Democracy or tyranny?
The hyper-partisan nature of our current political environment makes it difficult to know who to believe. As a result, it is best to be skeptical of anything you read or hear.
But not all skepticism is created equal.
It makes sense to doubt things people say that are self-serving. If it promotes a narrative that is favorable to themselves or a cause they support, they may have reason to be less than honest.
But that can be difficult to do, if what you hear supports your own belief. We are all more likely to accept information that reinforces our own worldview, even if skepticism is called for.
Our own experiences and beliefs naturally influence what we accept. This makes sense, because it is not feasible for each one of us to independently verify everything we encounter in a day. We need to accept some things just to be able to function.
With that said, there are many things people are skeptical about.
Did we really go to the moon? Some believe the moon landing was filmed on a sound stage.
Are ghosts real? While some people insist they have been visited by spirits of the deceased, others feel there isn’t enough proof.
Are the reported COVID-19 deaths accurate? And if they are incorrect, is it too high or too low?
The list can go on and on. Is there anything in particular that you have your doubts about? What are you skeptical of?
In our current society, there are a number of factors that have divided us into different camps. How do we reverse that and come together?
There are many reasons why we look at our fellow human beings with increased distrust.
Politicians use fear and distrust of others to motive their constituents. When news outlets promote conflict, they are rewarded with increased viewership, more clicks, or a higher circulation. As more families fall into or toward poverty, they fight desperately for livelihoods.
And yet, most significant advancements have been made when we work together as a society. Advancing life spans, reduction of widespread disease, better understanding of the world around us — these things are all made possible through cooperation.
It’s not realistic to expect that everyone will agree on all, or even most, issues. But how can we disagree, yet still make progress?
Can we somehow look at our economic, political, religious rivals and somehow see our similarities rather than our differences? How do we come together after being driven so far apart? Particularly when physically coming together is limited due to the global pandemic?
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.
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?
Privacy as it relates to social media is a hot-button issue. How much you share, who can see your data, and how the social media companies use what data they collect? These are all problems that concern us every day.
Privacy or convenience?
But even beyond our social media presence, we have been trading privacy for convenience regularly over the years. Credit card companies, for example, can track you geographically via your card usage, as well as knowing how you spend your money. We accept this intrusion into our lives because it keeps us from having to carry cash or to write checks.
As technology advances, the ability for companies or governments to know more about us has increased drastically. Our smartphones give us the entire Internet in our pockets, accessible at the touch of a finger. However, the flip side is that we carry a GPS tracking device with us wherever we go.
New artificial-intelligence devices, like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home system, are enabling new so-called “smart homes”. They can control things like lights, thermostats, and can even be wired to connect to appliances like the stove or the refrigerator. But they also raise some serious privacy concerns, as they could potentially allow companies to listen to everything that happens in your home. It could also make your house susceptible to hackers.
Generations are now being raised with these devices, with their resulting loss of privacy. If you grew up before these devices were introduced, you may feel quite differently about them.
Different people are more comfortable than others regarding sharing their lives. Some have no problem posting every detail of their day to Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media platform. Others can be quite possessive of their own personal data.
What are the risks?
To be sure, we can see that there can be consequences to this data being collected and shared. With everything from the Snowden revelations to the accusations of targeted election meddling, countries or corporations that do not share your interests or values are abusing data.
Even if you have nothing to hide, if you are not cheating or stealing or deceiving someone, is there a certainly level of privacy that we each need? Are there some things that we need to have just for ourselves, things that we don’t share, even with our closest friends, family, or other loved ones? Or is it a shifting target, subject to social norms?
How important is privacy?