How can you not like what I like?

At an intellectual level I’ve always known that being an individual entails being different to others, at least in some respects. And yet…despite age, and enough life experience to sink a ship, I keep expecting others to like what I like. In other words, I keep expecting them to be like me.

Every time I write about a book I’ve loved, or a glorious vista, or a piece of music that moved my soul, I expect that you will feel the same way. And I’m rarely wrong. The individuals who gravitate to this blog and become friends are, by and large, like me. Thanks to the power of social media, you are my kindred spirits. 🙂

By definition, a kindred spirit is someone like oneself, and on social media it happens when people are drawn to each other via shared interests. Think iron filings to a magnet. The degree to which we ‘stick’ depends upon the number of interests we share.

This filtering process happens in the real world too, but at a much slower rate because we can only physically interact with a small number of people at a time – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work etc. Plus there is no guarantee that the people we do meet will be sympatico.

And right there is one of the most wonderful and dangerous aspects of social media – the ability to consistently give us what we want.

Why? Because most of us want to belong. We want to be with people who make us feel warm and fuzzy and good about ourselves.

This is how social media bubbles form. But feeling good about ourselves involves a value judgement about what ‘good’ actually means. Even if you never consciously question your own likes and dislikes, you recognize them in others and automatically judge them to be ‘good’.

And I’m no different. I believe I’m a good person, so I can’t help believing that people who share my values are good people too.

But if we are the good people, what of the others? What of those who don’t share our values? Are they the bad people?

My head says “Of course not!” My heart says “Maybe”.

Every time I log in to Twitter and read a comment distorting some fact or praising something I consider to be ‘evil’, the anger says “Bad person, bad, bad!”

And then the shame sets in because I know that person isn’t bad. I know that if I got to know them through some other area of life, I’d probably think they were okay.

How do I know that? Because I’ve lived it. Many years ago when I lived in a shared student house, there was a girl there with a very abrasive personality. I didn’t like her one little bit. Then one day, to my shame, I discovered that the abrasiveness was just a facade to protect the sad person underneath.

More recently, I’ve discovered that many of the right wing panelists on The Drum [see footnote 1 at the end of this article] aren’t right wing about all topics. In fact, I’ve often caught myself marvelling that someone with those political affiliations could be so open to, for example, action on climate change, or same sex marriage or some other supposedly left wing issue.

I’m a left wing progressive, but I don’t intend to turn this post into some kind of pseudo political rant. Instead, I want to hammer home the fact that expectations based on social media bubbles are dangerous.

We humans are hardwired to generalise. It’s a powerful mental shortcut that allows us to make snap decisions based on just a few facts. This ability would have been a real survival mechanism back in the days of the woolly mammoth. These days? Not so much because thinking in generalities often substitutes for thinking, period.

Sadly, social media bubbles reinforce those generalities just when we should be questioning everything, starting with our own assumptions. We need facts, and we need to call out untruths, but we need to do so with courtesy because that ‘other’ person is more like us than not.

In years to come, people will look back on this era of social media and shake their heads at how bad the ‘wild wild west’ really was before it was tamed. In that yet-to-be-realised future, individual privacy will be protected by law, anonymity will not be allowed, and social media companies will face the full force of the law if they’re found to have manipulated their users.

But we’re not there yet.

cheers

Meeks

Footnote 1 : The Drum is a current affairs show on Australian TV. It’s part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] and funded by taxpayers. As such, its charter requires that it be unbiased. That’s why the panelists on The Drum are chosen to be inclusive, and represent as many interest groups as possible, including people of both the left and right political persuasion.

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

30 responses to “How can you not like what I like?

  • Remembering Lives

    I purposely reach out to people who have different views to my own. It has been an enriching experience. The first time I read one particular blog, it made my hair stand on end. I have persevered. It has been so interesting. I really try to understand why people feel the way they do. I read another blog today about climate change. Somebody with polar opposite views to my own. I know logically a good percentage of the time, I will turn out to be wrong. Experience and world history have taught me to treat my own views with a degree of scepticism. Still today the post I read today made my hair stand on end but perhaps given time, I will understand where they are coming from.

