With the advent of modern media combined with cultural driven ideologies, some argue that we are now more connected than at any other time in human history. A proposition I beg to differ. In fact, on the contrary, I believe that we are increasingly less connected than at any other time in history, and I will provide you with examples.
In today’s hyper-connected, social media driven world, you would think that all those would foster human connectivity and sharing of ideas, especially for those who believe in the power of diversity to synergistically infuse the energy associated exchange of unique ideas to by and large foster increased productivity.
As I indicated elsewhere, we are the product of our environment and the ambiances associated with our unique environment influence our behaviors. We are the company we keep. We are at a time when there are so much divisions as evidenced in by the company one keeps, Democrats versus Republicans, religious versus no religion, liberal versus conservatives. A time in which the radio one listens to, TV one watches, Newspapers one reads are all aligned with a particular ideological point of view. What we see or acquaint ourselves with, including the search engines we visit, the friends we make are all influenced by our history, our culture, our likes and our preferences, and cumulatively, it influences us as individuals or groups. It also means that we will see the same information and interpret it differently; and they can all be explained by different experiences, histories, cultures and preferences.
For instance, if you are a young black man, and day in day out you see young Blackman being harassed by police, and in addition, you read reports such as the Justice Department Reports, not in one but in three instances the Justice Department were pressured to investigate what victims have continued to point at as pervasive mistreatment of people of color, especially African American young males. In each of those reports, there were clear evidence on how police mistreat African Americans in ways that suggest that their constructional rights are violated repeatedly. At a point you find out that you can’t divorce your experience from whatever interpretation you give to issues, that’s just how humans behave as evidenced in human development theories. From that perspective, what you consider to be important social issue driven news may never be seen by the person across the aisle who has never seen his right or the rights of people like him or her violated. Even when he or she watches TV, what one sees would be completely different from others who had not worked in his shoes see.
Clearly, in an age where conservatives watch Fox TV, read Washington Times, Wall Street Journal on one hand, and on the other, the Democrats read New York Times, Washington Post and the information and news distribution leave these two ideological perspectives with different foundational frameworks for making sense of the world. Obviously, with different underlying frameworks, people may understandably find themselves on opposite sides of an argument — and may find it tougher to come to agreement as evidenced in our two part system, where the Republicans and Democrats rare agree to anything even though they have the same information. They may believe they are simply arguing about facts, but one person’s understanding of what those facts mean can differ greatly from another’s.
For an example, spend 10 minutes on MSNBC and 10 minutes on Fox News covering the same story and you will find vastly different interpretations. Coming to agreements in this complex news distribution system requires the ability to read both republican and Democratic leaning media and thus be able to think broadly. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has found that positive emotions such as joy and contentment have “the potential to broaden people’s habitual modes of thinking and build their physical, intellectual, and social resources.” Barbara also found that negative emotions — fear, anxiety, and stress — tend to narrow a person’s tendencies toward thought and action. In other words, it is harder for people to think of potential options when they are limited through news sources, and thus they experience negative emotions than when they are exposed to all that radiates positive emotions.
If positive emotions allow us to broaden our thinking and negative emotions narrow our thinking, imagine what’s happening to our society as we focus on grievances rather than gratitude. While that focus on grievances might lead to righting a “wrong,” it may also be limit that person’s openness.
So, in our world of disparate news services that leave us with foundational differences in our world views, we can focus on grievances rather than gratitude. But that can leave us less open, less trusting and unable to think broadly. And that can be limiting and most likely lead us to fewer good solutions than if we are more open and trusting.
In other to broaden our understanding and perhaps make better decisions, perhaps, this is the time to slow down, immerse ourselves in the shoes of others, especially those with whom we disagree. Perhaps by learning from those with whom we may disagree, we become familiar with the information, information that could add value to what we already know and thus elevate the quality of our subsequent decisions to higher contour. It’s therefore prudent for us to take some time to learn from others, especially those that do not share our views, and hopefully, by understanding new perspectives, and simultaneously combining theirs to further enrich ours which would be evident in the quality of future decisions.