“We're living in a black and white world, where the stories we tell ourselves lock us into one side or the other. These stories define us – imprison or liberate us.”
On their promotions they’ve previewed some of this season’s topics, including the phenomenon of personal belief trumping hard data every time. Of course, as a researcher, my ears pricked up upon hearing that. It’s frustrating enough to sometimes see the nonsense data that somehow makes it through journal reviewing, but now you’re saying people won’t even believe the good stuff? I’m gonna need another cup of coffee.
This whole notion of belief-driven living has been in the news more and more though, maybe bordering on media obsession? Every day we hear about division in our country. While access to information seems to be ever increasing, we seem to be walling ourselves into our own safe-spaces—feedback loops of news, current events, friends, and overall social climates are easier than ever to curate to one’s taste.
So, I listen to NPR, a news source many (including close friends) view as liberal and biased. While I don’t agree with everything I hear, I usually don’t get hacked off by anything on NPR, so I make a point to read or listen to at least one thing every day that I disagree with. What a masochist exercise, right? It’s the only way my scientifically-trained mind feels comfortable processing any news at all, to balance it out with opposing views. How can we tell that our information is “right”, that our opinion is “right”, that our beliefs are “right”, if we never know anything else? One could argue that knowing the ins and outs of your own beliefs is not an educated mind, but an indoctrinated one. In the spirit of 1984 by George Orwell, why don’t we want to seek out the “other” (again, highly recommend).
Doing something every day that you disagree with is an exercise I can’t promote enough. Did my mention of NPR irritate you? Maybe download the app. Do you think weight lifting is dumb? Maybe try it out for a week. It can be applied to pretty much anything we make judgements about, not limited to just the news. And, if it’s exactly as bad as you thought it would be, you have gold tweeting material. Think Twitter is stupid? You know what to do…
Georgia is a Masters student in the College of Dentistry