Posts Tagged thoughts

A social quandary

Posted by on Thursday, 29 May, 2014

IMG_0140I’ve often heard the adage that one must never discuss such off-putting topics as religion, politics, or sports at the dinner table. That adage has, of course, been levied as appropriate for any social interactions, be it at the dinner table or in the broader world of social media.

I used to subscribe to this idea, and still do for social business. After all, when it comes to business, professionalism is tantamount and none of those topics really have place for discussion in business dealings. However, I am starting to question the validity of such a phrase in personal relations. Are we to hide our head and ignore a deep undercurrent of cultural shifts simply because we don’t want to rock the boat or engage in passionate discussion?

I know of some people recently who have begun to filter out any religion or politics from their feeds on social sites, while I also know of others who actively seek out people to follow whom hold conflicting or opposite views as themselves in an effort. But I’m conflicted. There are days when I want to bury my head in the sand and forget that not everyone thinks like I do, to ignore the strife and arguments, and live in my cozy world of denial… and then there are other days in which I want to shout from the mountaintops and help steer a cultural/social shift to what I believe is the right way of thinking; to fight for progress and demand the change we need for fear of losing our humanity to cultural implosion.

I’ve been sharing a few sociopolitical posts recently, but in doing so realize that I am likely sharing with people whom already share similar views or opinions, as I generally surround myself with like-minded people. So, in effect, I am preaching to the choir and the people I want to reach will never read, nor likely understand what I share. It puts me in an echo-chamber, or a vacuum of social sharing at times, which really just equates to mental masturbation whenever I share something I believe to be provocative and progressive.

While social media has done wonders for us to engage in these conversations and raise visibility to problematic ways of thinking, it also has a dark side of deep judgment and polarizing effects when passions rise. To this end, I try to retain as many of my network connections as I can, regardless of their socio-political views, as I do believe that being open to seeing opposing views is a great thing and can only serve to improve me as a person. Insulating myself to only those people around me who agree, makes for a silo-ed existence devoid of growth and understanding.

What I strive for (and often fall short of) in my own life both on-line and off, is a balance. To think critically about any questions posed, any statements made, to ask questions with respect and desire to learn, and to take personal responsibility for both my words and my actions. Can you imagine how the adage would change if we all worked to think critically and take personal responsibility? No longer would sports, politics, or religion be taboo at the dinner tables or social gatherings, instead perhaps, they’d be welcome topics driving growth and understanding rather than the divisive and polarizing realms in which they currently exist.

I have a lot more rumbling around in my head here; So many recent events are tied so deeply and complexly together at their roots, that touching on one without acknowledging others is a disservice to truth and will only serve to cause more of the same cultural divide, the polarizing us/them/this/that false dichotomies that I so desperately wish to avoid. Yet, they are so complex in and of themselves that each could be a thesis of their own.

Just yes or no, thank you.

Posted by on Friday, 20 December, 2013

binary_mcclanahoochieIs social media reducing our critical thinking skills to mere binary this-or-that type choices?

Whether it is gender roles, politics, or any other topic of human conversation, it seems to me that the way in which social media allows us to share our views has relegated the conversation into two buckets: I agree, or I disagree. Through the binary “likes”, we are encouraged to think in simple terms; a single click if I agree, or a comment to explain why I don’t. What is discouraged by virtue of the tooling features is deeper or more complex thought. While many of us retain the desire to engage in this complex discussion, the single threaded nature of commenting serves to drive conversation down a single path which encourages one-dimensional thinking. Lateral thought or more critical thinking processes are being diminished in importance to the deference of group-think and soundbites.

I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or in-between on this, but what I sense in the social spaces is a growing frustration and chasm split between us and them.

We are in an epidemic of one-dimensionalism and binary thought. That is to say, our society is being torn asunder by our inability to attribute more than a black/white view of each other within conversational contexts. Too often have I seen conversations in social channels quickly veer into a this-or-that discussion: you’re either for or against, pigeon-holed with no grey areas regardless of how deeply we try to clarify. These social conversations only serving to strengthen an us versus them mentality, widening any small divide from mere cracks to broad chasms of perceived ideological differences between people.

