Us humans, we have a tendency to block out information that disagrees with our worldview. We buy into stereotypes to simplify people so that we don’t have to consider their humanity. Our search bars may even be compounding these inimical propensities.
Whether online or not, we dig into the trenches of our opinions and convince ourselves that we are right. It seems logical that sometimes we are, but also that many times we are not. We change our minds here and there, but the ability to compare ideas seems to peak during the teenage years.
There is a depressing variety of situations in which it becomes necessary to ignore or shut out the ideas and viewpoints of others, but how do we keep ourselves from doing so unnecessarily? I think the answer is both simple and grueling: seek information.
The goal is not to find multiple opinions that agree with yours, or even multiple opinions that don’t. You’ll find opinions laced in every article and segment, even those that strive for editorial distance. The trick is getting information from enough places to embrace the gray.
Lately, when I think of Trump supporters, it is hard not to imagine them as a mass of A New Hope era Darth Vaders. The rhetoric and propaganda Trump is spewing may belong on the Dark side, but I’m willing to bet that most of his supporters have more in common with the morally-conflicted Vader of Return of the Jedi. People are often simpatico, even when groupthink is not.
When I’m having a hard time remembering that complexity is an all but constant truth, I remember Serial. The tagline for the podcast is ‘One story. Told week by week.’ In a world where I can ingest years worth of media in a few short days, Serial is an exercise in patience and attention. It speaks honestly of editorial opinion and reporter impression. It does not offer answers in two tones. It embraces the gray.
I doubt any person alive has the time or desire to approach every story they hear with an open mind, skepticism, and a willingness to withhold opinion. I do think that every person that tries to embrace the gray can succeed in doing so more often than not. The world is not made up of enemies and allies, as I remind myself almost every day.