Humanity is naturally self-centered. This egocentric nature affects what we choose to watch, read, and give thought to. Often, if it’s not entertaining or pleasing we become disinterested. Content that challenges us or makes us uncomfortable is not typically sought after. We’re after something that makes us feel intelligent and significant.
This comes into play in something as trivial as choosing to follow someone on Twitter. This person now has a piece of your proverbial pie. You have selected them to appear on your twitter feed, and for a few minutes every day, you will be subjected to their thoughts. They have power to influence and persuade you.
Social Media Bias
Currently, there is a lot of talk about “media bias”, but what happens when we turn the tables? What about your own self-cultivated social media bias? As an example, let’s look at my feed. I started out like we all presumably did, following my friends and select celebrities whom I found especially fascinating or noteworthy. I was young, and deemed people like Taylor Swift (#hatersgonnahatehatehate) and my favorite sports team, the LA Clippers, to be worthy of a follow.
Gradually, my interests shifted along with the list of people I followed. I added lifestyle bloggers, actors, and athletes. Then about two years ago, when the political cycle was beginning to rev up, my twitter feed slowly deteriorated into dozens of Democrat soapboxes, from which the people I followed were subtly but deliberately proclaiming their beliefs.
I recognized that I needed a little balance. I followed my pastor, some Fox news correspondents, a few Republican senators, and Ben Shapiro for good measure. Ah, sweet equilibrium. And now we get to my point. I realize how valuable the time that I spend on twitter is. It is one of the seemingly inconsequential, everyday things that shapes who I am and what I think. My feed is a reflection of me, my interests, and my priorities. It is a self-made, modern echo chamber.
The Opposition Matters
Upon coming to this conclusion, I made the decision to allow in opposing voices. People that challenge me. Individuals who don’t see life the way I see it. Voters on the other side of the aisle. The purpose of which is to foster critical thinking and broaden my perspective. Instead of demonizing those who don’t think like me, I want to understand why they think the way they do.
I know what you’re thinking: “She’s about to burst into ‘Man in the Mirror.’” And I do like that song. But think about this for a minute. If you only follow those who act and think like you, you’re doing yourself an incredible disservice. This quote from popular novelist Haruki Murakami gets to the heart of the point I am trying to make. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
By all means, stand firm in your convictions. But know the other side. All great debaters do. Our country is better for it’s varied belief systems, communities, and ideologies. You are a part of that. Just as you are hearing speeches, make your own. Educate yourself, expand your awareness, and grab your soapbox.