Mark Judge touches on this singularity, this one-dimensionalism perfectly in his call to boycott the next Star Wars Film in his blog post here: http://acculturated.com/2013/11/14/boycott-star-wars-episode-vii/ , (with my own hat tip to Mrs.Campbell for the share on Google+). In his post, Mark discusses how geeks are falling into this trap of only being interested in one thing; that we have lost our broader scopes of interest to the deeper focus on one.

Similarly, Matt Walsh blogged about the power hierarchy fallacy in the way people talk about their spouses (with another hat tip, this time to Suzi Meiger for her share on Facebook): http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/18/no-my-wife-isnt-my-boss/

While I don’t fully agree with Matt in his post (I don’t think he takes it far enough and falls down a bit when basing his post from an assumption of male leadership and two-gender marriages) I think his ideas and intent is closer to being palatable by the majority than most other posts I’ve read on similar topics; that treating people as people, as equals in a partnership where power dynamics can shift and sway, where respect for the individual is tantamount to any societal pressure to behave in a certain way is critical to our future success as a culture.

Like I said, I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or otherwise, and I don’t know what the answer is to the question at the beginning of this post, but what I do know is that more complex thought and conversations are necessary in order to save ourselves from the pigeon holes and land mines of conversation and interaction via social media. And, if it wasn’t already evident, let’s drop the name-calling, shaming, and dehumanizing words when disagreeing with others. It serves no other purpose than to diminish ideas without actually addressing the problems with the ideas presented.

 

image credit:  Some rights reserved by mcclanahoochie

 

Negativity…

Posted by on Wednesday, 4 January, 2012

Admittedly, this is an odd topic for me to be posting about.

This isn’t about overt negativity (though that is a problem as well, just not one I wish to tackle here and now), rather, this is about the passive, subtle, invasive, and far more difficult to accurately identify negativity. Negativity which manifests itself in such common ways as to be virtually unnoticed let alone identified as negative.

I’ve been working on the concept for this post in my head over the past three months now. But today it came to me from such a different perspective, that I’ve had to stop and re-evaluate how I put this out there. So let me be clear here: everything in this post stems from bits I don’t like about myself, things I see as a reflection of me elsewhere in the world both on-line and off.

I’ve noticed in the past 37+ years of my life, what I will call a personality trait geared towards negativity. Some may call it pessimism, and at times it is (lord knows no one has ever mistaken me for an optimist). At other times, I’d go as far as to call it a sense of entitlement or selfishness. But, most often, it is just a subtlety of verbiage which casts a grey pall upon the mundane; a way of simply missing the positive in a situation and instead focusing on a down-side, problem, or general dislike.

With the abundance of over-sharing on the social web, this negativity is highlighted and brought into greater focus. Complaints, or simply negatively tinged updates run rampant and, by my guesstimation, likely make up as much as 65% of all posts on social sites. Obviously I am shooting from the hip here, with no real data to back this up, just observation over the past few years, but regardless of actual numbers the sentiment stands: there is constant negativity around us all. And it is getting worse. (See what I did there?)

Something as simple as lamenting what that doughnut your boss brought in for the team at work is going to do to your diet seems innocuous enough as single status update. But, when combined with all the other updates coming across your wall/feed/dash, and in such numbers from the same people, you can’t help but be affected by it all… sooner or later that negativity will get to you, even when (or perhaps especially if) you are one of the worst offenders of it all.

Because I am as much of a perpetrator of this problem as I also observe it, I’d like to challenge you to take a moment with me and look at our own posts/status/updates over the past week and try to see them from a different perspective: are those posts tinged with a negative slant? Are the positive ones actually born of a negative perspective? Is there a way to shift the complaint to a win? Join me and let’s work to shift our perspective to the positive and see what happens!

I figure if I try and change the small stuff, the Tweets/ Facebook statuses/ G+ updates/ Blog posts, those things which I have editorial review over before clicking the share or publish button, perhaps it will become habit and bleed into other areas in my life. Perhaps, just perhaps, a slight adjustment here or there will have more dramatic ripple effects and the people around me will soon find me to be more pleasant to interact with and not as negative a person as I’ve been for the past few decades.

I’ll tell you, tough as it is for me, I feel better already.