Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Political Circle-Jerk In Your Day-To-Day Life, Parenting or Otherwise

My inspiration for this post is actually our Provincial Election in British Columbia, but it's not a far cry from parenting, either.

About 5 years ago, I stopped paying lots of attention to mainstream media.  My reasoning?  I felt like I was being played and I was tired of reading articles that were strategically placed for my consumption, in order to sway my opinion on a topic one way or another.   Instead, I started to read alternative media sources, or first hand experiences of important events. The less biased, the better.

I have some pretty strong opinions on many topics, but one thing I've always prided myself on has been my ability to change my mind as new facts arise. I'm never so committed to an opinion that I start to lose sight of potential new information that could sway my beliefs in the other direction. My most significant parenting related example of this is circumcision.  Before having Aias, I was 100% certain we would circumcise because:

- I figured it's "what you do"
- His dad is circumsized
- It had never occurred to me to not do it

About halfway through my pregnancy, someone really kindly handed me some information on it, I read it, and I changed my mind.  New facts = new opinion (sometimes).  In this case, I changed my mind completely.  I'm sure lots of people could have read the same information and gone through with circumcising, but for whatever reason, this information struck a chord with me that was enough for me to change from one side to another. 

Nowadays it seems like the bulk of the news articles I read are ones that are shared on Facebook, by my Facebook friends.  They are generally articles that thrill or disgust me in the same exact ways they thrill or disgust my like-minded friends.  Because these are people I'm friends with, it mostly means:

- We have something in common.
- We have similar interests.
- We have similar opinions.
- We walk somewhat similar paths.

So really, it's no doubt we react to the same articles similarly.  This is great in a lot of ways; but in a lot of ways, it sucks.  Here's an example of why it sucks:

During the Federal election, 99% of my Facebook friends were adamantly opposed to Stephen Harper. I'm pretty sure most of them wanted him tarred and feathered.  There was literally only one person on my Facebook that discussed the election that was in favour of the Conservatives, and I think eventually that dude cut me.  If you went by my social media exposure alone, you'd have been shocked to find out that Stephen Harper is actually our current Prime Minister, because it would seem very much that absolutely zero people cared for him.  A few of my friends even admitted that they didn't get a chance to vote at all, but because of the overwhelming hate toward Stephen Harper on Facebook, they thought it wouldn't matter very much if they voted or not because "clearly he would never get in with so many people hating him."  WRONG.  Remember, for every NDP loving facebook user whose newsfeed is full of Anti-Harper graphics, there's another Conservative loving Facebook user with a newsfeed full of Stephen Harper love graphics.

Here's the issue with so many aspects of politics, whether it's government politics or parenting politics, as they are represented on social media: in many ways, you are creating a bubble for yourself, and not even necessarily giving yourself a chance to hear any other arguments.   And in a lot of ways, it's an even smaller bubble than one any mainstream media could create for you.  You can get yourself so comfortable by being surrounded by a group of people who agree with you, that you can find yourself simply spouting the same opinions in different poetic ways, "liking" each others posts to validate each other, and never even having the opportunity to expose yourself to new facts that could potentially change your opinion for the better.

I'll use circumcision as an example. I have 2 or 3 dozen friends that post anti-circumcision graphics and articles.  Most of these I agree with, and I often hit that "like" button.  Some of these friends have said that every time they post, they lose a friend or two, or end up getting into an argument with a friend who holds a different opinion on the matter.  At some point, their list gets so pared down, they are still posting really informative articles but the articles are only being read by people who already hold the same opinion on the matter in the first place.  In other words, they offer validation, not necessarily an opportunity to hold an honest opposite opinion.  The particularly aggressive (or even passive aggressive) images and links are even worse for this.  They express an opinon that puts your friends in a position to either agree or just feel bad about the opinions they hold. 

Am I against sharing these images and links? Absolutely NOT.  I love them! At the same time, I suggest people do it in a way that doesn't just validate people who agree with you and alienate people who don't.   The best thing to do is try and post things that are:

- Friendly
- Honest
- Non-Aggressive
- Non-Passive Aggressive
- Thought-provoking
- Encouraging of mature and open dialogue

Without the above, what you are finding yourself in is a circle-jerk.  You'll find yourself surrounded by people who believe all the same things as you, your only interactions with others being constant validation of the beliefs you already hold, and denying yourself (and your friends) the opportunity to change their mind about something.

There's nothing more dangerous.

Validated!
P.S. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do a Google image search of "Circle-Jerk" ;)


 
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