Whilst I was travelling I would often research places online when I was trying to decide where I was going. I would Google a few places and read a few articles. After I was finished I headed back to Facebook and started catching up on my messages and checking the feed. The next thing I knew, I was being flooded with ad for places where I was searching. My email box started getting great offers and newsfeeds were suggesting many relevant sites.
This is nothing new. I understand that the cost of business on Facebook is that I lose my privacy. I end up on mailing lists that will be spamming me until I die and long after my trip ended, I would still be receiving “Great Offers” for one or more travel destinations that I was yearning to see. None of this bothered me. As I said, it is the cost of business. What I started to realize is that with the abundance of information out there, I could filter the information so specifically that I only needed to be exposed to the information that fit my system of beliefs.
There are so many hours in the day and only so long anyone can spend surfing the net. Between the clickbait, the targeted ads and the constant stream of useless information we only have so much time to allocate to the rest of the world. In order to find out as much as possible, we choose, very specifically, our sources of information. Those sources know their audience. They get very specific feedback about them. They then try to provide more of what their audience wants to keep them. It all makes good sense. It’s also incredibly limiting.
I have liberal tendencies. I make no effort to hide them. I like guns but can’t understand why anyone who lives in a city needs one. I have a preference to explore alternative therapies and will avoid all contact with Doctors unless absolutely necessary and I believe in science, climate change and that social justice is a good thing. The trouble is, when I only expose myself to the things that support my views, I run the risk of limiting new ideas and becoming a little less tolerant to those who hold opposing views.
I like an argument. Not a shouting match, but intelligent argument where someone tries to convince me of his or her point of view. One of my favourite arguments I ever had was with my little brother. He won me to his side after a long discussion. My older brother is a constant source of political information that I would otherwise make no effort to explore. He constantly is making me aware of things that I would otherwise be happily ignorant about. I have a cousin that is very pro gun. He has yet to put together an argument regarding his position that in my opinion genuinely moves beyond, he likes guns and bad people have them, but I enjoy the back and forth. I won’t ever change his mind and he won’t ever change mine but that’s okay, besides, we agree on a lot of other things.
I think that it is important to ensure that you are constantly exploring sources of information outside of your usual sources and especially those that challenge your ideas. That is not to say that everyone has a valid point of view. Being selective is important. Someone once told me that they could scientifically prove that climate change was a hoax. I politely suggested that they should publish their evidence, get it peer reviewed and get back to me when it is done and I will happily read it. (And if they ever do, I most certainly would.) Ludicrous statements that have nothing to support them can make you switch off to another perspective but it is always worthwhile trying to find to cogent argument at the heart of the matter. After all, everyone out there approaches the world in their own way and just because I have learned one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better one.