There is a lot of research being done about the “information bubble” or more specifically “filter bubbles”. The idea is that our view of the world is being filtered so that the only information we receive (from social media) is information that will not challenge our existing world view. It certainly does happen, and it can be an issue especially for those people who tend towards highly biased, badly vetted, and heavily self- referential information sources.
Many of us are aware these sources exist. Many of us are not aware of how many of them we follow. Because we agree with them they seem reasonable. There bad sources coming from ALL points of view. Liberal, conservative, religious, fiscal, civil rights, you name a point of view and there is someone on the internet writing (loudly) with no basis in actual facts.
On the other hand there is the world we walk in. This is the world where we are not umbilically attached to our electronic media. It is a place where people talk to strangers. The “real world” is where we have to get along with our co-workers. We can’t be anonymous in this place when we shut up, stand up and sometimes get blindsided in our interactions with actual human beings.
I talk to strangers. I chat in line at the grocery store. I comment on reading material in the waiting room. I drive for those ap based services and sometimes the passengers are up for conversation. I also listen to stories from those strangers and from my friends about their experiences. Sometimes they’re not friendly.
So what do we do when we are trapped in a conversation (on an airplane, in a doctors office) and suddenly it takes a turn. The pleasant person we are talking to starts: quoting “fake news”, promoting a religious viewpoint we can’t support, making racist or sexist assumptions, belittling “my people”? What do we do when the person who was a work friend is suddenly assuming we agree with them about a political viewpoint we find abhorrent? What do we do when the customer we are serving starts spouting hate speech?
Those situations shake us up. They make us question both our positions and our responses. They can be threatening when they are clearly directed at us. They can be threatening AND unnerving when we find ourselves “passing” instead of being representative of our group. These kinds of occurrences seem to be happening more frequently, and more aggressively. I think part of that is the “filter bubble”. Strong language against another group can be “acceptable” within the filter, and so it is unquestioned in the world.
But when that world comes at us with active hatred we need to find some time with “our people”. We need that sanctuary to regroup and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in the world. Unfortunately I’m finding even in the most broad thinking sanctuaries there is little or no compassion for differing viewpoints, and so the aggressiveness becomes justified and reinforced.
Yes, bad behavior should be called out. Yes, we have a right (and often a responsibility) to defend a point of view. We need to remember that someone questioning a position is not the same as someone invalidating our existence.
Bad behavior does not always imply a bad intention. Ignorance (even willful ignorance – which is where my tolerance explodes) is not improved by being demeaning. Someone asking me for my sources is not a “threat”. It’s certainly not a threat equivalent to saying “my people” should be: locked up, thrown out, burned at the stake, not allowed to participate, or somehow “put away”. Defensiveness is not the same as defending a point.
We have the opportunity to practice these skills with “our people”. Let’s do that, instead of just closing those doors and creating another version of “us” and “them”.