In a world where an increasingly overwhelming amount of information is available right at our fingertips, catering our political intake is a necessity. I've found myself torn, though, when it comes to how I set the standards of catering my political intake.
And, to be perfectly honest, part of the reason I'm writing this is because of my own failure to live this out.
See, my first inclination is to follow the voices that I agree with, the ones who will back me up, affirm what I already think I know, and there's nothing wrong with this!
Of course, you want to be informed about current events by voices you trust and respect. This only becomes a negative thing when we stop there.
I've recently started reading Trevin Wax's book "This Is Our Time." In the very first chapter, he discusses the myths propagated by our phones and our use of them. He talks about how "in our time 'news' is less about information and more about affirmation."
We want to be told we're right and that the people who disagree with us are wrong.
We want to be told that we already know everything we need to know.
Our deliberate ignorance and dismissal of "the other side" is in large part what has led to the lack of communication between both "sides." This has led to the arrogant disputes in the comment section on Facebook, the personal attacks on Twitter and our societies' collective inability to have a decent discussion about politics around the table with family on holidays.
Isn't it sad that a common people with differing opinions have become so ostracized that we can't even begin to have a discussion on the things about which we disagree?
We've become so used to writing "them" off as uninformed bigots, blindsided to reality, naive about the statistics and the world we live in, setting up straw-men.
We have to stop this stone-walled refusal to hear the other side.
Believe it or not, people have reasons for their convictions, just like you. We have to get outside of ourselves and realize that, first of all, we're not perfect. We don't know everything.
To listen well means to listen with humility.
So, maybe to start off, we could all read some articles by a publication that isn't your favorite, follow a politician you disagree with on Twitter, listen to the cousin, or coworker, who is of a different political party and maybe refrain from commenting on that in-your-face post on Facebook.
Maybe listen to a podcast by someone who does have firm views similar to your own but doesn't belittle every caller who has a different opinion (shocking, I know.)
Let's try to focus less on winning the argument and more on listening. Stop being afraid of having your mind changed, if that's where the open discussion leads you.
But, ultimately, listening doesn't require you to change what you believe. It only asks that you genuinely try to learn, to understand where a person or party is coming from.
And, yes, if you are in a friendly debate, it will actually help you to know how best to counter and present your viewpoint in an attractive and plausible way. (Win-win.)
If you're anything like me (aka embarrassingly prideful), you probably have someone in mind that may or may not need to hear this article. How about we both drop that thought and just focus on applying it to ourselves?
Let's drop the preoccupation with self-affirmation, get outside of ourselves, listen and do our best to restore the lines of communication that have been broken by the stubborn pride on both sides over the years.
And, yes, if you're still thinking of all the people on your social media feed that need to hear this, then feel free to share.