    Like

    • acflory

      To me, there is a clear demarcation between belief and reality. I’m respectful of people’s beliefs, with the caveat that they must not hurt anyone else. What I find intolerable is when reality is ignored in favour of belief. It’s like saying, ‘go on, jump off the roof. My magic will save you.’ 😦

      Like

  • daleleelife101.blog

    I think Anne brought the term ‘silo’ to my attention after the Federal election; as in we likeminded tend to congegrate in our own. Shocking if we find out then that someone we assumed turns out to not quite so aligned, one way or another. I am determined that living my principles is my stongest statement, and I’m very careful to choose my verbal and social media battles carefully. There are too many who feed on disagreement and postulating their opinions.

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    • acflory

      Yes, I keep getting a shock when I realise how many people out there don’t share what I consider to be core, human values. I mean, it’s not as if I expect everyone to be Mother Theresa. I don’t, really I don’t. But giving up a little for the sake of the common good, a common good that we ultimately all share…that seems like a no-brainer to me.
      I recently saw a graph about age related voting in the UK. The under 50’s are largely progressives. The over 50’s are largely conservatives. If that pattern is repeated here and in the US, then there really is a generational divide. :/

      Like

  • marianallen

    Love you, Meeks! And not just because we agree on pretty much everything. 🙂

    Like

  • anne54

    What a wonderfully thought provoking post, Meeks!
    The filtering process does happen much quicker on social media. If you find someone’s thoughts don’t align with yours, you can simply not go back to them. It is harder in the real world, especially if you come across them socially, as there are issues of courtesy and not appearing to be rude. Some people may find that easier to do than me!
    I am not sure that I expect everyone I enjoy in social media to like what I like in the way of cultural things. However, I do assume that they are all decent people, repeating the humanity in others. I suspect I also assume that that equals ‘left wing’, and can be surprised when it doesn’t!
    And lastly, I agree with you about the Drum, which we watch religiously. I have had to reassess my opinions on some commentators when they express support for marriage equality or assisted dying etc.

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    • acflory

      Oh god yes! Hail Kindred Spirit! lol
      I’m the same re ‘not being rude’. Courtesy was drummed into us as kids, and even today I have to be white hot angry to overcome that early conditioning.
      And you, my friend, are the proof of what I’ve been saying. I’m pretty sure we’ve never discussed politics, you and I, yet I would have been stunned if you didn’t align yourself with the ‘left wing’. I just assumed that you were.
      That said, I think we have to change those lazy terms – left and right. I suspect most of us exist somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Sadly the middle really has been the greatest casualty in the last decade or so of politics.
      -hugs-

      Like

  • Widdershins

    I look at the circles of friends I have as a three-dimensional Venn diagram with me in the center. Some of them overlap more than others and some of ’em barely touch.

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  • Matthew Wright

    I am deeply worried about the shape and nature of social media; it’s a great way to connect with like-minded people, but the frameworks around which it’s constructed are wholly those of amoral corporates who have monetised the system to their own benefit. I suspect behaviours follow from that framework, among users, which amplify the darker side of human nature. I also worry about the fate of the data these services scrape from users. Aside from the risk of misuse by the collectors, what happens when it’s passed on? Who gets it, and what will they do with it?

    I won’t go down the track of that old aphorism ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ in terms of loss of privacy. It’s a false-premise assumption because it presupposes that those who do not relinquish any information requested of them must be doing so in order to hide wrong-doing. Actually, privacy is a right. Some people simply don’t want others to know every detail of their lawful and honest lives and activities, and rightly so.

    That issue of the left-vs-right split interests me. It’s easy to assign polemic to character – ‘left wing = liberal, thoughtful, tolerant, kind’; ‘right-wing = authoritarian, intolerant, dogmatic, hate-filled’. Of course people are far more complex than this, I suspect because these classifications don’t actually represent the nuances of human nature. Based on on my subjective observations, I usually find people who identify as ‘left wing’ usually do present as more considered and nuanced, whereas the ‘right wingers’ are, indeed, usually more dogmatic and intolerant. And yet, decades ago when I was at university, the student leaders all called themselves ‘left wing’ – but were absolutely seething with dogmatic and intolerant hatred for anybody that didn’t conform instantly to their dictates – anybody who didn’t toe the student ‘party line’ and submit to their authority and power was (wait for it) a Nazi. The hypocrisy was, of course, lost on those performing this way. An interesting issue. I guess people are pretty complex.

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    • acflory

      I’m one of those who have nothing to hide but refuse to hand over my data, and my concerns are precisely what you mentioned – what is done with the data, by whom and for how long.

