Addressing Your Bubbles
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Politics and Activism

Addressing Your Bubbles

How to admit and overcome your biases

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Addressing Your Bubbles
Bill Gurley

After having attended college for just over two years now, there are some things I have learned about myself that are invaluable to my reflections of my personal identity. The traits and topics that I choose to identify myself serve as an interesting reminder to me how I have chosen to shape myself over time. If any of my fellow students offers an opinion on pretty much anything, I am most likely willing to put my two cents in.

However, there are a couple of things that I prefer to keep my mouth shut about because I am not willing to be associated with my beliefs or association with certain topics. Everyone has these reservations and they have them for a variety of reasons. And the beautiful part about keeping silent is that safety that comes from controlling who knows personal things about you.

For me, this topic is homeschooling. Although I never bring it up and seldom admit to it when others do, I was homeschooled for the majority of my K-12th education. By majority, I mean that through junior high and high school I was involved in a program that combined homeschooling and classes that students could sign up for on-site. A good chunk of my education came about because of this program and the incredible teachers that work there and the rest came from my mother and my own efforts. The transition to college was a strange one, but being the extrovert that I am, I had no problems adjusting socially and surprisingly little issues keeping up academically. Since I did not let others know about the difference in my education, I was quiet about my astonishment at my ability to survive the academic pressures of college during my freshman year. After receiving the scores from my first round of exams, I would search desperately for a private place to call my mom and say, “Guess what? I aced the tests! I’m not behind everyone else! I think we did okay…” For me, it was such a joy to think that what my mom and I had striven toward my entire life had become my reality and I could comfortably keep my head above water.

But I didn’t want to talk about what made me different. I didn’t want to talk about what it was like in my small town back at home. I was ashamed of the bubble that had formed around me, the comfortable, predominantly white, conservative small town that had shaped how I viewed the world for so long. I had worked hard to escape this bubble and I wasn’t about to own up to having been held inside of it to the friends that I made freshman year. The idea of a “bubble” indicates that one has been isolated, that they somehow lack insight into the struggles of others and are disconnected from the realities that most people face every day. Considering myself to be an empathetic person, this idea of being trapped in a bubble repulsed me.

Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author, has created a quiz for people to determine the thickness of their “bubble,” an analysis of their interactions with the world outside of the people who think and behave as they do, primarily based on their income. The thought here is that the more “privileged” you are, the thicker your bubble. This results in a decrease of exposure to the ways of life that the average American engages in.If you want to check out how you rank on the “bubble” score, check out this link: pbs.org. Finding out my own rank was a wake-up call, especially in light of recent events.

With all of the posts that I have seen on Facebook, for all of my repressed outrage at the chaos that has come about in the last week, I cannot help but think about the bubbles that various groups of people have placed themselves in. How are we supposed to judge others when we don’t understand them? I don’t care which group you’re thinking of. The ability that we have to share opinions on social media without personally interacting with the people that we are critiquing only serves to thicken our bubble. I grew up in an area where I was very rarely exposed to people who thought or lived differently than I did. Once that changed for me, so did my world view. It is hard to hold an opinion about someone when you are not given their perspective. You can’t anticipate what you might hear from someone whose life experiences are radically different from yours. Let yourself open up to these opinions and see where the conversations take you.

Not only can exposing yourself to diverse opinions cause you to become more empathetic, but it can also make you smarter. According to scientificamerican.com, “Diversity is not only about bringing different perspectives to the table. Simply adding social diversity to a group makes people believe that differences of perspective might exist among them and that belief makes people change their behavior.” This site states specific studies where researchers have found that groups are more creative, innovative, and effective in achieving their goals when there is a diversity within the groups. These studies focus on racial diversity, but it also explores the effects of the exposure to opposing political opinions. The same benefits arise from encounters with those of differing political views; The same site states, “When disagreement comes from a socially different person, we are prompted to work harder. Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.”

So do yourself a favor and take the bubble quiz. Ask yourself what bubble you have either voluntarily or involuntarily been placed in and how you can get out. Do it for those whose voices you have thus far refused to hear, because they deserve to explain themselves. Do it for you because you are almost guaranteed to become more informed as a result. And do it for the people that are constantly exposed to your use of social media as a sounding board for your views in the world. Allow yourself some space to begin to view those who are different from you as people. If you cannot pop the bubble that you’re in, at the very least, try to recognize that you are in one.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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