What Voices Are You Listening To?

The political divide in this country is at an extreme. There are many reasons for this, for example gerrymandering, self-selection, and social media. But one of the primary reasons has to do with the fact that the voices that we hear on a day-to-day basis are very similar to our own.

If you happen to have an opinion on some topic, and you hear that same opinion echoed back at you from your TV set, from your Twitter feed, or from discussions with your friends, that opinion is reinforced.

Conversely, if you are often confronted with opinions that differ from your own, it may cause you to reevaluate your stance, or at least to do some research to back up your viewpoint.

Listening to others can also make you a more empathic person. By hearing what someone else has experienced, or what they are afraid of, or excited about, you learn to put yourself in another’s shoes.

A different religion, political party, skin color, age, socioeconomic status — all people have stories to tell that can help define our commonalities as human beings. A willingness to consider other sides can also help to smooth over disagreements.

Sometimes it can be difficult to recruit different voices to your own social circle. It’s relatively easy to find like-minded people among your friends, family, job, and hobbies. Meeting and forming social bonds with someone different from you is not easy.

Do you have friends that don’t look, pray, or love like you? Do you read books written from viewpoints other than your own? Or watch movies or TV shows with leads that aren’t like you? What voices are you listening to?

Related questions: Who hears your voice? How can we become better listeners? What do we have in common? Why are we so antagonistic?

Why Are We So Antagonistic?

In America, tensions are running high. Neighbors, family members, even communities are clashing. Why are we so antagonistic toward each other?

There is no shortage of ways to separate people. For example, the political divide is larger than it has been in a generation. Economic inequality is at record levels. Rural and urban areas are at odds with each other.

Why is there so much tension?

It’s true that thanks to the Internet, people are able to seek out ideas similar to their own. Social media can act as an echo chamber, and algorithms can limit exposure to competing ideas.

Similarly, cable news has spawned a news channel for every political outlook. Talking heads with an agenda help shape public opinion.

There is also what is known as “self-selection”. When deciding where to live, people will often choose a neighborhood filled with people who look like them, vote like them, and pray like them.

Gerrymandering, or the political act of grouping conservative or liberal voters in a district has led to candidates that are more ideologically extreme.

There also seems to be just a general lack of civility. People arguing are quick to insult, or to simply disengage altogether.

What is the cause of our polarized environment? Is it one of these explanations, or something else entirely? Why are we so antagonistic?

Related questions: How can we encourage debate? How do you know who to trust? Angry or afraid? What makes a community?

What Is Your Favorite Teleconferencing Platform?

With so many people working from home, attending classes remotely, or meeting with friends and family online, teleconferencing software that enables us to do these things is gaining in popularity. Do you have a favorite favorite?

Share why if you wish.

What is your favorite teleconfencing software?

 

Are You Sick Of The Pandemic Coverage?

The news is so overwhelming that it is all anyone talks about. COVID-19 coverage dominates every news program. Our social media feeds mention little else. It begs the question: are you sick of it?

Share why if you wish.

Are you sick of the pandemic coverage?

What Deserves Your Attention?

Our brains are remarkable entities. We can perform some truly amazing mental feats, like learning language, memorization, pattern matching, and reading maps (among others). One of the less heralded skills is that of providing attention.

Every waking moment, your mind is focused on a task (and sometimes more than one if you try to multi-task). How you choose to spend your time is how your attention is allocated.

In our modern world, there is fierce competition for our attention. This serves as an illustration about how valuable it is. Entire industries revolve around how to capture — and keep — your attention.

In The News

For example, let’s consider a cable news program. A typical news show features several different items for you to pay attention to. An interview might be going on, so you might be listening to the content being spoken aloud. There is likely a graphic with the guest’s name and qualifications. This sometimes also updates to a notable quote or excerpt from the interview.

In addition, there may be a news scroll across the bottom of the screen with news headlines, and there may be a “breaking news” blurb specifically designed to draw your eyes. Often included is some sort of steady information, like the current time and temperature, or the state of the stock market. Finally, there is certainly a station identifier, to let you know exactly what channel you are viewing.

Having so much information available serves several purposes. The primary purpose — say, the interview — is presumably the reason to tune in initially. The others are there to provide information that might be helpful to you, but also to keep you from giving your attention to another source.

When you are watching a program like this, your attention is primarily focused on one item. However, there is likely some small percentage of your attention on each element on the screen.

Demands Of Social Media

Have you ever noticed that when using  a social media site like Facebook or Twitter, that you mean to do a quick check, but then find that half an hour or even more has passed without you realizing it? That happens because the layout and design of these sites are carefully crafted to capture and keep your attention. Facebook wants you to keep scrolling and Netflix wants you to keep binging.

With so many different demands on our valuable attention, have you given any thought to how you spend your time? News, family, your smartphone, the local sports team, a book: what deserves our attention?

Related questions: How do you set priorities? Are we too busy? What do you get out of social media? Is our attention fractured?