      I used to think that providing data to social media was a voluntary choice. Some people were happy to put their whole lives out there, others were more reserved.
      Then, thanks to someone I met on Medium, I discovered that disclosure of private data isn’t a choice at all.
      At first I thought this person was being paranoid, but once I started doing research of my own, I was horrified to learn that he wasn’t over stating the case at all. Social media is the honey trap that allows corporations to collect all sorts of data, pass it on to ad networks who collate it with other data sourced from websites we visit, purchases we make, GPS locations supplied by our phones and apps that ask for it [to give us more accurate info…hah].
      All of this disparate data is put together and analysed by algorithms that then create a profile of us individually. These profiles are used for everything from marketing and market research to [paid] political propaganda.
      On the other side of the coin, we have major hacking events, identity theft and aps that can be bought on the internet to track our nearest and dearest, like digital private detectives.
      Are they all connected? I fear they are.
      As for human nature…lol! I’ve met such self-righteous progressives as well, and they’re just as painful as self-righteous conservatives. That said, I still seem to find progressives easier to deal with. 🙂

      Like

  • flawedman

    You are right ‘ birds of a feather flock together ‘and their pursuits and thoughts are similar. The trouble is it leads to complacency , an easy life swings along.
    Now extinction rebellion are determined to shock us out of our lifestyles , they are outrageous , totally out of order , it hard to see them in a family perspective , surely we say to ourselves they are abnormal. We make allowances for children because we know they don’t know the world ( conceit ,conceit ) they need to grow up and take responsibilities seriously.

    Like

  • jilldennison

    Well of course we all like exactly what you like! But seriously, wouldn’t that make for a boring world. Diversity is what keeps us interesting, gives us something to learn about others. Now, you DO like Stephen King, black coffee, and Stevie Wonder … right? 😉 Hugs, dear friend!

    Like

  • Candy Korman

    Interesting! My story is completely different. Over and over again, I’ve discovered that my friends and I don’t agree on books—not even genres of books—movies, fashions, music, food… the list goes on and on. I’ve also found pleasure in sharing SOME common interests, like Tango, and having nothing else in common. Good people can have bad taste in movies, theater, art.

    My closest friends share a general outlook on the world and priorities, but we’re often in different camps on entertainment. I’ll try activities that they like and drag them to a museum. Sometimes it’s a meeting of the minds—sometimes it’s not.

    Politics is another issue. When I discovered that some of the people I know from dancing were (drum roll) Trump supporters I almost fainted. How could seemingly enlightened New Yorkers, skilled in side-of-the-dance-floor chit chat be so wrong? I’ve been trying not to let this color my interactions. And I’ve been successful with one exception. I must avoid talk about anything aside from Tango with one woman. I thought I could talk about travel, but her racism became shockingly apparent. I don’t want to have a fight, so I have to be careful not to engage.

    So, here I am tolerating the sometimes wonky entertainment ideas, sometimes enjoying weird experiences, sometimes having to pay attention to American Football or other sports, but still pulling away from the politically reprehensible.

    The other thing I discovered is that some of the people with whom I share progressive political ideas turn out to be dreadful, mean, or just plain boring people so… The personal, the political, the artistic, all full of surprises!

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      Wow….that’s dreadful. I can honestly say that most of my surprises have been pleasant. That said, I think my circle of friends is a lot smaller than yours. That may account for some of the differences. Or perhaps it’s easier to ignore things I don’t agree with when the interaction occurs online only. I’m not a complete introvert, but I don’t socialise a lot in the real world…
      Hah! I just realised something. The me-centric world-view that prompted this post has just been turned on its ear by your, very different experience!

      Like

  • Sapling

    I agree with you… social media prevails once more! 😐

    But also, yes, I think we will look back in shock at how social media subverted democracy. Anonymity will have to be dispensed for our common health, and (adding my own) advertisers will have to register who they are and say why they are targeting you.

    Like

  • Audrey Driscoll

    It’s amazing how fast we are to judge and apply labels to others. I catch myself doing it all the time, fortunately before I say or do anything based on those judgments. I’m not on most social media, but I can see how thoughtless condemnations get out there. I hope you’re right about this being regarded as a kind of dark age.

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    • acflory

      Trust me, Audrey, I do it too, but I usually manage to bite my tongue before I blurt out something I’ll regret. I think that’s partly the training we both received growing up.
      The pendulum always swings back eventually. I just hope we don’t do too much damage before it does.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Bette A. Stevens

    We all have a lot to learn… Merry Christmas, Amanda. May the New Year bring us all a better understanding of on another and a willingness to listen well. ❤ xo

    Like

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