see how little, innocuous choices we make every day can lead us to surround ourselves with our own opinions without us realizing it?
Little, innocuous choices we make every day can lead us to surround ourselves with our own opinions without realizing it.
The same thing happens on the left, except in reverse.
You probably avoid Fox News and watch MSNBC. You read the New York Times over the Wall Street Journal. And a lot of your friends probably share your same opinions.
This is dangerous, however. Because it is easy to jump from your own echo chamber to prejudice.
If you are surrounded by people who believe the same thing as you, you will subconsciously assume that your opinion is in the majority (or is at least a large group). But your perspective could be WAY off (without you realizing it).
So, you think your worldview is “normal,” and when you hear a different worldview they are automatically “not normal.”
If all I’m hearing is that Bernie Sanders wants to destroy corruption, and Trump hates minorities, then I’m going to start believing this as “normal.” And when I encounter a Trump supporter, I’m going to put them into the “not normal” camp. And I’m going to assume they also hate minorities.
To you, there is no other option. All the facts prove it (that you’ve seen).
But you’ve merely created your own echo chamber and you aren’t seeing reality.
This can cause us to judge people unfairly.
How To Break The Echo Chamber In Your Life
To move forward, we need to realize that smart people can disagree with us. And we need to recognize that our view of reality may not be accurate.
Most people, or at least most smart people may not think like us, nor may they share our opinions. And assuming otherwise it dangerous.
If someone holds a different opinion (one we think is a minority position), we need to take a step back and see if we’re reacting to reality, or our own perception of reality.
Reality distortion fields are real. They are easy to make. And they make it easy to judge other people who hold a different opinion.
If we want our republic to last, we need to learn to see beyond our own perspective.
I challenge you to do this: The next time you get mad a comment someone makes about politics, set aside your offense for a moment, and temporarily adopt that person’s worldview and values. You don’t have to keep them. You can always pick yours back up at any moment.
Look at the issue through their eyes. Try to understand why they believe what they believe. Think the issue from that perspective. And, please, assume people are good until you know for a fact that they aren’t.
If someone holds a different opinion from you, assume they have good intentions until you can prove they don’t. It is never helpful to enter a conversation assuming someone is a liar, malicious, or ignorant.
There’s an Emerson quote I love, and often need reminding of: “In my walks, every man [or woman] I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him [or her].”
“In my walks, every man [or woman] I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him [or her].”
This is how we make America great again.
About Sean Edwards
Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.