Today we are living in what many have dubbed the “information age”. But with the seemingly unlimited and unfiltered access to gathering and creating information or content, perhaps it has shifted into more of a ‘disinformation age’. There’s no lack of perspective, opinion, and commentary out in the world about up to the minute events. What is lacking is the diligence behind the information being presented, not only on the side of the creator but also those consuming it. By removing the human/in-person connection aspect from our channels of consumption, peer-to-peer conversation possibility has exploded on a global level through technology. The shadow side of this has created a safe-haven an atmosphere ripe for the enabling of vile hate, intolerance, and the lack of accountability for words under the guise of “free-speech”.
From a purely simplified libertarian perspective, if someone’s words or actions don’t impede on the rights and safety of another individual then it should not be condemned. From a perspective of a decent member of humanity with a basic level of good character, enabling intolerance or even tolerating intolerance is unacceptable because it supports the idea it is ok to entertain thoughts that devalue or endanger another human. With the anonymity and ambiguity that technology can offer, it allows the regressing into raw and ugly perspectives being tolerated regardless of how polarizing the setting is. I believe this is because we have also removed the human aspect of interaction or peer-to-peer conversation by looking for the next hip “innovation” that allows us to rely further on technology. One glance over social media posts, new article comments, or any open forum with polarizing topics reveals that without accountability people are openly willing to disclose almost anything with no rational or factual basis.
In our current culture, it’s rare to encounter someone that doesn’t have a smartphone or readily available access to the internet and social media. This is not a negative issue, in fact it allows us an unprecedented level of connectivity and potential for genuine growth. However, the underbelly again is enabled by the nature of access. On a surface level it would be intriguing to see how many individuals with access utilize these channels for reasons other than the shallow culture of clicks and likes.
How many people are reaching out to others with a will to understand and listen to a perspective not perfectly aligned with theirs?
Sustainability is the perfect example of an issue that has shaken the very pillars of belief systems in our country as well as globally. Climate change, something that has without a sliver of a doubt been scientifically researched and proven to result from the selfish and convenient choices of the privileged populations on the planet, is being challenged. Science itself is being challenged! I’m always a huge supporter of examining your sources and keeping a relatively skeptical (not cynical) perspective. But this is where the mob mentality of social media and surrounding ourselves with like minded individuals has become detrimental to our society and conversations. The level of engagement with a person and their willingness to share is too often based on alignment and agreement. Discussing ideas, exploring perspectives and taking on new experiences have also faded in many circles.
I believe this is rooted in the fear of one’s morals, values, and core beliefs potentially being challenged. In a society that is often seen as performance-based, the win or lose mentality has clearly also taken on a psychological role in willingness to step outside our comfort zone and engage in honest and genuine conversation. The fear of judgement or disagreement is so overpowering that good people are willing to remain complacent, which is silent form of enabling.
We must start recognizing even those people we don’t agree with as our peers. We are all people in the same global community regardless of our color, creed, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that makes us our unique individual. As a white male, I daily make the attempt to recognize and be mindful of my privilege in this world. I want to continue to strive to empathize with those who are less fortunate and/or face a greater struggle in their lives. To do so I aim to continue creating conversations and looking to listen with a self-less goal of understanding. If there are actionable steps to improve the way I engage, interact, and hopefully influence positive change I will gladly seek and soak those in as well.
A challenge I propose to myself and send out today is to have a challenging conversation with someone you don’t align with, and listen to understand with no ulterior motives to change or prove them wrong. Listen and learn for the purpose of becoming more genuinely informed and enlightened.
“Ad Astra Per Aspera”