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I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left | Megan Phelps-Roper

Our construction of reality is not the only one. This has always been the case, but I often fall victim to the assumption that because we now have access to more information that we will congeal to a singular perspective on subjects. The idea being that more diversity and access to greater world view of people will lead to better opinions.

Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the case. Unlike the keystrokes at our disposal and terminal prompts ferrying away command sets with blazing speed and accuracy, the human psychy can't be simple commanded to change. We can't grow up with a set of experiences, form an opinion on a subject, and then have it completely altered effectively in 140 characters. Yet social media and the internet of today, full of drying up "news" rooms and revenue models that favor catching eyeballs as opposed to expanding minds, leads us to dig in harder.

It leads me to two questions: Why do we feel the need to change someone's perspective? And more valuable, how best to go about doing so?

Why

Let's start with the easy one: Why? Why must we try and get others to think the way we do when their construction of reality is an alternative fact universe to our own. Part of the human condition is the drive for acceptance. Acceptance by those around us, our group, our circle, whatever you call it, we all want to "fit-in" even when fitting in means associating with the "out" crowd.

So knowing this, how could we possibly expect to get strangers on the internet to agree with our worldview when we have no concept of what their lives actually are? Why do we get consumed by social media and vitriolic arguments simply in the name of our truth being the one real truth (Now where have I heard this argument throughout history let me number the thousands of time periods...).

The Why, is the simplest answer and easier path to achieve to personal satisfaction. It is our primal instinct and hyper-me-centric technology based culture that promotes it. To improve as a society, we must improve as individuals and encourage others to improve as individuals as well. Not by telling why, but by leading others to arrive at our why. Only through honest questioning and engagement can we get others alt-reality to align with our own. When it isn't possible, it's also best to just accept that and move on. There's only a few billion other minds to try and align with anyway.

How

So how best to generate the Why in others? The first step is back tracing how we arrived at our own conclusion. How did we become sensative, caring, accepting, loving, charitable, kind, compassionate, whatever the adjective is which is the behaviors we're wishing to exhibit in others. Was it learned through experiences (good or bad)? If so, perhaps it's better to tell a story to try and generate empathy rather then calling someone evil.

How is by far the harder option for engagement, both online and in real life. "I'm depressed" for example can be met with "Why are you depressed?", requiring a level of self-reflection probably not available to the asker (or comes across quazi-confrontational). However, "How can I help you?" is not accusitory or requiring self-reflection, it's walls are down and it's empathizing with the asker.

I wonder how many we could reach with our world view if we treated everyone with an equal level of compassion, regardless of how "evil" their opinion might be. Taking the "How did you come to think that way?" rather than "Why on earth would you ever think that!?" or "Why are you such a monster?"

Engage

  • When was the last time you deescalated a situation when you were "in the right"? Did it end the conflict or did it burn you more to not win then it was worth?
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Bryan Ollendyke

Lead developer of ELMS:LN
edTech's reckoning


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btopro

Crazy, abrasive, caring, dreaming the world into existance we need, not the one we have.

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