So I’m sitting in my guesthouse room in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand and the thoughts in my head aren’t travel related, for once. Instead I feel the need to address something that has stood out to me in recent weeks; our online bubbles and what they’re actually made of. This isn’t a political post, nor is it one aimed at societal issues – it’s purely a reflection on something that has become highly ingrained in our way of life, something that many people don’t even know exists. When did we all become so intolerant of others? Alternative views, alternative likes, alternative looks. Our concrete bubbles make us think we know how the world should look, but we don’t.
You hear the term online bubble a lot. Used to describe how circles of friends and families become self indoctrinated to the extent where very few, if any, have differing opinions from that of the majority. The issue I have with this term is that when you imagine being in a bubble, you think you can see out – with online bubbles, you can’t. They are hazy, translucent, and clouded. They are concrete. Whilst it is not the case that you can’t break out of your online bubble, of course you can, it’s not an easy thing to do. If you’re having a conversation with someone down the pub, in the street or over a coffee down the café – it’s much harder to be completely intolerable of their views, you realise they’re human. Inside concrete bubbles, intolerance breeds with each agreeing member to the point that we no longer have the time or inclination to see things from someone else’s point of view – we dehumanise others.
We live in a time when freedom of speech has never been so liberated, yet individually we no longer respect other human beings enough to listen to what they have to say. Instead we would rather shout them down before they can open their mouth. We would prefer to ridicule them for having beliefs or views that vary from our own. Our concrete bubbles breed this way of thinking until we reach a place where if it possible to do so, we would prefer to silence them completely. The bubbles are just a safety net in which we feel we can preach what we want without the thought of facing an opposing view, a place where we increasingly feel that we have everything 100% right and the few who disagree are stupid, ignorant or simply ‘wrong’.
I think it is great that we have so many people, who are so passionate about important things. What I find difficult is the inability to reflect on someone else’s opinion and see where they are coming from. I refuse to believe that it’s too difficult to do. I do it whenever I can and never seem to struggle, I’ll probably still have my own opinion but I will have at least taken the time to listen to and better understand the opposing one to my own.
Concrete bubbles; the ones we live our day-to-day online lives in, are killing the common good.
The next time someone say’s something you disagree with; before you get defensive and laden them with your own beliefs. Stop. Take a step back, breathe, count to ten – whatever you need to do. Then ask some questions; what made you come to that conclusion, how do you feel that would benefit the common good, when did that happen and why do you think that? Simple questions. Then listen and reflect. You may be taken aback when you begin to hear things you agree with too. Let us continue to be caring, neighbourly and tolerant. More like the people in point three of this post.
There is no better time to become more aware of your online ‘concrete’ bubbles than now.