What Is Your Bubble?

It is only natural that we all live in our own little news bubble. Opinions we hear tend to be like ours, and the result is an echo chamber repeating what we already know.

However, knowing that you live in a bubble, and trying to be aware of other bubbles, is key to empathizing with others. You have to know what people think, and why they think it, if you want to have hope of having a constructive conversation.

How did we get here?

How we grow our bubbles seems pretty logical. Our friends, family, and neighbors share what information and news that they know. They share with us their own opinions, and you can’t help but be influenced by that.

Other people, with differing views, might live far away, or you don’t come into contact with them. For instance, they might be separated from you geographically, or socioeconomically, or politically.

How you get out of a your own news silo, or expand it, is a little less clear. For example, you might seek out other news sources, or think about what voices are missing among your friends and family, and try to add them. This is not easy.

Unfortunately, the current environment makes it even harder. As a society, we are growing ever more polarized. Entire counties and even states are deemed to be one type of political party. In addition, the wealth gap continues to grow. Compromise is seen as a dirty word, rather than a way to find common ground.

Now what?

Despite the difficulty, it can be very rewarding. It is possible to understand what fears people have. Why they spend, vote, and act the way that they do. Once you know this, it will be easier to address these concerns and win them over.

Moreover, you can’t expect others to step outside their bubble if you aren’t willing to do it yourself.

None of this, though, can be done if you don’t understand the bubble that you inhabit. After all, do you know your internal biases and assumptions? Is it a priority of yours to know people who disagree with you? What is your bubble?

Related questions: How can we encourage meaningful conversation? How do you know who to trust? What are you doing to make the world a better place? How can we become better listeners? What is necessary to change your mind?

3 thoughts on “What Is Your Bubble?”

  1. In my non-work environment, I live in a news bubble, getting my information on current events from sources like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic. This morning’s question had me looking into conservative sources of news I could also regularly read. While I found a couple of sources I could at least respect, I got annoyed with all the conservative-oriented ads that immediately started appearing on the webpages I frequent.

    While I am surrounded by people who wanted Bernie or want Biden as the next president, many of my social media friends were enthusiastically Elizabeth Warren supporters, as I was. (Now, I will fall in-line and support Biden.)

    I live amongst many white, middle- to upper-middle class, homeowners, which can present a very confined way of understanding the world.

    Fortunately, my job (i.e. a lobbyist) and primary hobbies (i.e. gardening and blogging) expand my horizons.

    Work-wise, I’ve always advocated for affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and tenant rights issues. This allows me to connect regularly with community activists, lower-income folks, and communities of color. I need to do a better job of fostering those potential connections. Also, when working at the Capitol, I am exposed to different ideas and ideologies. I consider some of the people who hold these beliefs my friends. As such, I get to engage in some spirited, although usually still cordial, conversations.

    Via social media, my hobbies of gardening and blogging, expose me to a lot of people who are much more purist in their beliefs and actions of self-sufficiency. They also tend to be more conservative. That noted, many of my best social media friends (who I really do consider friends, not just acquaintances) tend to be more progressive.

    For all my opportunities to step outside my bubble, I will admit that as an anxious, homebody introvert, it is hard for me to venture out and into communities that would provide me with a challenging, yet healthy, set of different ways of looking at the world.

  2. One of my favorite TV shows is the FX docu-series called “30 Days”, produced by Morgan Spurlock. In each episode, someone would commit to spending 30 days in an environment that was outside their normal comfort zone.

    For example: someone who was a civilian border patrol agent spent 30 days living with an undocumented family in California; someone from a born-again Christian household lived for 30 days with a Muslim family; a gun-control protester lived for 30 days with a gun-rights family; and so on.

    We then watched the interactions between the people, and had regular updates on how the person doing the swap was feeling about the whole thing.

    Many of the shows followed a similar overall pattern: once the person got about three weeks into the 30 days, they started to really see other family as real people, struggling with many of the same feelings and issues that they had. On the other hand, the host family also tended to feel more empathy for the differing view point as well.

    Besides being very interesting to watch and follow the individual journeys, I couldn’t help but think about myself. If I were to be on a show like this, which strongly-held beliefs might I be willing to challenge?

    I think religion would probably be one. I’m a staunch atheist. I firmly believe in freedom of religion, which I think applies to people, like me, who choose to believe in no religion at all. Still, I think it would be fascinating to live with a family that is extremely religious. Of course, there are several people in my family that are quite religious, so maybe it wouldn’t be that different for me after all.

    Another is probably cars. I don’t drive, and in fact I’ve never had a drivers’ license. I get around by bicycle. It would certainly be challenging to live with a family of automobile lovers, attending NASCAR events and auto shows, and generally driving around just for fun.

    Yet another revolves around climate change. I believe rather strongly that climate change is a very real threat to our collective future. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live with a family of climate change-deniers.

    Or more generally, people who reject commonly-held scientific beliefs. Like climate change deniers, but also anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, UFO enthusiasts, etc.

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